Friday, December 26, 2008

Of Kitties and Scrooge

Our cats had a good time this Christmas.

This is Marley's new favorite spot. Up on the love seat in the loft. Lying on my prehistoric-animal blanky. That's my blanky, and Marley has purloined it. He looks especially evil in this shot, but I assure you that, while he has a vein of mischief running through him, he's quite the sweet kitty cat. We rescued him from certain starvation, and he remains our feline ward.

Lilly had a blast with the Christmas wrappings. We thought that she would have climbed in the tree. But apart from knocking off a few of the ornaments, she was largely disinterested in the tree itself. (I have no photos of Sophie interacting with the Christmas stuff, because she's crazier even than usual and has hidden for most of the holidays. The older she gets, the more crazy she becomes. Alas.)

We spent a fair portion of the day visiting with Carole's mom, Faye, and her aunt Flo who is staying at Faye's while she recovers from surgery. While there, we watched the George C. Scott version of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. This version is, as far as I'm concerned, the finest of the lot. Nothing else, really,
comes close. None of the others reach me, emotionally, and I find none of the others as well produced, as well acted, nor as well written as this one.

Made in 1984, I have seen it at least once every year since. And every single time I watch it I never fail to cry like a girl. This is one film I cannot watch in portions. I have to watch it beginning to end, opening credits to ending credits. The whole thing is just perfect.

First of all, I can think of no one who was more suited to portray Ebeneezer Scrooge than George C. Scott. He just had that look about him, and I was convinced both of his flinty and adamant bitterness at the beginning, and by his genuine transformation into a compassionate human being by the finale. I don't think I ever saw Scott play in anything as worthwhile after this movie, so, to me, it was the fitting end of a fine and exemplary career as a major actor.

Another great touch in this movie was the use of David Warner as Bob Cratchit. By this time in Warner's life, he was generally playing only villains. So it was great to see the full range of his skills as the completely good-hearted clerk in the employ of literature's greatest miser. Warner, in his place as the meek Cratchit, was the equal of George C. Scott. I can't imagine anyone else in that role anymore.

And the quartet of ghosts:

Damn, what a group! Each is perfectly cast. My favorite of these was Frank Finlay as the ghost of Marley. Man, this guy had it going on! When he initially appears and removes part of his death shroud and his jaw drops open like that of a true corpse--it impresses me every time I see it. Although he's there only briefly, his monologue of the responsibilities that he shirked in life is about as good a job of acting as one is likely to encounter. Easily one of the finest scenes in the film.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was also handled in brilliant form. In other films, this ghost is handled merely as a hooded, dark figure who utters not a word. In this version, the ghost is similarly silent, but not the mysterious and harmless sihouette of other films. This Yet to Come is not unlike the figure of Death. It is cadaverous, and when it reveals itself at all, it is via the display of a set of truly disturbing skeletal hands. It moves in a kind of floating motion that adds to its weird aspect and sets it much farther afield from the other, far more human ghosts who precede it in the narrative. One exceptionally fine touch is the addition of the screeching horn whenever it seems to "reply" to questions or demands that come from Ebeneezer. It's an amazing bit of twisted filmmaking from Director Clive Donner and Screenwright Roger Hirson.

I don't know if the annual viewing of this version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is on your own list of tradition, but it should be.

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