Friday, December 31, 2021

AfterLunch | Last Christmas (2019)

One, last Christmas episode of the year and it's about Last Christmas. Rob and I talk about Paul Feig's film from a couple of years ago, co-written by Emma Thompson and starring Emilia Clarke, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, and Henry Golding. And also featuring of course the music of George Michael. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

AfterLunch | After Dinner Lounge – Podcast Poison

Rob, Evan, Pax, and I continue our conversation from last episode. We talk about (and unwrap) Christmas presents, break a tie, discuss shows like Hawkeye and Cowboy Bebop, share some Christmas traditions, and address the Bitsy McBitserson in the room.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Monday, December 27, 2021

AfterLunch | After Dinner Lounge – CHRISTMAS!

Just before the Christmas holiday, Rob, Evan, Pax, and I gathered to talk about what we've been listening to and reading. As always with these Lounge discussions, the conversation goes its own way, but major topics include how to read short story collections, irritating things about interview podcasts, The Force Awakens and the whole Star Wars sequel trilogy, and of course lots and lots of Christmas music.

Download or listen to the episode here. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

AfterLunch | Scrooged (1988)

A Christmas Carol week concludes with me talking with my brother Mark about the irreverent remake, Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, and a bunch of other stars. As with the rest of this week's adaptation discussions, this originally aired on the former Sleigh Bell Cinema podcast.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Friday, December 24, 2021

AfterLunch | Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

A Christmas Carol week continues with another old Sleigh Bell Cinema discussion. This time Paxton Holley and I triple the run time of the movie we're talking about when we dig into the short Mickey's Christmas Carol starring a plethora of Disney characters in the various Dickens roles.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Hellbent for Letterbox | The Harder They Fall (2021)

Pax and I watch the new Netflix Western, The Harder They Fall, directed by Jeymes Samuel. Starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, and others as fictionalized versions of actual historical people.

AfterLunch | The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Christmas Carol week continues (and we hit Episode 75 of the podcast) with another Sleigh Bell Cinema discussion about one of the world's favorite Christmas Carol adaptations: The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine as Scrooge. This was the very first episode of Sleigh Bell Cinema and featured frequent Nerd Lunch and AfterLunch guest Mike Westfall, whose Advent Calendar House podcast was a direct inspiration for Sleigh Bell Cinema in the first place.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

AfterLunch | The Stingiest Man in Town (1956)

AfterLunch's A Christmas Carol Week continues with another re-run from my old Sleigh Bell Cinema show. This time my wife Diane and I talk about the TV musical The Stingiest Man in Town starring Basil Rathbone as Scrooge. And if you'd like to hear me talk about the '70s Rankin-Bass animated remake starring Walter Matthau and Tom Bosley, be sure to check out my guest appearance on Mike Westfall's Advent Calendar House podcast.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

AfterLunch | A Christmas Carol (1984)

AfterLunch's A Christmas Carol week continues with this re-run from my former Sleigh Bell Cinema podcast. I talk with Carlin Trammel about one of our favorite adaptations: Clive Donner's TV movie from 1984 starring George C Scott.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Monday, December 20, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Fredric March (1954)

After Scrooge and Belle's breakup at Fezziwig's party, the Shower of Stars adaptation had Scrooge pull back into his room and close the shutters. The shot then cuts to outside Scrooge's house where we see the shutters still clattering as a town crier walks beneath them on the street, calling the two o'clock hour. 

There's a dissolve and Scrooge is now sleeping in his bed, but he's awakened by music. I wasn't sure at first if he was actually hearing the music or if he just woke up on his own, but it turns out to be the overture for the next song in this musical version. As a deep baritone voice begins singing, Scrooge pulls open his bed curtains to see his room transformed by greenery and candles and popcorn strings and... his nephew Fred in a festive costume?

This version had the actor who plays Belle double as the Ghost of Christmas Past, so this is a thing that they're doing. After the song, Scrooge will even express confusion about who's in his room: his nephew or a ghost? I miss the more faithful versions, but I kind of appreciate that these spirits are taking on the looks of key people who represent Christmas in Scrooge's past and present. Belle because she broke up with him at a Christmas party and Fred because of his annual invitation to dinner.

Since the Ghost appears as Fred, he looks nothing like Dickens' description or any other version. He doesn't even have the fur-trimmed robe, which would be easy enough to have draped on him. Same with the cornucopia torch that he also doesn't have. Of course he doesn't have the long hair and beard, either, or a bare chest or bare feet. And he's Fred-sized, not giant. Instead of an empty scabbard, he has a candy cane stuck in his belt. Really the only accurate thing he has is a small holly crown to match the garland of holly he wears around his neck. 

