With an impeccable lead performance from Alistair Sim and a few creative licenses with the source material, this 1941 adaptation of a Christmas Carol holds up and offers a lot to a modern viewer.
The story is well worn. An old miser is visited by ghosts and changes his ways. However this adaptation adds a lot to the story. It keeps it fresh and adds a lot of depth to Scrooge himself.
The first of these changes comes at the beginning when Scrooge is shown lamenting the status of work on Christmas and coldly rejecting the pleas of a man indebted to him. Sim brings a dispassionate quality to these scenes. He conveys a man without a soul or at least a man who misplaced his soul and hasn’t bothered to look for it.
The story progresses in the standard fashion. In all honesty, Marley is a disappointment. He’s not frightening. He’s not interesting. He doesn’t look like a ghost. He’s just kind of a guy.
However once the first ghost shows up, the movie launches into a new and inventive sequence that surprises and delights. The ghost of Christmas past shows Scrooge more past Christmases than any adaptation. It develops his relationship with his sister. It shows who she was and why she was so important to him and the effect it had on him when she passed away.
It also charts in depth his descent from decent young man to money grubbing miser through the years. In every adaptation Scrooge’s fiancé says he’s changed. This is the only one that shows the extent of his change. This psychological aspect is refreshing and so interesting to see. It’s a fantastic and fascinating addition to the story.
There are some really nice cinematic flourishes throughout, but for the most part the filmmaking is pretty standard and paint by numbers.
The real wonder of the movie is Alistair Sim. He inhabits the role as few have. A soulless miser. A man in conflict with his past. A man whose heart breaks for the sickly Tiny Tim. A man who is so full of the joy of Christmas that he has dances about the room. Sim really nails it. With his big eyes and perfect delivery he makes the film.
This one is tough to track down, but is well worth it for anyone who wants a little different take on the story. My cup of tea A-