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Film / Scrooge (1970)

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Scrooge is a 1970 musical film adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, directed by Ronald Neame and with book and songs by Leslie Bricusse. Albert Finney stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, with Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley, Edith Evans as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Kenneth More as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

It received a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation in 1992, starring Anthony Newley and featuring six additional songs by Bricusse.

An animated remake, Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, was released on Netflix in December 2022.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Scrooge's initial explanation for Marley's appearance is this. Given that Scrooge's dinner that night had been provided by someone who owed Scrooge a great deal of money, it's amazing that Scrooge didn't take alleged hallucinations caused by bad food as proof that Tom Jenkins was trying to poison him.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Most stage versions remove the trip to Hell, but keep in Marley saying he's been expecting Scrooge and devils appearing with a huge chain in a further attempt to scare Scrooge straight.
  • Adaptation Expansion: After the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge his own grave, Scrooge falls into it and finds himself in Hell, where Marley reappears to show him what he has to look forward to.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Scrooge's nephew was renamed from Fred to Harry, Belle becomes Isabel, and the stage version and animated remake rename Scrooge's sister Fan to Jenny.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Scrooge is a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • The stage version makes Scrooge even more of a jerk than in the film, getting an additional song about how much he loves money, berating Marley's ghost after his visit, and denying any fault for his current circumstances.
    • Jacob Marley is also more caustic onstage than in the film, getting even more lines mocking Scrooge.
  • Adapted Out: The scene of Scrooge's items being pawned off in the future is cut out. The Cratchits also have five children instead of six, with their unnamed third son left out.
  • Age Lift: In an inversion of practically every other adaptation of the story, this one depicts Bob Cratchit as a young man, and Fred ("Harry" in this version) as middle-age. Accordingly, Bob's children are skewed younger than usual too – most versions portray the eldest daughter Martha as a young adult and eldest son Peter as at least thirteen, but here they're all small children.
  • All Just a Dream: When Scrooge returns to his bedroom, he is wrapped in his bedsheet, not the chain he thought. He first thinks this trope:
    Scrooge: Perhaps it was just a dream. [realizes] Perhaps it wasn't!!
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The Christmas Yet to Come sequence, showing the public reaction to Scrooge's death, ups the ante from "nobody mourns him" to "spontaneous Crowd Song celebrating his death."
    Thank you very much!
    Thank you very much!
    That's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me!
  • Bait-and-Switch: Bob Cratchit's Christmas shopping has multiple shots of what the well-to-do people of London are buying for their Christmas celebration, before panning to what the Crachits are able to afford, such as opening on a view of a liquor store, before panning to Bob buying punch concentrate from a vendor in the street.
  • Black Comedy: In the future scene, Scrooge's debtors sing a very cheerful song about how happy they are that he's dead, and some of them even dance on his coffin.
  • Body Horror: The walls and rocks of Hell are made up of tormented faces.
  • Call-Back: When Bob Cratchit buys his Christmas goose from the poulterer, the prize turkey is seen hanging in the front of the shop. He later tells his family he bought "the finest bird in the shop" note  while looking at it.
  • Canon Foreigner: Tom Jenkins, a hot soup vendor and debtor of Scrooge's. He even gets to lead one of the most memorable numbers in the film, "Thank You Very Much".
  • Close-Knit Community: Camden Town is portrayed this way, for the most part.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In the film, everyone in the Fezziwig Christmas party scene wears rather muted colors except for Isabel, who wears a bright ice-blue dress.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In the future sequence, Scrooge is gleeful at the crowd singing "Thank You Very Much" in front of his office, not realizing they're so happy because he's dead.
  • Composite Character: In the stage version the Ghost of Christmas Past is also Scrooge's sister Jenny.
  • Dance Party Ending: The final musical number, with the reprises of "I Like Life", "Father Christmas" and "Thank You Very Much", grows into a massive crowd dancing through the streets of London.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Scrooge.
    • The Spirit of Christmas Present gets a good one on Scrooge:
      Scrooge: I want to look in the window [at Cratchit's house].
      Spirit: It will cost you nothing, which I'm sure is good news for you.
      Scrooge: Will they be able to see me?
      Spirit: No, which I'm sure is good news for them.