His song, sadly, is repetitive and terrible, made even worse by its being an ear-worm that makes its home in my head for days after hearing it.

A very
A very, merry Christmas
A very, merry Christmas

Oh days may come and days may go
But this is the day of the mistletoe
With lights in the windows and holly on the walls
And children waking up with Christmas calls

A very a merry
A very a merry
A very a merry 
Christmas Day

The Ghost tries to have some fun with it, playfully running through vocal scales with some of the words, but it only makes the song longer. And he sings it three times in a row.

During all of this, he's messing with Scrooge. The first time he mentions mistletoe, he produces some, takes off Scrooge's nightcap, and kisses the old miser on the forehead. That's kind of sweet actually and gets a big smile out of Scrooge. 

The Ghost does magic tricks, too. He pulls a crazy long strand of holly out of Scrooge's robe (getting another smile for it) and drapes it from the ceiling. He makes the hands of the clock go back and forth and brings a stuffed raven to life (although the special effects for this all involve cutting away and suggesting the trick rather than showing it). And of course he finally forces Scrooge to dance with him. 

I mentioned that Scrooge smiles a couple of times, but he doesn't really seem too sure about any of this. His general attitude is bewildered curiosity at first. He plays with the bells on the Ghost's costume and, as I said, he occasionally breaks into a big smile. It's similar to how he was at Fezziwig's party, getting into the spirit in his own awkward way. But by the end of the song, it's a bit overwhelming and he's back in bed covering his head with his sheets.

There's no invitation from the Ghost to come and know him better. Instead, he sits at Scrooge's table and simply waits for Scrooge to come out. When Scrooge does and asks whether the Ghost is Fred or not, that's when the Ghost reassures him that "only good will happen to you." I like that. March's Scrooge is especially fearful and the Ghost notices.

Scrooge, still trying to understand why someone who looks like Fred is sitting at his table and turning his nose up at Scrooge's gruel, repeats the Ghost's name. "Christmas Present?"

"Yes. You don't give many of them, do you?"

Scrooge looks ashamed. "Not of late years. No."

The Ghost laughs and nudges Scrooge. "I do! It's my business." He waves at the feast around them. "None of this will be wasted, you may be sure."

Scrooge looks absolutely, pathetically contrite. "Spirit, if you have anything to teach me, I am ready to learn." It's heartfelt and heartbreaking, really. March is excellent and I feel horrible that his Scrooge is going to have to endure so much more. He's ready to change. But the Ghosts will have to make sure.

It's curious that this Ghost didn't invite Scrooge to come and know him better and he also doesn't ask Scrooge to touch his robe. In most versions, those are encouragements for Scrooge to take action, but this Ghost does all the work and lets Scrooge off the hook. Is that because he already sees that Scrooge's heart has changed?

The Ghost goes into a variation of his song and turns Scrooge's gruel into a plum pudding. Or did he? The camera pulls back from the cake to reveal that it's not on Scrooge's table, but on Bob Cratchit's. An unseen chorus continues the song as the camera continues to pull back and present the next scene. 

AfterLunch | Christmas Ghosts (And One Carol in Particular)

Kicking off a week of Christmas Carol episodes on the AfterLunch podcast, Rob and I welcome new guest Nikki Rollier to talk about ghost stories, their connection to Christmas, and especially the most famous Christmas ghost story of all. We talk about our favorite characters, scenes, and adaptations, and even a thing or two that don't work so well for us.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Alastair Sim (1951)

Alastair Sim's classic version begins this scene where the previous one ended, with Scrooge in bed moaning "no no no" in his sleep about the miserable visions of the past. He's quite beat down by his experience and doesn't want to repeat it with another ghost, as we'll see.

There are chiming bells coming from outside, but they're not yet tolling a specific hour. When they finally do though, it's 1:00, finally revealing which schedule this version's ghosts are on. Marley only announced that the first ghost would come at 1:00 and didn't say when the others would arrive, but it seems now that they're on the multiple night plan.

The tolling bell wakes Scrooge and he's immediately nervous about what will come next. He pulls back the bed curtains and sees his empty bedroom, but doesn't have to wait long before a light comes under the door from the next room and he hears a deep chuckle. 

Sims' performance is always funny even when he's scared and it's hilarious that he tries to lie down again and pull the covers over himself, hoping that he'll be allowed to go back to sleep. That's not happening though and the Ghost in the other room invites him to "come in." Scrooge closes his eyes in resignation, then nods and gets up. "Yes, I'm coming..."

