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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Holiday > A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sim as “Scrooge” (1951/VCI Blu-ray)

A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sim as “Scrooge” (1951/VCI Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Film: A-



There have been countless incarnations and retellings of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol over the years (as recent as Disney’s new CGI feature), but none in this reviewer’s opinion have captured the heart and soul of the novel as well as that of the version starring Alistair Sim as Scrooge.  Perhaps it is a personal favorite, because I was told since I was a small child it was the best; or maybe it just is that well done.


I won’t delve too deeply into the classic tale as most know its premise and if you don’t, it is time to pick up a book.  A Christmas Carol is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the worst miser there ever was; squandering his life to accumulate worldly riches, while concurrently sacrificing love, compassion, family and friendship.  Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who attempts to show him the error of his ways through visiting his past, present and future.  As we as an audience view the error of one man’s ways and hope that he can change; we learn the true meaning of the holiday to see past pettiness and greed to give new life to kindness and charity.


The brilliance of A Christmas Carol is that a detailed, thoughtful message is delivered in such a simple, relatable package.  For over 167 years A Christmas Carol has brought a message to the world that is undying as it professes qualities that we should all strive to possess; without being too preachy.  In playhouses and movie theaters across the world A Christmas Carol is told time and time again, but the message is never lost and that is what makes it so special.


The version of A Christmas Carol reviewed here is the epitome of the many film versions.  Alistair Sim and his supporting cast of classically trained English actors flawlessly depict a classic tale with so much heart and energy that it can bring chills to the coldest of hearts.  It is not that the film does much in terms or changing the already perfect tale, but it is all in the delivery and filming.  The 1951 classic breathes life so radiantly into the work of Dickens that it is as though the cast is starring in the roles they were born to play.  I love this film from beginning to end and if you have yet to partake in its brilliance, Blu-ray has given you one more reason to see the classic.


The Blu-ray picture and sound quality are not the best the format has to offer, but it is the best the film has looked to date.  The picture is presented in a 1.37 X 1 1080p MPEG-2 encoded image that is inconsistent at best.  While other black and white films like Casablanca have stunned the Blu-ray community, A Christmas Carol falls (sadly) flat.  The image has grain and debris present throughout, but has a solid presentation of inky black, bright whites and admirable contrast.  The detail is of a good quality, but it is the film’s inconsistencies that irk me.  One minute my jaw is on the floor for a particular scene and the next I am thinking I need to clean off my glasses.  Overall, I would have to call the image quality mostly good, but I think some painstaking restoration work needs to go back to the film source.  The sound quality is also nothing exciting as the Mono track at times has me blasting my speakers to hear the distant sounding voices.  A 5.1 track is also available, but sounds all too artificial and winds up being unbalanced as the music blares in the background.  Whereas I love the film, this Blu-ray release could have been better.


The extras include Audio Commentary with Marcus Hearn and George Cole; Pop Up Trivia; American Theatrical Trailer; British Theatrical Trailer and just for kicks the DVD is included with both 4 X3 and 16 X 9 versions on it.  I found the commentary track very revealing, as was the Pop Up Trivia.  While most Blu-rays slam you with needless extras; A Christmas Carol proves that having a few quality ones can be much better.


I recommend the film and the Blu-ray is better than any home video release before it, but it still needs work.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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