      • He also refers to the Cratchet house as "The lavish home of Sir Robert Cratchet, Esquire."
    • Jacob Marley is arguably the snarkiest character in the film especially during the Hell scene as he is very sarcastic towards Scrooge and seems to seems to enjoy toying and taunting Scrooge. For example he sarcastically welcomes Scrooge to his new ‘office’ and literally tells Scrooge that his ‘chains’ are quite huge before sarcastically wishes him a Merry Christmas.
    • The boys who follow and tease Scrooge also fall into this trope. For example near the start of the film the eldest boy sarcastically calls Scrooge ‘Father Christmas’ and another boy jokes that Father Christmas will send his regards to Scrooge as well.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Apparently, the only record of Scrooge's small business loans with the common folk in Camden Town is in the little black book he carries around. Tom Jenkins destroys it to general acclaim at the start of the funeral scene to free everyone from their debts, and when Scrooge turns a new leaf, he rips it up himself.
  • The End: The film ends with a "Merry Christmas" title card in place of this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Implied. When Marley meets Scrooge upon arriving in Hell, Marley explains that nobody else wanted to greet Scrooge, implying that even Hell's denizens found Scrooge and his actions reprehensible.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Scrooge's nephew Harry is only named once in the film, with Scrooge just calling him "nephew."
  • Evil Debt Collector: Scrooge during the "I Hate People" number. He charges people more than 20% interest for a one week extension on loans (And that's weekly interest, not annual), and then helps himself to the goods his clients are selling without considering that to be part of their payment.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: After Marley shows Scrooge the phantoms, he disappears just long enough for Scrooge to think it was a dream before reappearing to talk some more.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: "Happiness" is a recap of various points in Scrooge's courtship of Isabel. Two scenes later is the recap of the breakup.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Scrooge has a vision of ending up in Hell, which is red-hot except for his office, which is freezing cold.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: When Scrooge's sister appears, she's wearing a yellow outfit with a muff and shoulder cape trimmed with white feathers.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Scrooge's office in Hell still has the "Scrooge and Marley" door sign.
  • Friend to All Children: Scrooge becomes this at the end of the movie — he even remarks to himself, "I think I'm going to like children."
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Inverted. The Ghost of Christmas Present pours what looks like wine in a cup he gives to Ebenezer to drink, and calls it the milk of human kindness.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Everyone who owes Scrooge money shows up to his funeral. They start the wake a bit early, with Tom Jenkins leading a dance on the coffin during the funeral procession.
  • Got Me Doing It: Even Scrooge can't help getting caught up in the festivities that are his own funeral, albeit obliviously.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Scrooge pleads with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come and while in Hell that he can repent and change his ways; Marley dismisses this with an indifferent "Bah Humbug". Subverted in that Scrooge wakes up alive in his bedroom, realizing he is not in Hell.
  • I Have Many Names: Scrooge's nephew is called Harry in the movie and stage version and Fred in the DVD menu.
  • If Only You Knew: Harry's wife tells him that she doesn't want Uncle Ebenezer "haunting their party," while Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Present are in the room with them.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In one scene during the Christmas Past segment, Isabel nocks an arrow on the wrong side of her bow and hits a bullseye. Immediately afterwards, Scrooge nocks his arrow correctly and his aim is much worse.
  • Ironic Hell: Scrooge's "office" in Hell is identical to the one that Bob Cratchit works in, right down to it being freezing cold.
    Marley: You will be to him, so to speak, what Bob Cratchit was to you.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: "Fools who have no money spend it/Get in debt, then try to end it/Beg me on their knees, befriend them/Knowing I have cash to lend them..." This is true, even today.
    • Scrooge is pretty much full of these, such as when he chides his debtors that they knew the terms of their deals and when they were due and it's not his fault they've been giving people deals or charity when they had their own bills to pay, or when he lambastes the charity-seekers for being insincere and lying about knowing Marley to get money out of him. His best one might be "There is nothing on which [the world] is so hard as poverty, and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!"
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: In flashbacks, Isabel takes part in an archery contest and wins while still wearing her finest dress.
  • Large Ham: Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley.
