Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for December, 2010

Comparing versions of A Christmas Carol– Part 2: The Movies

Posted by sodaklady on December 15, 2010

These are the movies that I have in my collection, listed in chronological order from earliest to most recent.

Scrooge (1935) 78 minutes
Sir Seymour Hicks
The lighting and background music have the feel of a silent movie which, combined with Sir Seymour’s exceptionally gruff Scrooge, left me with the overall feeling that he was the nastiest, scariest Scrooge of all.

I appreciated the unique handling of Marley’s ghost in this version– he’s invisible. You hear his voice but there is no rendering of the character at all.

Unfortunately, the scenes of Scrooge’s youth (in school and as an apprentice) are missing. The school boy, left alone every holiday season, explains a little of why Scrooge doesn’t appreciate Christmas as a man; the reminder of the goodhearted Fezziwig shows Scrooge how little it takes to give joy to others.

Overall, a good version but recommended for serious fans only.

A Christmas Carol (1938)  69 minutes
Reginald Owen
This version departs from the well-known story in many areas, sometimes for the worse.   This is the shortest version at 69 minutes, which may be the reason that many well-loved scenes are left out. On the other hand, added scenes have taken up time that could have been used for the scenes that Dickens actually wrote. Still, variety is the spice of life so the added scenes may be a nice change to a too-predictable story.

It starts out on a lighter note with Fred on the street where he enjoys a slide on the ice with kids, and meets Tiny Tim and his brother Peter. Then he’s off to say Merry Christmas to his uncle but finds only Bob Cratchit in the office so they have a drink to celebrate the holiday. All in all, a much lighter beginning.

Instead of sliding on the ice, Bob joins some boys throwing snowballs at passersby. Unfortunately for Bob, the hat he knocks off is Scrooge’s, resulting in his getting sacked.  But this doesn’t affect Bob’s Christmas cheer too much as he wishes a Merry Christmas to everyone within hearing.

When Scrooge is faced with Marley’s ghost, he sticks his head out the window and calls the Watch to come in because he has an intruder. This takes up some time that would have been better used by letting Marley’s ghost say all of his lines.

The dance at Fezziwig’s is missing again, and Belle isn’t mentioned at all. Poor Belle, left by Scrooge and now the producer.

Another shortcut was made at the Cratchit’s Christmas dinner where Mrs. C. offers the toast to Mr. Scrooge instead of giving the well-known speech about giving him a piece of her mind to feast upon. Maybe they were trying for the softer approach but I miss that little bit of female strength.

The last departure from tradition is that Scrooge actually takes the turkey and a pile of gifts to the Cratchit’s himself, causing Mrs. C. some concern when he’s left alone with the children.

This is one of the better known versions and one I’ve watched and enjoyed many times so it’s sad to realize how much of the actual story was left out. Still, the light-hearted approach makes it worth seeing.

A Christmas Carol (1951) 85 minutes
Alistair Sim
This is probably the best-loved version and not because it is the most accurate and complete, but because of Alistair Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge, his natural reactions in so many instances. Watch his face when the ghost of Christmas past wants him to leave his bed to follow him; when he finally understands how Fezziwig’s modest outlay gave so much joy to his workers; when he first sees the ghost of Christmas present; or his hesitancy about opening the door at Fred’s.  And who doesn’t love his unrestrained exuberance on Christmas morning, singing and dancing and scaring the charwoman?

I believe another reason this version is so well-loved is that they have managed to make Scrooge’s character more sympathetic in small ways than in other versions. It’s the only version that shows Scrooge at Fan’s side as she’s dying, and he finally hears her ask him to watch over her little son. Very sad that he didn’t hear that as a young man.  The ghost of Christmas present does not remind Scrooge that maybe “in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.” During his journey with Christmas future he says, “I am too old; I cannot change. It’s not that I’m impenitent, it’s just that I… wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?” And finally, the touching appeal to Fred’s wife: “Can you forgive a pig-headed old man for having no eyes to see with or ears to hear with all these years?”

This is a must-have.

A Christmas Carol (1984) 100 minutes
George C. Scott
This Scrooge is crabby and nasty but seems to enjoy being so, smiling and laughing as he delivers the “holly through the heart” and the “decrease the surplus population” lines. He also manages to keep his crabby character almost to the end, unlike most of the others who have shown signs of understanding much earlier. He actually gets angry at the ghost of Christmas future when he’s shown the covered body on the bed.

