No book has influenced our secular idea of Christmas more than Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Without Dickens, we wouldn’t have white Christmases, Victorian Carolers, Christmas cards, or even the enthusiastic exclamation, “Merry Christmas!” Add to that the hundreds of film adaptations, thousands of theatrical adaptations, and countless families gathering to read it in part or full every year. At first glance, “A Christmas Carol” may be (as a cynical friend of mine stated) the story of three ghosts telling Ebenezer Scrooge “get nicer or the crippled kid dies,” but its chilly atmospheric writing and pervading sense of hope guarantee it a place in the Christmas canon for a long time to come. Now everyone has their favorite version of this classic, but here are 4 very different spins on the well-known story you may enjoy.
1.) Scrooge (1951) – (Click the link for the full movie.) Has there ever been a better Ebenezer Scrooge than Alastair Sim? This version seems to have been forgotten by all but the nostalgic among us, but it is a beautiful and faithful adaptation. Probably the most faithful on this list, since they just get weirder from here. But if there is a definitive version of “A Christmas Carol,” one against which all others shall be judged, it is this version. (Also, watch it in black & white, NOT COLOR. It was colorized poorly. But that is an explanation for another day.)
2.) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – The Muppets sing and dance with Michael Caine as Scrooge, who proves that he will take every role handed to him and sometimes that makes for movie magic. It is impossible to hate this movie. The good cheer and bad puns abound. Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat make a delightful narrating duo, Statler and Waldorf play Marley and Marley (ooOOooo!), Fozzie the Bear steps in as Fozziewig (get it?), and did I mention Michael Caine *sings?* How many times do you get to see serious, dramatic Oscar-winning thespians sing Disney songs with the Muppets?
3.) Scrooged (1988) – So what would the modern day Scrooge be? An executive! Specifically a cynical, mean-spirited TV executive played with relish by Bill Murray in full “Groundhog Day”-mode. In a weird postmodern twist, Bill Murray is actually filming a live TV special of “A Christmas Carol” as his own three ghosts visit him. My favorite ghost is Carol Kane as the dippy Ghost of Christmas Present, who beats the snot out of Bill Murray just ‘cause. A warning though: this one probably isn’t a family viewing experience. It’s the scariest on the list, featuring Zombie Jacob Marley with a rat coming out of his skull, and a Ghost of Christmas Future whose head is a TV. The 80’s weren’t subtle.
4.) Doctor Who “A Christmas Carol” (2010) – So what would the future Scrooge be? A cranky man who freezes his debtors and is obsessed with space sharks? That’s what Doctor Who puts forward in the silliest sci-fi version of the tale. There aren’t ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in the conventional sense. Instead, the time-travelling Doctor must alter the past of a weather-controlling miser so the Doctor’s present Companions can have a future. That’s a mouthful, but not nearly as much of a mouthful as most of the Doctor’s lines. So it’s not a Christmas-y “Christmas Carol.” But it is a lot of fun.
Merry Christmas everybody! And as Tiny Tim says in 3 of these 4 versions, God Bless Us, Everyone!