I had never heard of the 1951 film, A Christmas Carol but I am happy I came across it. I’m not sure which version of the classic tale I watched when I was younger, but with this films darker tone, I definitely would have remembered if I’d seen this version before.
The film was originally released in Great Britain under, Scrooge, but shipped to America under the A Christmas Carol title. The film was released in America on Halloween of all days, more than likely due to its somber tone, and really did not catch on to audiences until decades later when, about the time of the eighties, when it finally became a beloved Christmas classic.
Director Brian Desmond Hurst really did a great job bringing the classic tale to life on the screen. The film is a bit grim in tone, dealing with death, ghosts, and the depressing look on Scrooge’s life, which makes the black and white version fit ever more so here. I see no reason to go and watch a colored version of this. This bleak tone is even found in the score by Richard Addinsell. When the opening score started, I was confused as to whether or not I had the right film as it started as if it was a horror film. It starts off with a dark tone then rolls into “Hark! The Angels Sing” before going dark again. I actually really loved the switch of tones, going from dark to joyous, which is also seen throughout the film.
All the actors do a great job, but it is Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge who knocks it out of the park. He is superb in his emotional Bah Humbug demeanor and in his eventual loony transformation (which kind of reminded me of Donald Ducks Uncle, Scrooge McDuck, in Disney’s version Mickey’s Christmas Carol). The transformation is more like he could be more crazy than happy, which again goes with the tone of this film. The three ghosts are portrayed very well, with the future ghost being the eerier to look at with its creepy grim reaper appearance and ghostly hand sticking out from the dark cloak. However, Michael Hordem as Jacob Marley’s ghost is quite a spooky standout as he appears to Scrooge in his tormented ghostly form wrapped with ball and chains. There is a great ghostly howl that comes when he raises his voice which reminded me of the ghosts in that old spooky Disney record, 1964’s “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House“, which spooked me in my youth.
I really don’t have anything negative to say about the film, other than it being a black and white film could turn some modern viewers off. However, as I said before, the black and white is truly a plus here, and I can see the film being quite a stand out during its time with the projected ghosts and grim/joyous tone. I’m really glad I got the chance to dive into this one and I can see it being a worthwhile visit in future holiday seasons.