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Film / Ebenezer (1998)

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Ebenezer is a 1998 made-for-TV movie starring Jack Palance as Ebenezer Scrooge, in a Setting Update of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

This adaptation sets the story in the Canadian frontier, and Scrooge is a hard-drinking gunslinger and saloon owner. On Christmas Eve, he refuses his nephew Fred's invitation, cheats young cowpoke Sam Benson out of his land in a card game, fires his employee Bob Cratchitt, and spends a Christmas Eve dinner at the local brothel, where his deceased partner Marlowe's daughter Erica works as a cook. Besides Marlowe's ghost and the three spirits of Christmas coming to make him repent, Sam challenges Scrooge to a showdown at high noon the following day, which Sam is sure to lose.

Not to be confused with Ebenezer, an independent musical prequel also based on A Christmas Carol.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: In this version, Scrooge dismisses the Ghost of Christmas Present as a case of gas, which the Ghost quickly disproves.
  • Actionized Adaptation: In this version, Scrooge is an expert marksman. A subplot was added where a young rancher he cheated out of his land challenges him to a showdown, and in the Bad Future, Scrooge ruthlessly guns him down.
  • Adaptational Diversity: The Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as female and First Nations.
  • Adaptation Expansion: A subplot is added in the present day about Sam Benson challenging Scrooge to a duel. The future scenes show how Scrooge dies as well as the results of his showdown with Sam.
  • Adaptation Name Change: While Scrooge's name is the same, Jacob Marley becomes Jacob Marlowe, Belle becomes Rebecca, and "Cratchit" is spelled "Cratchitt."
  • Adaptational Villainy: This Scrooge did awful things as a young man as well as in the present day, and he will continue to behave monstrously in the future should he not reform. Also, while in the book Scrooge was an honest businessman, in this version, he embezzled money from Fezziwig and cheats at cards to screw people out of their money and property.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Scrooge threatens Bob into keeping quiet about the rigged poker table, and his future self tries the same on Erica.
  • Canadian Western: Due to a Setting Update to the Canadian frontier, the film is essentially the Dickens novel as a Northern.
  • Canon Foreigner: Marley having a daughter isn't in the book nor is Sam Benson, whose upcoming showdown with Scrooge is a subplot in the present day.
  • Catchphrase: Scrooge has "hogwash" and "blah, blah, blah."
  • Dark Is Evil: Future Scrooge dresses exclusively in black.
  • Darker and Edgier: In the past, young Scrooge stole from Fezziwig, married Rebecca only to cheat her father-in-law out of his land, which caused his death, conned Marlowe out of his saloon, and, in the present, he cheats Sam Benson out of his land, burns Marlowe's portrait, fires Cratchitt, and abuses and threatens his former partner's daughter. In the future sequence, Scrooge fatally shoots Sam Benson and dies trying to get Erica not to reveal how he cheated in the poker game.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Marlowe says the phrase "No rest for the wicked" is quite literal, and while he'll be walking forever, Scrooge will be crawling forever.
  • Fixing the Game: Scrooge uses a rigged table to cheat and win at poker games.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In this version, Scrooge's Start of Darkness is fueled by resenting that he was forced to leave boarding school because his father went bankrupt after making a bad investment, which convinced Scrooge that hard work and honesty were poor ways to achieve success. The Ghost of Christmas Past points this out, repeatedly.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Scrooge is horrified at his future self killing Sam Benson in cold blood.
  • The Gunslinger: Scrooge is this in the present day, and Marlowe was also this in life to the point that when Scrooge tries to shoot him he draws on him, forgetting he's a ghost.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Tiny Tim is so nice he gives Scrooge a Christmas gift and a hug right after his dad gets fired.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: Subverted. In the bad future, present-day Scrooge is so desperate to stop the showdown he shoots at his own future self, to no effect.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Sam Benson isn't the brightest tool in the shed and can't see well, but he and Erica love one another sincerely.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Ghost of Christmas Future is Scrooge's long-dead father.
  • Not His Sled: The past sequence starts out similarly to the book and many adaptations, as Scrooge was a promising business student. Instead of being called home for the holidays, the collapse of his father's business causes him to be yanked out of his schooling prematurely, and he becomes a ruthless gambler and gunslinger instead. Also, Scrooge does marry his lost love, but it's only to get her father's money and land, and she leaves him when her father dies because of the scheme.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Scrooge calls the Native Canadian Ghost of Christmas Past "Pocahontas."
  • Showdown at High Noon: Sam Benson requests such a showdown on Christmas Day, and in the future, it leaves him dead.
  • Twisted Christmas: This is one of the few adaptations of A Christmas Carol to show Scrooge directly killing someone.
  • Unfinished Business: Hinted at when one of Marlowe's reasons for visiting is to scold Scrooge for breaking his promise to take care of Erica.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Marlowe says the only reason he came to help Scrooge is that at one time they were friends, which he finds hard to believe now.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: The setting is updated to the Canadian frontier, and the three ghosts are a First Nations, a mountie, and Scrooge's long-dead father.
  • You Monster!: Erica directly calls Scrooge this in the future.