This holiday season, I had plans to enjoy three versions of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale. For some, three might be enough. But this year, my interest in "A Christmas Carol" was piqued (not "peaked"), and I found myself wanting to explore more than these three versions, others that I either hadn't checked out before or wanted to revisit again. Here's how my journey through two, three, four and more "Christmas Carol"s turned out.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The first one I saw this year was this one. I've seen this only a few times before, but I've played my CD of the soundtrack over and over for years! This happens to be the first time I've owned a copy this movie. And it's on VHS!! I know, crazy, huh?
We had it at a yard sale my friends and I held to raise money for our Relay for Life team, and it was among the items that didn't sell. Originally, I had planned to buy the new Blu-ray version of it, but with it missing the "When Love Is Gone" scene, I dragged my feet on getting it. Ultimately, this VHS - which includes the scene (albeit in pan and scan format) - ended up with me. I know I speak for many fans of the film when I say how impressed I am by how much it uses the dialogue of the original story and retains much of its same tone while being told by The Muppets.
Disney's A Christmas Carol
I passed on watching this when it was in theatres three years ago because I got tired of Jim Carrey mugging and bugging his eyes out so damn much in his films. It was fine when he started out, but it got to be his schtick, altho' friends tell me I need to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so there's that. But the reviews claimed he reined in his usual-ness in this film, so when it came out on Blu-ray, I took a chance. And I was overwhelmingly impressed! I now have to watch this every year with my family at Christmastime who enjoy it too.
A Christmas Carol performed by Patrick Stewart
I'm a Star Trek fan. I got started watching the reruns of classic Trek, then got hooked on TNG after it debuted. That was around the time when I happened to start taking acting classes. And watching the show, even then I recognized how much Patrick Stewart forced the rest of the cast to bring their level of acting up to his level. Midway through his run on TNG, Stewart produced and performed his one-man show of "A Christmas Carol". A CD of it quickly became part of my CD library and I have loved playing it every year ever since. I finally got to see his show at the Doolittle Theatre in 1996, and I remember how cool it was that he'd changed the personality of Scrooge from the one I'd heard all the years before on CD to a low-key, sharp businessman, like one of those single-minded sharks you'd imagine swimming on Wall Street! It was a refreshing surprise and I often wished he'd record a follow-up CD performing that personality of Scrooge on it.
To listen to an excerpt from the CD, a lengthy clip is posted by Simon & Schuster on SoundCloud.
Dickens' words...my brushwork, on the TTC set
So there are the three "A Christmas Carol"s I had planned to enjoy this season. But I also got to watch a stage version of the story told by several actors each performing many different roles of the story at my local theatre, Torrance Theatre Company. It was great and reminded me of another condensed-cast-adaptation of the novel I'd done in Poway many years before.
Now, you'd think I'd gotten my fill of Dickens and Scrooge by now. But I also started reading the original short story too, something I hadn't done before. If you haven't either, I suggest you do. I knew it would be so, but it's still amazing to realize how much of Dickens' words are familiar to you as every adaptation has pulled their dialogue verbatim from his story. As I write this, I still haven't finished it yet. Unless the words are broken up with a lot of illustrated, colored panel art in between, I'm a very slow reader.
And speaking of panel art, I did finish "Batman: Noel", a graphic novel I'd gotten for Christmas last year. It's a book I wanted because of the beautiful, detailed artwork by Leo Bermejo. And "Surprise!" it's another adaptation of Charles Dickens' book, and a good one too that has the messages delivered by the three spirits in the original book represented by three familiar characters Batman runs into while patrolling Gotham City on Christmas Eve.
So two movies, on audio retelling and one and a half books later, you'd think that might be enough. But I still had that itch to look up other versions of the story. I went online and was delighted to find two full-length versions available to watch. And I also remembered I own another one that I've never seen. I only watched about twenty or thirty minutes of each the two online movies, but it only took that long to see the entirety of the other one that I owned.
A Christmas Carol (1999)
I tried to watch Patrick Stewart's TNT movie adaptation once before and couldn't get through it. This year, I still can't. To begin with, it's so dull to me right from the start. His performance on the CDs are so enthusiastic, I guess I miss that in the film. I recognize he's working with a script that includes many wonderful ideas that bring more insight into the situations and main characters, but those ideas just didn't play out well for me when acted out. He's also too much Patrick Stewart in the role if that makes sense; he's ultimately too darn charming.
It was a nice surprise to find the first sound version of "A Christmas Carol" on film available on YouTube. Taking into account the time it was filmed, I found the performances rather genuine and refreshingly less formulaic than what we've all grown up seeing of the main characters in more popular adaptations. Seeing only half an hour of it, I look forward to making time to watch the rest of it. And from what I've learned about the film, we should all be grateful that it's the full-length version that's available on YouTube (embedded below) and not the abridged 60-minute US version that's out on recent DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases.
