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 ... more »version of the story wastes no time trying to impress viewers with the magical nature of the spirits' visitations. Director Brian Desmond Hurst keeps the focus on Scrooge's life story, beautifully simplifying and underscoring the theme of lost women with a haunting musical refrain from the folk song "Barbara Allen." Sim's commitment to the role is at times astonishing; his Scrooge's Christmas-morning ecstasy is a marvel of giddy technique. Watch for Patrick Macnee (Steed in The Avengers) as the young Jacob Marley--the actor made his screen debut in this 1951 production. --Tom Keogh On the DVD
This ultimate collectors' edition is crammed with special features, on both discs. Film (and Charles Dickens) fans won't want to miss a single screen. The audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole adds depth and perspective to Alastair Sim's amazing performance, and the groundbreaking special effects for the time. Cole also gives a homey remembrance of working with Sim during World War II and living in the English countryside to avoid the Blitz. One of the most compelling extras is a short bio of George Mintner, the film's executive producer who would go on to found his own successful distribution company, Renown Pictures. An unlikely film mogul, the British Mintner was shy and bookish, but managed to build a reputable mini-studio in the '50s, out of the Hollywood limelight. He produced mostly B-movies, though after A Christmas Carol (originally titled Scrooge), he produced another Dickens adaptation, The Pickwick Papers. There's a great mini-bio of Dickens, who grew up in the poverty that later fascinated him in his writings. Other extras include the colorized version (what were people thinking back in the '80s?), cast bios, original trailers, and a feature that more film companies might want to consider, an optional narration for the blind. Nothing is left out for film fans--God bless us, every one. --A.T. Hurley« less
"There are two superb film adaptations of this Dickens classic; this one and the 1984 TV film starring George C. Scott. Both do justice to the original novella far beyond any other dramatizations. However, it is this 1951 British version that got there first and no doubt inspired the 1984 remake. Both Alastair Sim and Scott breath life into the character of Scrooge and make him a three-dimensional personality whose life and fate take on far greater meaning than they do in the hands of other actors who have taken on this role. Sim, of course, became the definitive Scrooge by first taking the character seriously and by portraying Scrooge as more than a simplistic cardboard cutout. For those of us who were raised on this version of the film, Sim will always "be" Scrooge. That does not detract from Scott's performance at all and he was quoted as saying he knew from the start that he could never hope to match Sim's effort. Nonetheless, he succeeded in carving out his own highly credible, compelling portrait of Scrooge which stands beside that of Sim's, like two magnificent paintings sharing the same wall. Both films should be enjoyed and appreciated as the fine, individual achievements that they are and both will stand as "definitive" for a very, very long time. We are the richer for having such a marvelous choice."
Ultimate Collector's Edition indeed!
Brian Reaves | Anniston, AL USA | 10/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I only discovered this movie about four years ago but have watched it every Christmas since. To me it's the best version of the Christmas Carol ever made, and now it gets the best treatment you could have ever hoped for. This two disc collector's edition contains two different versions of this movie. First is the colorized version, but then the second is the real treat. They went back to the original prints of this and worked from there. After carefully removing the skips, scratches, and jerky frames, they digitally restored the movie to a version that looks as if it were made yesterday! The sound has been changed to 5.1 digital surround, and there's even a widescreen version for 16:9 televisions.
The special features include an earlier version of Christmas Carol (not as good as this one), as well as several featurettes on the movie, interviews with the stars, a feature on Alistair Sim, and others.
You can tell the distributor put a lot of effort into this restoration and it shows. I wish they'd do the same for other great films like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Bishop's Wife".
Highly recommended as the best version of this classic you'll find anywhere."
A haunting ghost story
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Somehow, across the years, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his three ghosts has been transformed from it's spooky roots to light-hearted family fare. Scrooge is not so much evil, as grumpy. The ghost's tend to amuse rather than frighten.This black-and-white version of "A Christmas Carol" maintains the horror roots of the story. Jacob Marley is one of the most frightening ghosts to haunt the silver screen. He grows intolerant of the idea that Scrooge is not frightened, and howls his rage and frustration. The Ghost of Christmas Past is an impersonal specter, cold and distant. Present is jolly and yet quick to anger. Future is the grim shade that he is supposed to be.The back story of Scrooge is told in greater detail here than in any other version. He resents Fred, not because of his Christmas cheer but because his birth caused the death of Scrooge's beloved sister. He not only remembers the good times at Fezzywig's, he remembers putting Fezzywig out of business later in life. Alastair Sim brings this character to fullness more than any other actor. The Christmas morning scene is a delight, and worth the wait.As a bonus, the Fleischer "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer" is included on this disk. This is clearly Santa Claus by the people who gave us the first animated Superman. The animation is fluid and dynamic. One of the best extras on any DVD."
