The Christmas Carol is a short film adaptation of Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol narrated by actor Vincent Price. The film was released on December 25, 1949, and was directed by Arthur Pierson. Filmed on a "ridiculously restricted" budget, The Christmas Carol condenses Dickens work into a 25-minute feature, often at the price of shaving off certain information that may be valuable to the viewer. (Lyons, The Christmas Carol Review)
The film begins with a credit sequence to the carol "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen," sung by the Mitchell Choir boys. In a cozy room Vincent Price sits on a couch with Dickens' A Christmas Carol in hand. Price introduces the viewer to Dickens' work by quoting G.K. Chesterton, saying "In everyone there is a certain thing that loves children, fears death, and that likes sunlight: that thing enjoys Dickens." As Price begins to read the novella, the scene changes and takes us to Victorian London on Christmas Eve, to the workplace of Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Taylor Holmes), a cruel and greedy man with disdain for Christmas. It is revealed that his partner Jacob Marley is "dead as a doornail", but his ghost visits scrooge that very night, warning him that if he continues to be consumed by greed and bitterness, he will meet a terrible end. Scrooge blames the apparition on an upset stomach, but as Marley predicted, he is visited by the Ghost of Christmas past who gives Scrooge a glimpse into his childhood, showing how he "shunned" his peers. Scrooge is then visited by the ghost of Christmas Present, who reveals to Scrooge that Tiny Tim is ill, which seems to soften Scrooges heart some. The last ghost that visits him is the Ghost of Christmas Future, who shows Scrooge his own grave. Scrooge awakes from his nightmare, determined to be a better man. He attends the Christmas dinner of his employee, Bob Cratchit, providing the biggest Turkey he could buy. He promises Tiny Tim that a friend of his is a surgeon and will help Tiny Tim get better. The film focuses back on Price, who finishes with Tiny Tim's infamous line, "God bless us everyone!"
Some have critiqued Holmes' acting as Scrooge as being mediocre compared to other on-screen Scrooges; Vincent Price, however, has received praise as the "saving grace" of the film with his "sophisticated charm". (Guida, A Christmas Carol and its Adaptations 179)
First, the title of the film, The Christmas Carol, deviates from the name of the original novella, A Christmas Carol. Additionally, Ebenezer Scrooge is misspelled in the opening credits as "Ebeneezer" Scrooge. The overall plot of the stories are the same, Scrooge, a man who hates Christmas, is visited by three ghosts that try to make him see the error of his ways. The three ghosts come after a visit from Jacob Marley, his friend that passed 7 years before, warning him that he must change or there will be nothing left for him. In the video there is not much mention of Marley before he shows up and talks to Scrooge, unlike the book. The book starts off talking about how dead Marley really is, and how they used to be business partners and then it leads to him being visited by him. One scene that is almost exactly the same between the video and the book is the one where Scrooge's nephew comes to see him and they are talking together. The conversation and how it flows is the same way, there are extra things that happen in the book, but the actual conversation in very similar. Another difference that is in the book and not in the movie is when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas day after all the spirits had visited him he talks to a boy outside. In the video he only asks the child what day it is, while in the book he asks him to go get him a turkey and is willing to pay him for it. In the movie it only shows that Scrooge went to Bob's house with his children and stayed there, while in the book he also went to his nephews house and had dinner with them.
Vincent Price (1911-1993) was a well-acclaimed American actor on both screen and stage. He is most well known for his "distinctive low-pitched voice and atmospheric narration," (IMDB) and as a result, he appeared as a narrator in many films. His first film appearance was in Service de Luxe in 1938, but Price received his claim to fame with his involvement in horror films. He starred in many Gothic horror films like Pit and the Pendulum and narrated several audio recordings of Gothic horror short stories. Price's talents extended beyond acting; he was also a gourmet chef who hosted several cooking shows in the 1970s. Later in his career, he famously narrated the intro of the music video to Michael Jackson's chart-topping hit Thriller. He also did voice work for the role of Vincent VanGhoul in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo, a character directly based off of Price. Price passed away in 1993 of lung cancer, leaving behind a daughter and a son.
"In a world where slaughter and vicious crimes are daily occurences, a good ghoulish movie is comic relief" -Vincent Price (NYtimes Obit)
Guida, Fred. A Christmas Carol and its Adaptations: A Critical Examination of Dickens's Story and Its Productions on Screen and Television. Macfarland & Co. Inc, 2006. Print.