Most decent movies are worth a re-watch or two. Movies are complex beasts. When you are caught up in the plot, you can easily miss twists, tricks and techniques that actors and directors use to make the work more interesting, instructive or cohesive. Or just plain fun. One example, from a TV show, is the performance of Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode “Printer’s Devil.” Meredith was a masterful character actor; pay close attention to the scene with the waitress. I’d love to know how much of that performance was stage direction or script, and how much was just Burgess at the top of his game.
Movies are complex beasts.
But this is about a rewatchable movie.
There is one that I simply can’t estimate with any accuracy how many times I have seen it, because I have tried to see it every year since I was a kid. It’s “Scrooge,” the 1951 adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim in the title role. I try to watch it every Christmas. Unfortunately, when the house is full of loud, tipsy, fish-stuffed Italians and the people they love, parking your butt in front of the TV in the basement on Christmas Eve is both bad form and damned near impossible. One of the few solaces of our solitary Christmas of 2020 was that I got to spend time with old Ebenezer again after over a decade’s absence.
Carol simply sparkles with great moments, lines and performances. Sim was amazing, his fear and loneliness, his reluctance to be saved from himself, are at turns both touching and frustrating. The film hews pretty well to the source material, so you can hear such Dickensian gems as “Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not?”, “Bear but a touch of my hand, and you will be upheld in more than this,” “There’s more of gravy than of grave to you!” and, my favorite, “Business!” Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
If I ever get to act, I want to play Jacob Marley. He gets most of the really juicy lines, and I have the majority of the part memorized already.
The cast is also sprinkled with a few faces that may seem familiar, although they are all younger here than when I got to know them.
I am unsure why A Christmas Carol is my most re-watched film; there’s quite a number of films with great writing, stellar performances and the ability to inspire, or at least give hope. It’s a Wonderful Life, for instance. I have seen that one quite a few times, and it’s even a Christmas movie. It may be because I have for as long as I can remember been entranced by the Christmas Carol story itself.
It was probably the 1965 Mr. Magoo animated Carol that was my very first introduction to Ebenezer and Tiny Tim. And I still find that version fun to watch (“Winter Was Warm” is one of the loveliest songs of lost love ever, and damn to hell any version where that is cut out to jam in a few more commercials!)
But the Magoo Carol is truncated, and, well, cartoonish. The bones of Dickens’ tale are there, but it’s basically a comedy.
I have a theory that your favorite Dr. Who is the first one you see (Tom Baker was the best and I’ll duel with sonic screwdrivers any Dalek-lover who dares disagree!). It is quite possible that the 1951 Carol, which has been aired many times since I was born, is the first story I ever heard or saw that caused me to experience inspiration and introspection and a desire to be a better, kinder person.
I’ve been watching it ever since.
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.