George C. Scott as Scrooge & the Original "Miracle on 34th"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an interesting pairing of holiday DVDs in that we have the 1984 television version of "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scotta as Ebenezer Scrooge and the classic 1947 original version of "Miracle on 34th Street." Usually these sets go for two classic black & white movies or two contemporary color versions, so this is definitely a mixed set, but of two solid holiday offerings.Scott's performance as Scrooge is very good for most of the film. You would think that since this is George C. Scott that playing a crotchety old miser would not be much of a stretch. But Scott actually does something different with Scrooge. This time around he is not bitter as much as he is worn down, more of an empty soul than a being consumed by darker emotions. Screenwriter Roger O. Hirson actually makes some excellent additions to the original story, fleshing out why the happy young Ebenezer we see in our visit to the past becomes the old Scrooge who undergoes this Yule time transformation. The only knock on the performance from my perspective is that like many fans of "A Christmas Carol" it is hard not to remember the superb performance by Alastair Sim in the 1951 film version and find the Oscar winning Scott coming second in the comparison. Still, this is arguably the most thoughtful performance of Scrooge you will see. But even if Scott's performance is found lacking by such a strict standard the rest of this production is superb. The supporting cast is as fine as has ever been assembled to play the other roles: David Warner providing a nice twist on Bob Cratchit, Susanna York as his wife, Frank Finlay as the ghost of Jacob Marley, Joanne Whalley as Fan, the girl who got away from young Ebenezer, and Roger Rees as Scrooge's nephew Fred (and the film's narrator). The trio of ghostly visitors who visit Scrooge all in one night are equally strong, with Angela Pleasence as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Edward Woodward getting everybody to say "Look, its the Equalizer!" as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Michael Carter as the best Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that I have seen. Above all it is the cast and the thoughtful script that make this a superb adaptation. Since "Miracle on 34th Street" begins with the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving Day, it is the obvious movie to watch on Turkey Day to begin the Christmas season. I know am not alone in my belief that Edmund Gwenn IS Kris Kringle, which means he IS Santa Claus. Of course they gave Gwenn the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1948, but the film also won Oscars for Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton). Maureen O'Hara plays Doris Walker, a single mom who insists on bringing up her daughter Susan, played by adorable Natalie Wood in one of the great childhood performances of all time, in a no-nonsense manner, which means no fantasy, no fairy tales and certainly no Santa Claus. Boy, is she ever wrong, although it takes Kris longer to convince the mother than it does to work his magic on the daughter.This version of this classic holiday film offers up the long trailer in which the publicity department tries to figure out how to market the film to the masses, which is a nice added bonus. You have to remember that the head of the studio had the delusion idea that since this was a good movie it should be released in May because that is when more people watched movie. However, the point of owning "Miracle on 34th Street" is to be able to watch it when it best fits your holiday schedule and cry over your favorites scenes. I start losing it every time Susan overhears Kris talking Dutch to the little refugee girl and sings with her. Even if this is not your personal favorite version of "A Christmas Carol," it is a solid offering and by no means a disappointment. As for "Miracle on 34th Street," it is a true classic and I pity the person who does not have it on their personal list of Top 10 Christmas movies."