A Christmas Carol (1984)
Clive Donner's 1984 version of the Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol” is bold and different mainly because of the casting of George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. The story is told with precision and an eye to detail. In some respects it’s the most authentic adaptation, with credible performances from the ensemble cast. Alastair Sim's portrayal in the 1951 film has always been perceived as a benchmark and provided a template as to how the role should be interpreted. Scott replaces the traditional anger, bitterness and rage with a cold and utterly dispassionate demeanour. There is a strong sense of honesty in his Scrooge as the audience follows him on his emotional journey. The tears, the regret and the realisation that there is still hope are all present, yet explored in a very non-theatrical manner.
There is always a danger with so called "all-star" casts that the actor’s respective fame can swamp the story. This is not the case here and all acquit themselves well. Frank Finlay is the Ghost of Jacob Marley and adopts a somewhat sinister tone. Edward Woodward is affable as the Spirit of Christmas Present; complete with stilts to increase his eight. David Warner is spot on with his Bob Cratchit, maintaining a sincere performance. You feel for this man but never pity him. The production also hits the mark with Anthony Walters as Tiny Tim. His acting is credible and devoid of excessive sentimentality. Overall it is this measured approach that makes the production so unusual. The story's moral rectitude is present but the message is delivered in a subtle fashion.
The exterior locations shot in Shrewsbury are exquisite and bolster the authentic atmosphere of the production. Scrooge's grave can still be visited at St Chad's Church graveyard, where the churchyard sequence was shot. The production team left the gravestone in place once filming was completed. Originally commissioned to be shown on TV by CBS, A Christmas Carol was released theatrically in the UK. Scott's performance was subsequently nominated for an Emmy. It garnered positive critical reviews and has over the years, has built a deserved reputation for being a very robust and intelligent adaptation. It certainly has not been bettered by more recent adaptations.