Meticulous restoration of a holiday classic
Penumbra | Atlanta, GA USA | 10/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although this 1951 classic film takes some liberties with the Dicken's novel, it remains the film most faithful to the original story. Some of the sets and costumes were directly inspired by the memorable illustrations in the first edition of the book. Alastair Sim is very convincing as the miserly Scrooge who, after a terrifying night of ghostly visits, is transformed into a man who knows how to keep Christmas in his heart.
There have been many DVD editions of this holiday favorite in recent years, several of them from VCI Entertainment. In this package, VCI has included some things featured on previous releases (commentary, Dickens biography, etc.), but the real star of this set is the beautifully restored version of the black and white film. According to a short feature on the restoration of the film, VCI has finally been able to obtain film elements from the original master. Apparently they didn't have access to a complete master, so they used several of the best prints they could gather and digitally read them to determine which frames were the best available. The rest was cleaned up by hand. It sounds like a labor of love, and the result is visible on the screen. The restored print is available in 4x3 and 16x9 in 1:37:1 format. (According to the Amazon product description page, the aspect ratio is given as 1:87 and elsewhere as 1:33, the DVD box says 1:37.) There are a few seconds of less than pristine audio, but overall this is a gorgeous effort.
A nice touch I've never seen on a DVD before is an optional audio track for the blind, in which a narrator describes the action on the screen pausing for dialog from the actors. A wandering commentary track with Marcus Heard and George Cole (young Scrooge) is included. Much of the commentary is reprised in a feature interview by Heard in which Cole reminisces about Alastair Sim, "Spirit of Christmas Past." The audio is in English only. Subtitles are in English or Spanish.
The second disc offers the original 1935 Seymour Hicks' film version of the story. A colorized version of the 1951 film is also included on Disc 2; the brief introduction by Patrick McNee (young Marley) has been seen before on previous releases of the colorized version. There are also theatrical trailers from the UK release ("Scrooge") and the US release ("A Christmas Carol").
VCI has given us a beautiful package here. They've done a great job with the restoration of a film treasure. Many viewers will never have seen such a good print of this holiday favorite before. The bonus features are a nice inclusion, but the restoration is the real reason to get this edition. Highly recommended!"
Crisp and clean restoration of the classic, plus loads of in
Mannie Liscum | Columbia, MO United States | 11/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are numerous issues and re-issues of the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" so why purchase this 2007 VCI release? To say that this film version of Dickens' story is a classic would be an understatement. Hailed by most critics as the best of all the versions made over the past 70-odd years, this review need not dwell on whether or not this is a movie worthy of watching; many other reviewers here have said as much. What has typically not been done in reviews posted here is to give potential purchasers an in-depth analysis of what makes this release a most have (or not) for first time watchers, someone looking for a great Christmas gift, or simply a fan who wants "The Ultimate Collector's Edition (as this release is advertised). This review will attempt to cover, not the film itself in much detail - although some aspects will be discussed. Instead it will focus mainly on the extras and production value present on this release compared to other releases. Importantly this review WILL NOT simply provide a litany list of 'extras' present on the discs (you can get that at IMDB), but rather will review the content of the extras. So read on and decide for yourself whether VCI's "Ultimate Collector's Edition" is all it's advertised!
In a comparative sense it is probably most critical to compare this 2007 (two-disc) VCI release of "A Christmas Carol" to VCI's 2004 (one-disc) release of the same movie. Let's start with a list of features/extras on the 2004 release:
- Remastered original B/W version of the 1951 film - Extras: colorized version of the 1951 film - Max Fliesher's Technicolor cartoon Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1948, 8 min) [good quality] - Selectable subtitles/narration (English, Spainish, narrative for the blind in English) - Introduction to both B/W and color versions (same intro, narrated by Patrick MacNee, in both cases); Cast & Production Notes (really just cast bios) - Comes with a nice interactive menu - Nice if simple clamshell packaging with 'movie board' insert.