A very good version due to George C. Scott’s performance and Edward Woodward’s brilliant portrayal of the ghost of Christmas present. Yeah, I’m a fan of Edward Woodward’s, too, ever since watching The Equilizer.

I recommend this version if you want something more recent or for some dumb reason refuse to watch anything in black and white.

A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) 85 minutes
Michael Caine
Music by Paul Williams makes this the only musical version I could stand to watch all the way though. The songs are mostly light and catchy. The final one is always stuck in my head afterwords.

If you like the Muppets, you have to have this version. Kermit is Bob Cratchit, his missus is played by Miss Piggy. Jacob Marley is joined by a brother, Robert, and played by the two old gentlemen hecklers. But the highlight is Gonzo, who says he’s Charles Dickens and guides you through the story, accompanied by his friend, Rizzo the Rat. He often quotes from the book which adds a little atmosphere that no other version does.

A Christmas Carol (1999) 95 minutes
Patrick Stewart
There really isn’t much to say about this version except that it’s always a pleasure to watch Patrick Stewart, and it’s a beautifully done version. Stewart is delightfully grumpy, but he scared me most when I thought he was choking on Christmas morning instead of trying to laugh.

I recommend this version to anyone who is a fan of either the story or the actor.
A Christmas Carol (2009) 98 minutes
Jim Carrey
The most obvious first remark is “the motion capture is awesome!” Truly, this version is a complete pleasure to watch even if you’re not a fan of either A Christmas Carol or Jim Carrey.

This is the only version that starts with the body of Marley instead of a coffin, hearse, or just the opening line, “Marley was dead to begin with.” And it begins with the penultimate Scrooge maneuver, taking the tuppence from Marley’s eyes!

Apart from being the most thorough version, leaving out very few of the main scenes from the book, it is wonderful for all of the small details and choices they made: the ghost of the past with his head done as a candle flame and his voice a whisper; Mrs. Cratchit’s facial reaction when Bob tells about Tim in church and says he’s getting stronger every day is probably the most accurate, in my opinion. She’s not fooled, Tim is a very sick little boy; and the ghost of Christmas future is just a shadow– how brilliant is that?

The one complaint I have is the goofy part they created when Scrooge is being chased by a hearse through the streets and is made smaller and smaller until he escapes into a drain. I have no idea where that came from or why but I could definitely have done without it.

Will this replace Alistair Sim as my favorite? No, I’m sorry but his Christmas morning shenanigans, and the scene in the office the next morning keep this at the top of my list. But it IS a must-have version.

Posted in Movies | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Comparing versions of A Christmas Carol– Part 1: The Book

Posted by sodaklady on December 15, 2010

I have to admit that I am a NUT about A Christmas Carol, it’s my favorite Christmas story and I have seven versions on DVD. Period pieces, mind you, not the updated, modern versions, although many of them are quite well done and I’ll gladly watch any of them when I see them listed on TV.

Several years ago I finally got a copy of the book so I could see which scenes were actually created by Dickens, and which were created for the purpose of entertainment; what was left out and what was embellished. It was written in 1843 so there are a few places where the terminology is timely or the wording is odd, but on the whole it is an easy story to read and since it’s free to read on the internet, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The book begins with a short note from the author to his readers:

“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant:
C.D.
December, 1843”

Let’s start by clearing up any questions about what Mr. Dickens actually wrote, then if you have no interest in the movie comparisons, you can move on to something more interesting. I will try very hard to keep this article short even though there is so much I could say.

“What is Christmas time  to you…
but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older but not a penny richer.” This is the line Scrooge says to Fred in many of the movies but it’s inaccurate and not as interesting as the book which finishes: “but not an hour richer.” Now that’s a wonderful line! Why did they change it?

“I’ll see you in hell.”
The newest movie, the animated one with Jim Carrey’s voice as Scrooge, has Scrooge telling Fred that he would “see him in hell” rather than have Christmas dinner with them. Wow, I don’t remember hearing that in any other version, but is it in the book? Sort of. It doesn’t actually say “hell”, only implies it: “Scrooge said that he would see him– yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.” Maybe “dead” is implied, which would also be a very rude thing to say.