Mickey's Christmas Carol
I own several titles of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series. They were those 30 different titles that arrived every fall between 2001 and 2009 in distinctive silver or black tin cases holding a two-disc DVD set inside. I've watched some of them like Disneyland USA, On the Front Lines, and Tomorrowland, but others like Silly Symphonies, Disney Rarities, and Mickey Mouse in Black and White I bought mainly to hang onto for future reference, especially for my design work. Then I remembered one of my Mickey Mouse in Living Color sets includes "Mickey's Christmas Carol"! I pulled it out to watch, all 25 minutes of it. It's cute and very entertaining!
So that's all the ones I've seen this year. It was fun to discover the adaptations that were new to me. And there are still a few more that came to mind that I wanted to see. One was Albert Finney's "Scrooge" which I saw when I was a kid, but all I can remember about it is the catchy tune "Thank You Very Much". Another was George C. Scott's "Scrooge". And finally there's that Alastair Sim one of "A Christmas Carol" which I can't remember if I've ever really seen. So these'll be high on my list to try and catch next Christmas season.
That is, if that itch doesn't come back and I decide to watch 'em before then!
The Muppet Christmas Carol theatrical trailer
The Muppet Christmas Carol debuts on high definition home video this coming Tuesday, and it's by far one of my favorite holiday movies and movie versions of Dickens' classic novel. There are two Blu-ray Disc editions coming out this week, the standard version and an exclusive Amazon edition that adds a DVD of the film with your purchase.
Now while doing my normal due diligence researching stuff about this new Blu-ray, I learned something new about the movie itself. I found discussion going on at the boards on Blu-ray.com that was ablaze many angry and upset posts from fans who wanted --- in fact, demanded! --- that Disney add back a scene to the movie that was cut from the film.
There was a scene cut from the film?! Apparently, there was, and it was news to me.
The scene in question involves the song "When Love Is Gone". It was included when director Brian Henson submitted his final cut of the film to Disney. But when Disney screened it, they apparently felt the scene, featuring young Ebenezer's fiancee singing a ballad as she ends their engagement, slowed the pacing of the story down quite a bit and worried that the youngest kids in the audience wouldn't enjoy it. So, Disney elected to cut it. And with the scene removed, that's how the film was shown when it first debuted in theatres at Christmas time in 1992.
However, when the movie was first released on home video a year later - on VHS and on Laserdisc - the "When Love Is Gone" scene was added back in! Years later when it debuted on DVD, "When Love Is Gone" continued to appear in the newest release. The only difference was that while the Laserdisc presented the film in its full widescreen glory, the VHS and DVD versions presented it in (that really awful, icky, waste of space) Pan & Scan (or Fullscreen) format. So for years, fans of the film grew up enjoying The Muppet Christmas Carol with "When Love Is Gone" in the movie, just as the director intended, without realizing they were watching essentially the extended Director's Cut of the film, not the actual, original theatrical cut.
But apparently, the same will not be the case when it debuts on Blu-ray this week.
The official discussion thread for The Muppet Christmas Carol on Blu-ray.com's forum board is filled with posts from fans who are livid that the upcoming Blu-ray release will feature just the original theatrical cut, with no inclusion whatsoever of the "When Love Is Gone" scene on the Blu-ray, not even as a deleted scene. And many of those upset fans have gone so far as to post email addresses and snail mail addresses of those to contact at Disney and let know their disappointment about the omission of the scene, even tho' Disney is technically accurate when it claims to be releasing the original theatrical cut.
Now, Disney and Muppet fan that I am, I don't actually own a copy on DVD. I passed on getting any of the DVD releases because I saw that "Fullscreen" notice on the back of both titles, and I am just not a fan of the Pan & Scan format. But I have seen the film several times over the years and even own a rare original CD copy of the soundtrack. And I was looking forward to finally owning it on Blu-ray. But I'll be honest, with all the brimstone and fire being spewed at Disney from rabid, admittedly uber-geeky, diehard fans online, I've pushed the pause button on buying it right away. I wondered, "Would I prefer the extended cut on Blu-ray or would I be fine with the theatrical cut on it (for now)?"
And of course, I couldn't think it through without watching the "missing" scene in question. So here it is.
So if everything I've read so far is true, this scene will be missing when you buy the Blu-ray Disc this Tuesday. Instead, those watching the original theatrical cut will apparently reach a jarring transition as that scene is edited out, perhaps someplace after the dialogue scene between young Ebenezer and Belle outdoors at the park. But again, it is the version that Disney first released when it went out to theatres.
Like I said, I have the soundtrack, so I'm very familiar with that song, having played it more times than I've actually watched the movie. And being the collector-type guy that I am, it probably goes without saying that I'd prefer to have the scene included, as a deleted scene at the very least. At this point, I haven't yet found a review of the new release online to offer anymore insight. But rest assured I'll be looking forward to reading those reviews. And maybe you will too.
Or not! :)
P.S. - While doing research for this blog, I came across a great video explaining the difference between Widescreen and Pan & Scan or Fullscreen format. I linked to it up above, but I felt it was too good a video not to force feed to you. Even as we adopt the widescreen format flatscreen TVs, I still read about folks annoyed by the black bars on the top and bottom or sides of movies they watch on DVD or Blu-ray. Here's why that happens, and why I absolutely love widescreen and understand and accept the black bars thing. Learn and enjoy!
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!