It’s surprising that after all these years, after fifty five years of technology and CGI, and stylish directors bringing up this old story, that the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” is still the best. Why? Well, there are so many reasons. For one thing “A Christmas Carol” is filled with dread and utter morbid reveling, as it is intent on exploring the world of Ebenezer Scrooge and the punishment he’s earned for himself. Secondly, the hauntings by his old business partner are still rather chilling, including his utterly horrible howling at Scrooge’s defiance. Brian Desmond Hurst unravels a creepy and woefully dreadful vision of “A Christmas Carol” as he films most of Scrooge’s house in stark blacks while relying on factory devices of sound and mind games.
Meanwhile, we delve into the bitter antics of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man so incredibly cruel and merciless that he inspires a sense of loathing by even the most optimistic viewer. After all these decades, “A Christmas Carol” is still a wonderful tale of redemption and hope, and it’s an immortal classic, made so in part of Alastair Sim. Sim commands the screen as a man with a painted scowl who grumbles and growls at even the kindest person, and bears a heavy chip on his shoulder. As you know, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts the night of Christmas eve and he’s forced to confront his demons.
Through this we learned how he is just one of many beaten down by life. And the ghosts will not excuse him for his troubles in life.
The sequences involved in this redemption are still utterly effective as the old fashioned effects bode well on the screen, while Sim gives a wonderful performance as Scrooge who experiences a gradual psychological journey. Only in the end when he sees his servants living off his remains, and his friends benefiting from his death, does he decide to redeem himself and become human again. Hurst truly does a wonderful job with Dickens’s classic tale, as strong performances Mervyn Johns and Glyn Dearman help induce the emotional resonance of this tale. The film is further helped by the classic and utterly humorous climax in which Scrooge attacks his servant in a fit of joy, and redeems his soul once and for all, which Sim plays with sheer finesse and craft. His inability to hide his joy at the reclaiming of his humanity is a truly defining moment of the film, as Scrooge breaks into a fit of uncontrollable laughter that will surely be contagious. If there’s one film you see for Christmas, make it “A Christmas Carol,” a film that’s aged very well.
We’re given some fantastic extras that put the term “Ultimate Edition” to exercise. We’re given three versions of “A Christmas Carol,” featuring a restored 4×3 version, a restored 16×9 version, the now often used colorized version, and the original 1935 version starring Sir Seymour Hicks. We’re also given trailers to the American and British releases, Photo and Press Book Galleries, a wonderful restoration comparison, narrative for the blind, and of course an entertaining commentary by historian Marcus Hearn and surviving cast member George Cole. And that’s just a mere scraping of the extras.
Truly, VCI Entertainment packs a hell of a gift for fans of “A Christmas Carol,” and make this a must have for the Holiday season. This is an Ultimate Edition. After all these years, “A Christmas Carol” is still an effective and wonderful holiday film with great performances, top notch direction, and utterly fantastic visuals. VCI compliments it with a truly good Ultimate DVD set with features for any film geek to enjoy.