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Friday, December 25, 2015

SCROOGE (1970)

For a while in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, Leslie Bricusse was the ‘go-to’ composer for a short-lived cycle of what might be called ‘Unnecessary Musicals.’ Largely remakes of well-loved literary classics, they tried to cash in on soundtrack albums for the generic tunes and 70mm RoadShow engagements with advanced pricing & reserved seats. DOCTOR DOLITTLE/’68; GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS/69; SCROOGE/’70; plus PICKWICK/’69 and PETER PAN/’76 on tv, all clearly better off with the songs removed. (All flops, too.) This lux version of Dickens’ oft-filmed tale works so hard to be another OLIVER!/’68, you can hear the dancers panting. As a straight telling, director Ronald Neame pulls off a decent, if unmemorable first two acts (Alec Guinness a scary/funny Marley; Edith Evans triumphant as the Ghost of Christmas Past), but Bricusse’s script completely falls apart in the crucial future section, while the joyous epilogue is little more than a desperate lunge to end the film with something analogous to the much praised ‘Consider Yourself’ numbo from OLIVER! And long before that, Albert Finney overdoses on his grumpy-voiced Scrooge.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The great Scrooge assumptions are Alastair Sim in ‘51; George C. Scott in ‘84 and Mister Magoo in ‘62. Magoo even gets a modest Jules Styne set of songs, but for a musicalization, there’s a fine full-length score from Alan Menken. Wonderfully performed on stage by Jim Dale (among others), it was botched as a Kelsey Grammer tv movie. The best of all CHRISTMAS CAROLS may be the hard to find slightly abridged/all Dickens AudioBook version from John Gielgud.

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