Friday, December 09, 2016

“More of Gravy than of Grave” | Alastair Sim (1971)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

Richard Williams' animated version does have a transition from the knocker (another lion face) to Marley, but it's so quick and subtle that I didn't even notice what was happening until the change was done. The designs of the knocker and Marley's face are so similar that only a few lines have to switch and it might as well have been without "any intermediate process of change." Scrooge is shocked by it, but the transformation back to knocker again is just as quick.

Inside, a ghostly hearse does go up the stairs and Scrooge is startled again. But he quickly recovers with a "humbug" and continues to his rooms. The animation is great in this sequence with most of the screen in darkness except for Scrooge's face, which is illuminated by his candle to an almost spectral appearance itself. Makes the whole house feel very creepy. Scrooge continues to mutter "humbug" all the way to his quarters.

The film doesn't have Scrooge searching his rooms or locking his door, but goes straight to him in his nightclothes, eating gruel by the fireplace. It's a faithful rendition of the room in which Scrooge's fire is nothing more than a glow and the hob is clearly visible with Scrooge's saucepan resting on it. I can't tell that there are any Dutch tiles, but the movie skips the second appearance of Marley's face and goes straight to the ringing bells.

Instead of bells all over the house, it's just a trio of service bells that stop abruptly so that Scrooge can hear the clanking of chains. Instead of Scrooge's fire acting strange, his candle flame flickers unnaturally as Marley materializes through the closed door.

Marley is transparent and does have a personal atmosphere that blows his hair and clothing around. Thanks to Alastair Sim's voice talents, Scrooge's joke about the gravy does come across as whistling in the dark, which causes Marley to take things to the next level. When Marley pulls off his bandage, his jaw gapes to an unholy degree. He screams loudly and Scrooge cowers, terrified.

As the conversation continues, Marley does speak in a spooky monotone, but even spookier is that his mouth never moves. It just continues to yawn widely with Marley's voice coming from deep inside. Scrooge is no longer the cold, passionless man he was in the earlier scenes. He's obviously frightened, but I also detect a hint of respect for his partner in the way Sim has him address Marley.

Scrooge doesn't get to talk much, though. Marley schedules the ghosts (over three nights) and then flies through the window with a shriek. He joins a host of other phantoms as Michael Redgrave's narration kicks back in, describing the ghosts' misery as they uselessly stretch out their arms to a mother and child sitting in the snow below.

Scrooge doesn't even get his allowed half-humbug out. Scared out of his wits, he simply runs to his bed and quickly draws closed the curtains.


Wings1295 said...

That image is more than terrifying. I am going to search out this version, I have yet to watch it and am intrigued now.

Michael May said...

YouTube may be your best bet. I keep looking for a physical copy, but no luck yet.


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