  • Lonely Funeral: This adaptation is one of the few that doesn't invoke this trope. Half of Camden Town shows up for Scrooge's funeral (the half that owes him money), though they technically aren't mourners.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Scrooge's home is very messy. The interior of the house is covered in dusty cobwebs, the walls are caked with dirt, the curtains of the windows and Scrooge's bed are moth eaten, implying Scrooge has lived like this for years. Scrooge isn't just stingy but also lazy that he won't clean his own house. It also serves as fridge brilliance because it can also be suggested Scrooge is simply too stingy to hire a maid or buy new curtains.
  • Mood Whiplash: When Scrooge sees the ghostly carriage on the stairs, the driver wishes him a Merry Christmas.
  • Movie Bonus Song: Inverted. The stage version has six additional songs, including "M.O.N.E.Y.," "It's Not My Fault," "Love While You Can," "The Milk of Human Kindness," "The Minister's Cat," and "A Better Life."
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • The normally-unnamed Mrs. Crachit is given a name. During the argument about toasting to Scrooge, Bob says, "But, Ethel!"
    • The nephew’s wife is given the name Helen in the stage adaptation. The animated remake, which gives her a Race Lift, modifies this to the Sanskrit name "Hela."
    • The youngest Cratchit daughter is named Kathy, and since the brother she spends most of her time with in the book is Adapted Out, she becomes Tiny Tim's constant companion.
  • Never My Fault: The stage version has a song where after Marley's visit, Scrooge rails into him, accuses him of trying to steal his money, blames him for dying, and denies any fault for his actions and current circumstances. Followed a reprise after Christmas Past's visit where he denies any fault in Isabel's decision to break their engagement.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Scrooge comes to the Cratchit house dressed as Father Christmas, they think he has gone mad. Scrooge doubling Bob's salary only seems to confirm their suspicions.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: This version of the Ghost of Christmas Past is an elderly gentlewoman in a red dress rather than the ethereal creature in a white or yellow robe seen in many other adaptations.
  • Pretty in Mink: The Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as a typical lady of the time, and carrying a fur muff.
  • Recurring Riff: "I Like Life", sung by various people throughout — including, eventually, Scrooge.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the book, there is no mention of any of Belle’s family. Here, Isabel is Fezziwig’s daughter.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: This adaptation has Scrooge being threatened with Hell if he doesn't reform. It works.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation:
    • A stage adaptation was first mounted in the UK in 1992 under the title Scrooge: The Musical, featuring the Bricusse songs and starring Anthony Newley in the title role.
    • The show was revived in 2003 on a tour of the country by British song and dance man Tommy Steele, and he again reprised the role at the London Palladium in 2004 -making him the performer to have done the most shows at the Palladium. In 2007, Shane Ritchie played the part at the Manchester Palace. The musical was revived at London Palladium in October 2012 with Steele reprising the role. It ran till 5 January 2013.
    • This was staged in Melbourne, Australia, in 1993, starring Keith Michell, Max Gillies, Tony Taylor, William Zappa, Dale Burridge, Emma Raciti, Ross Hannaford, Paul Cheyne, Glenda Walsh.
  • The Snark Knight: Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present are more snarky than in most serious versions, particularly in the stage version where they get additional lines mocking Scrooge.
  • There Was a Door: Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present utterly shatter the window as they leave the house.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Scrooge is so nasty that the milk of human kindness wears off when he sees Harry's party games and starts to insult the guests, and the Ghost suggests he drink some more.
  • Triumphant Reprise:
    • The first version of "Thank You Very Much" is a grave-dancing tune as all of London celebrates Scrooge's death in the Bad Future, but the reprise is one of genuine gratitude toward him after he turns over a new leaf. This is actually done without any change to the words whatsoever, just a change in context as to why the song is being sung.
    • Also "No Better Life" and its light reprise "A Better Life".
    • The first rendition of "Father Christmas" mocks Scrooge's complete lack of Christmas spirit. The second celebrates his discovery of it.
  • Truer to the Text: This version includes the ghostly hearse, and Scrooge wishing to make amends with the boy singing carols.
  • Villain Song: Scrooge gets "I Hate People," and in the stage version "M.O.N.E.Y."
  • You Fool!: Scrooge to his younger self, as the latter lets Isabel break their engagement and walk away from him.