A Christmas Carol: Collector's Edition [2Disc DVD]
(Alastair Sim, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1951) 2019 / VCI Entertainment)
Overview: This is the desert-island choice of the many versions of 'A Christmas Carol', with a magnificent, full-bodied portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge by Alastair Sim that leaves everyone else in the dust.
Lean and direct, this film's version of the story wastes no time trying to impress viewers with the magical nature of the spirits' visitations.
DVD Verdict: In truth, there isn't much to say that isn't written already here, or what is known as regards the story.
Charles Dickens smashing fantasy 'A Christmas Carol' is a story that stands the test of time for generations past and will do so for many generations to come.
This version stands out chiefly because of it's incredible central performance by Alastair Sim as the miserly old misery guts Ebenezer Scrooge.
He perfectly layers the transformation as the tale progresses, from the horrid bitter man at the film's beginning to the joyous man of heart come the finale, Sim convinces in each phase of his stripped bare journey that the ghosts take him on.
The story is full of family values and messages of hope, it makes you sad and then lifts you to a very high place, it is in short, essential viewing at the holiday season, because ultimately it is the season to be jolly.
For me, the first thing one realizes in this particular version is director Brian Desmond-Hurst's "time-marches-on" approach (not to mention his total lack of pretentiousness - a factor which has ultimately felled all other treatments); as well as the screenplay frittering away no time whatsoever in getting to Scrooge's visits with the ghosts.
The penetration into the miser's past is the focal point of the film, and Sim's performance has a through-and-through naturalness that makes his exuberance on Christmas morning that much more palpable.
There's a mechanical nature to the character's near-recitation of his familiar lines at the start, but his sheer vulnerability (something distinctly lacking in, say, George C. Scott's portrayal) from then onward gives it perfect sense; Sim is every inch the visual equal to his radio-Scrooge counterpart, Basil Rathbone.
Other factors contribute towards making the film the complete triumph it is: things like the visit from the ghost of Christmas Present, and the scene in the future depicting Tiny Tim's funeral preparations, which for once are truly heart-wrenching.
In closing, I truly believe that 'A Christmas Carol' set the tone for Christmas movies of that era and of today. It really is the best Christmas movie ever made, and not only that, but it is an amazing movie outside of the Christmas season as well. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.37:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole
"Spirit of Christmas Past"--George Cole remembers Alistair Sim
"Richard Gordon Remembers George Minter & Renown Pictures"
"Charles Dickens--His Life and Times"
Bonus: Colorized Version
Before & After Restoration Comparison
Optional Narrative for the Blind
Photo & Press Book Gallery
Original American and British Theatrical Trailers
"Scrooge" (1935 Seymour Hicks Version)
'A Christmas Carol: Collector's Edition' [2-Disc DVD] is out October 15th, 2019 via VCI Entertainment.