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Updated: Dec 5, 2023

How in the Dickens have I never seen this classic 1970 Christmas musical?

Old fashioned, fun for the whole family (beware some scary scenes) and superbly acted by the always great Albert Finney, SCROOGE is a classic, big budget holiday film.

Filmed on the same sets as "Oliver!" had been two years before, the film is an original vision from Leslie Bricusse that remains faithful to the story and dialogue of the Charles Dickens classic.

Bricusse had previously written 1968's "Doctor Dolittle" and would go on to write the music for "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" the following year. With "Scrooge", he wrote the screenplay and the music and lyrics, seamlessly blending the two as some terrific actors bring the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge to life.

Finney was only 33 years old at the time of filming, subjecting himself to three hours in the makeup chair every morning to play Scrooge. It pays off. Finney IS Scrooge. He's miserable, selfish and cruel in such realistic fashion that the key moments in the story we've heard & seen so many times in countless iterations, somehow feel more real, more emotionally connected.

His treatment of Bob Cratchit (David Hollings) is despicable.

The brilliant Alec Guinness (Bridge on the River Kwai, Star Wars) is his long dead business partner Jacob Marley. With his rattling chains and corpse like pallor, Guinness scares the hell out of Scooge.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Edith Evans who had appeared with Finney in "Tom Jones" in 1963) takes Ebenezer on a tour of his younger life. For the first time, these scenes played with real emotions, as we see 33 year old Finney falling in love and then being seduced by money & ambition.

Kenneth More (A Night to Remember) is the bombastic Ghost of Christmas Present and his drunken adventures with Scrooge are funny, then dramatic as Finney's Scrooge starts to show signs of a heart.

The final act with The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a lot scarier in its 1970 vision than anything we'd conjure up today. By the time Ebenezer is getting his chains in a bright, hot red hell loaded with rats, I was amazed at what a G rated film in 1970 could get away with!

There are some great songs along the way, including " A Christmas Carol", "Christmas Children", Scrooge's anthem "I Hate People" "December the 25th", "I Like Life" and the most well known song from the score, "Thank You Very Much". I couldn't help but think about Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds dancing through Victorian England singing "Good Afternoon" in Apple TV's "Spirited" as a massive crowd of dancers belted out "Thank You Very Much" in the town square.

They clearly got a lot of inspiration from Finney and Company.

Laurence Naismith (Camelot, Diamonds Are Forever) is another standout as Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge's boss when he was young. He fleshes out the character in a way that's never struck me in any other interpretation of the story.

By the time Scrooge is waking up and buying the biggest turkey in the butcher's window on Christmas morning, you're so invested that his redemption is powerful, not just a rote, expected ending of a holiday fairy tale.

Finney is terrific, adopting a scrunched up and grumpy old face along with an old man verbal delivery that very few could get away with for two hours. It makes the flashbacks to Scrooge in the past jarring in all the right ways.

Bricusse score is the type of audience pleasing fare that critics often deride. His Broadway musical "Jekyll & Hyde" was hated by every NYC critic but played for years and featured some of our favorite show ballads ever. He's going for songs that the whole family can enjoy and interpret and lands most of them perfectly well.

Hearing Finney "sing" them reminded me of Lee Marvin grumbling out tunes in the film adaption of "Paint Your Wagon" in 1969. It was clearly the era of hiring non-singers to sing in musicals. Unlike Marvin, Finney approaches them with such energy and in the end, joy, that he rises above any bad notes.

Having 100 professional singers and dancers spinning around him doesn't hurt, of course.

Scrooge is a holiday classic and one I'll be adding to my must watch list every Christmas. For the first time ever watching this story unfold, Scrooge's Christmas morning transformation carried real emotion, a tribute to Dickens 150 year old story, Bricusse's music and Finney's acting chops.

In the words of our ghosts: "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember, Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there anymore...."


Merry Christmas, SCROOGE! You get an A.

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