The Lord Mayor’s Banquet
Only a couple of the movies show the Lord Mayor’s household preparing for a Christmas feast so is it in the book or just modern writers making a point? “The Lord Mayor…gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s household should…”

Sliding on the ice
A couple movies show Bob Cratchit sliding on the ice on his way home on Christmas eve, one shows him throwing snowballs with some boys. So how did Bob celebrate having a whole day off for Christmas? He slid on the ice, twenty times!

Did Scrooge stop somewhere to eat?
The movie staring Reginald Owen shows Scrooge going to a dingy little place to eat but no other version I’ve seen shows that. He did, in fact, take “his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern” where he would read the newspapers and look over his banker’s-book before going home to bed. He also has a snack of gruel before bed.

Did he see a hearse or not?
The staircase in the old house Scrooge lived in was wide enough to take a hearse up, broad-wise even. After seeing the knocker transformed into Marley’s face, and in the gloom of the foyer, Scrooge did think he saw a hearse going on before him.

Jacob Marley
The face which appeared where the knocker had been, “had a dismal light about it”, spectacles were pushed up on his forehead and his hair stirred “as if by breath or hot air”. His appearance in Scrooge’s chambers is much the same, his clothing and hair moving as if in a breeze Scrooge could not feel, and his eyes unmoving. A kerchief is bound about his head, and the chains “wound around him like a tail” were made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and heavy purses of steel.

What time is it?
This has to be mentioned if you have even the least amount of curiosity in your body. The ghost of Marley tells Scrooge to expect 3 ghosts and what time to expect them. The movies are inconsistent and always left me wondering what the heck is going on? The book leaves me with the impression that the ghosts have some power over time, which is why Scrooge is amazed at the end that “the ghosts have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can.”

The book says to expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one, the second on the next night at the same hour, and the third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. Seems simple enough but… Scrooge wakes and hears the bell ring twelve times but knows that it was after two when he went to bed. This and Marley’s ghost occupy his mind for another hour when the hour strikes one, and the first ghost appears. So it seems the ghosts are messing with his mind even before they show up!

Ghost of Christmas Past
This ghost is depicted in so many different forms and from the description in the book, I can understand why.

“It was a strange figure– like a child; yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin… It wore a tunic of the purest white, and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful… from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.”

Did Scrooge get angry at the ghost, grab that extinguisher and try to put out his light? Yes, he did but he was not shot into the air like a rocket as shown in the newest Disney release. But the ghost’s face did have “fragments of all the faces it had shown him”, which was nicely done in the animated movie.

How old is Fan?
Sometimes she looks like a small child, other times she seems closer to Scrooge’s age or maybe even older. “…a little girl, much younger than the boy…” And no mention is made of why young Scrooge has been left here for so long, even though at least one movie mentions that his mother died giving birth to him, just as Fan dies giving birth to Fred.

Belle
One movie has changed the name of Scrooge’s lost love to Alice, I have no idea why. Most movies show them meeting at the Fezziwig’s Christmas party, which is a logical place to put their meeting, but in the book we never learn where or how they meet, only their parting. We do, though, see Belle surrounded by her children, a glimpse of what Scrooge lost.

Fred’s Christmas party
There’s great variety in how Fred and his friends pass their time on Christmas day, mainly because they do everything! There is music, and games like Forfeits and Blind-man’s-bluff (Topper cheating so that he could catch a particular girl), How, When and Where, and finally Yes and No where the disagreeable animal Fred was thinking of turned out to be his Uncle Scrooge.

Any other questions?
Everything else follows the book pretty closely, only elaborating a few scenes to flesh them out. If you have a question that I didn’t cover, let me know; I’ll try to find the answer.

Posted in Books | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Santa’s Helpers deliver toys around town

Posted by sodaklady on December 13, 2010

My husband is a member of the Rapid City Woodworkers Association that, each year, make toys for different charities around the city. This year my husband helped make a couple hundred little tractors. The pictures don’t do them justice; they’re cute and sturdy  and perfect for little hands, measuring  2 inches high, 3 inches wide and 5 inches long.

Wooden tractorRows of tractors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other members of the association made boats, heart boxes, cars, and several other toys, all equally well-crafted and suited for small, enthusiastic owners. Today they took 3 carloads of boxes to WAVI, Benji’s House, and Youth and Family Services.

WWA at Y&FS

Here are some of the members of the RCWA.

Boxes of toys for Y&FS

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Wooden Toys | Tagged: | 4 Comments »