Here's what you get with the 2-disc 2007 VCI "Ultimate Collector's Edition" with commentary on the 'value' of the features/extras:
Disc 1 contains - 4x3 and 16x9 [enhanced for widescreen TVs] B/W (original) version of 1951 film with selectable subtitles (English, Spainish) - buyers should be aware that original release was full screen thus 16x9 version is cropped on top and bottom to make widescreen (essentially vertical version of Pan-Scan to convert WS to FS); The picture quality of the remastered version is splendid. Improved over 2004 version. Very few flaws still visible. Tones are crisp and contrast great. - Audio options (2 channel, 5.1 channel Surround, narration for blind in English - same narration as on 2004 VCI version) - Surround sound - very nice for most part, although tends to 'amplify' noise - audio apparently harder to clean up than the picture. Yet did nice job enhancing certain parts, e.g., when Scrooge gets to his front door (when he sees the first ghost of Marley) we here the wind blow from front left (channel) to rear right; when Scrooge is shown his tombstone by ghost of Christmas future, the music is nice in surround, Scrooge's voice only comes through center front channel - very well done. - Cast bios - much expanded over 2004 version - Audio Commentary by Marcus Hearne (British film/music documentarian) and George Cole (played young Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 version) - some interesting insights are provided by Cole about the actors and making of the movie. Hearnes' historical knowledge also provides interesting material and context for Cole's personal recollections
Disc 2 contains - "Scrooge" 1935 version (directed by Henry Edwards, starring Sir Seymour Hicks as Scrooge) - picture is very dark and grainy; this is true of both outside and inside shots. Nice extra to have but quality not very good. - Colorized version of 1951 movie (same as on 2004 VCI release) with selectable subtitles/narrative (English, Spainish, narrative for blind in English) - Two trailers, one titled "Scrooge" and one titled "A Christmas Carol" - "Scrooge" is very dark in theme and picture tones, music is "Scrooge theme" from 1951 movie, whereas "A Christmas Carol" is happier and lighter in both theme and picture tone, upbeat Christmas music accompanies - "The Spirit of Christmas Past" - Marcus Hearne interviews George Cole about Alastair Sim. Interview done against blackscreen such resulting in sharp visual contrasts (when Hearne is seen asking questions, he too in against blackscreen), with pictures and clips of Sim interwoven into the interview dialog. Much of interview not directly about Sim, but rather (appropriately) also about Cole's career (especially when co-staring with Sim in other projects). Fairly dry interviewer and interviewee, but informative. [total run time just less than 15 min] - "Richard Gordon Remembers George Minter & Renown Pictures" - Gordon helped raise money for making "A Christmas Carol" and distributed it in US. This feature is done entirely as an audio interview of Gordon by Tom Weaver (author and film historian], laid over still photos and film clips of elements being discussed in interview. Much of the interview is centered on story of how Gordon and Minter formed working relationship (via Renown Pictures). Gordon tells several stories: Minter's rise as producer/presenter of films; how "Scrooge" as made in UK was re-titled "A Christmas Carol" for release in US; how picture released in US was not initially hailed, was actually not seen as 'family' movie but more equated to 'horror' movie; how when "A Christmas Carol" hit US TV it became a cult hit, but in UK was hit from initial release (Sim was very popular actor in UK at time); tells of other films in which Minter collaborated before and after "Scrooge" with considerable discussion of other Minter films (e.g., "Svengali" and work with "Old Mother Riley" films that were popular in UK). [total run time ~20 min] - "Charles Dickens, His Life and Times" - Audio biography accompanied by illustrations and photos. Discusses Dickens' unpbringing, early relationships, early struggles and later prolific writing career (critically acclaimed), his marriage (to Catherine Hogarth) and affair with Ellen Ternan, and his poor health later in life. - "Before and After Restoration" - Not really a 'before and after' comparision as advertised on the clamshell. Rather a few scenes are shown in split screen comparison but most thus is a discussion of the technical aspects of the restoration process. Like to be of most interest to those with technical savvy [~ 2 min in length]. If the viewer wants a fair comparison of the picture restoration of this 2007 version watch it in comparison to VCI's 2004 release (or previous prior releases). - Photo gallery - stills from the movie, as well as production stills and actor/actress publicity shots. All images shown in "Ken Burns effect" (moving and zooming). Edge of screen is surrounded by a 'snowy' matte. No audio tracks accompany this extra.
All in all this is an excellent 2-disc set sure to be a hit with all fans of the movie. If you're new to the film version of Dickens' classic pick up THIS release, it's worth the $. 5 solid stars (for movie and extras).