The Curator of Schlock #67 by Jeffrey Shuster
Albert Finney is the only Ebenezer Scrooge you’ll ever need!
I think it’s the movies we watch as children that have the greatest influence on us. While I must have watched Star Wars about a hundred times between my 4th and 5th birthday, it wasn’t the only movie that made regular rounds in my parents’ video cassette recorder. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Fiddler on the Roof, and Oliver all introduced me to the idea that characters breaking out into song and dance was perfectly normal. In fact, my young self never understood why people didn’t do this in real life.
But of all those musicals, the one stood out the most was Scrooge, the 1970 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol directed by Ronald Neame and starring Albert Finney. This was the movie that taught my younger self that Christmas wasn’t just about Santa Claus, Rudolf, and presents under the tree. The Christmas presented in Scrooge is terrifying. We have ghosts, eternal damnation, and quite possibly the most ugly and unpleasant Ebenezer to ever to grace the silver screen.
It’s no surprise that the first number to spring from his lips is “I Hate People.” Check out these lyrics:
When I see the indolent classes
Sitting on their indolent asses
Gulping ale from indolent glasses
I hate people! I detest them! I deplore them!
Yikes! At the same time, being a four-year-old with a meager allowance made me appreciate old Scrooge’s stinginess. I was never a big fan of that sharing business they kept promoting in kindergarten. Keep your hands off my snacks and my toys was always my motto.
Anyway, Jacob Marley shows up and he’s played by Alec Guinness. Hey, it’s the man who played Obi Wan, I thought to myself. I wonder if that was the first time recognized an actor from another movie. I think the idea that an actor could play another role blew my mind back then, but I was rather slow on those things. I remember it took me a couple more years to realize that Star Wars movies weren’t filmed in outer space. I always figured the studio had a deal with NASA or something.
Anyway, Jacob Marley tells Scrooge he’s going to hell for being so stingy, and up they go flying about the London sky like Superman. In the night sky are ghosts that look like rotting cadavers, the inhabitants of hell. I can tell you they ended up fueling some childhood nightmares for me. I remember thinking why is old Scrooge going to hell. It’s not he murdered anyone or anything. Of course, my adult self might reply that, like Wal Mart and banks, Scrooge was killing people around him a little bit at a time. He loans out money to poor Londoners who would never be able to keep up with the interest, bugging them for money on Christmas Eve, yelling at every Christmas caroler and refusing charity at every turn. He doesn’t even splurge on himself, hoarding his wealth while living in a dilapidated house. Scrooge’s trade is misery.
They used to air Scrooge on network television every week around Christmas time. They used go to commercial break with a still from the movie and this unearthly chime of bells. He ever chose the commercial breaks for this movie must have had a sense of humor. Nothing like seeing the Ghost of Christmas Future who resembles the Grim Reaper as Scrooge falls through his own grave straight to hell. And then you get a commercial for Crazy Eddy. His prices were insane!
Top Five Things I Learned from Scrooge
- A gang of street urchins is no match for an old man with a cane.
- Ghosts of Christmas Past are awfully judgmental.
- Ghosts of Christmas Present are even more judgmental.
- Don’t try to find out what’s beneath the hood.
- “Thank You Very Much” never gets stale.