Movie Title: A Christmas Carol
Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Starring: Alastair Sim, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Michael Hordern, George Cole, Theresa Derrington Cozens-Hardy, Glyn Dearman, John Charlesworth, Michael J. Dolan, Francis de Wolff, Czeslaw Konarski, Rona Anderson, Carol Marsh, Jack Warner, Roddy Hughes, Patrick Macnee, Brian Worth, Olga Edwardes, Catherine Leach, Moiya Kelly, Luanne Kemp
Review: Crotchety Victorian businessman Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) has no use for festivity, even at Christmas. After resentfully allowing timid clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) to have the holiday to spend with his loving wife (Hermione Baddeley) and family, Scrooge is swept into a nightmare. The ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), appears, warning that Ebenezer will be visited by three more spirits who will show the coldhearted man the error of his parsimonious behavior.
The 1951 rendition of the infamous tale, A Christmas Carol can simply be described as a classic of classics. If you celebrate Christmas, chances are you've consumed A Christmas Carol in some way, shape, or form. There are dozens of books and films, and playhouses across the world put on shows telling this story year after year as well. Many folks swear up and down that the 1951 film depicting Charles Dickens' Christmas classic, is in fact the crown jewel of them all.
This film benefits from a strong lead in Alastair Sim. He plays Ebenezer Scrooge definitively. It's like the man was born for this role. He is absolutely fantastic, and really sells the character with some fantastic acting. He's grumpy, nasty, but also not beyond repair. Watching his character grow as he learns the error of his ways is such a great transition, and Sim is perfect in his efforts to convey the roller coaster of emotions that his character endures.
This film also benefits from some incredible cinematography given the lack of special effects in 1951. The setting is beautiful, but the lighting and usage of shadows to convey moods and set the tone for each scene is done masterfully. I also think the scenes with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are done brilliantly, as well as the scenes with Jacob Marley's ghost. Super-imposing ghosts that were not actually on set with Alastair Sim, and doing so seamlessly in a movie that was filmed in the early '50s is remarkable. The movie is somber, eerie at times, and finishes with a dash of holiday cheer. Despite an energy dip in the middle, this film is a timeless classic for a reason, and a wonderful rendition to one of the most iconic Christmas tales ever told. Humbug aside, don't hesitate to dive into the vault and watch this Christmas classic each holiday season!
Fun Fact: Sir Michael Hordern was not on set when the Marley's Ghost scene was filmed. This was also true for Michael Dolan as the Ghost of Christmas Past. They were added in later through the use of an optical printer, and never actually filmed the scenes with Alastair Sim on set.