As he walks toward the door, it opens on its own and the music swells, revealing the Ghost sitting atop a throne of bread and fruit and meat. Heavy strands of garland are hung from the wall behind him and the fireplace is blazing merrily. The ghost continues to laugh and it's here that I notice the echo effect laid on him by the sound design. It's otherworldly and doesn't ruin anything, but I don't love it. It's not really needed and feels like overkill.

The Ghost has a good look, showing even more chest than the Reginald Owen one. The robe is right and his hair and beard are both long, though not as full or jolly as the Owen ghost. He's a large, imposing presence, too. Later, when he's standing next to Scrooge, he looks like he's about a foot taller. 

He has the holly crown and though it has no icicles, so few versions have had them that I'm wondering if I even want them at this point. The one time they were there (in the Seymour Hicks movie), they didn't look that great. I know they're in at least one other production we haven't talked about yet, so I'll hold off judging at least until then.

I can't see the Ghost's feet in this version, so I don't know if he's wearing shoes or not. He does have something hanging from his belt that looks like it could be a sheathed dagger, but I can't tell for sure. It's too small to be a sword scabbard though and I don't know what else it would be. A dagger would be weird since it sends the exact opposite message that the empty scabbard does. The worst thing about this Ghost though is that he's missing his torch. That's a crucial part of the costume for me.  

Scrooge doesn't say the line about learning his lesson, but it's all there in the performance and in what he does say. Like I said earlier, he's beat down and exhausted by the ghosts so far. But there are still obstacles to his changing. His first reaction, for example, is to shake his head and try to go back into his bedroom. But the Ghost invites him once more to come in and know me better, man.

"You've never seen the like of me before, have you?"

"Never," Scrooge says, wearily. "And I wish the pleasure had been indefinitely postponed."

The Ghost asks if Scrooge is still unmoved by his experiences and Scrooge complains that he's too old and beyond all hope of changing. It sounds like he sees the need to change, but despairs that he'll be unable. He says something about being left alone to observe Christmas in his own way, which as we know is not to observe it at all.

The Ghost isn't having it though. "Mortal, we spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred-and-sixty-five. So is it true of the child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts only one day of the year, but in all the days of the year. You have chosen not to seek him in your heart. Therefore you shall come with me and seek him in the hearts of men of good will." It's a good speech. I like it.

He holds out his arm and invites Scrooge to "Come. Touch my robe." Scrooge shuffles over resignedly and obeys. As the Ghost chuckles some more, the scene dissolves...

Saturday, December 18, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Reginald Owen (1938)

The 1938 Christmas Carol had Scrooge fall exhaustedly to sleep at the end of the last scene after trying to smother the Ghost of Christmas Past and having her turn into this own bedsheets. This scene opens on the clock, which is just about to strike Two. This film's Marley predicted that the ghosts would do everything in one night between the hours of One and Three, so we're on schedule.

Scrooge is fast asleep, but wakes himself up with his own snoring. He remembers what's been happening and checks his watch. Seeing what time it is, he looks around nervously a bit, but the chime of the clock comes quickly and there's not much suspense about the next spirit.

Almost as soon as the clock chimes, light begins pouring in around Scrooge's bed curtains, so he peeks through and sees our new Ghost. In this version, Scrooge's apartment is only the one room except for a little closet. The room is done up right though with a lovely fire, a wreath on the hearth, greenery all around, and the Ghost sitting on a chair surrounded by food. 

He looks great right away. I love his curly long hair and his bushy beard. His robe appears to be the right colors (as much as it can in black-and-white). He's waving around a horn-shaped torch, too. There's no visible flame from it, but it's giving off a strong light and a bit of smoke, so it works even though I prefer a strong, visible flame. His robe is open enough to see some of his bare chest and of course he has the holly crown (though without icicles).

He's not wearing a sheath and he's not giant-sized either even if he is quite tall. His robe is long enough to cover his feet in this scene, but later when he and Scrooge are walking around we can see that he's not barefoot. Even with those discrepancies though I like him a lot. He has a great, regal voice and he talks to Scrooge in a friendly way, but as if Scrooge is a child who has to have everything explained to him very simply. He's got a twinkly eyed Santa quality to him that's utterly charming.

In spite of Scrooge's rebellious regression at the end of Past's visit, he's back to being contrite and interested with Christmas Present. He doesn't say the line about having learned a lesson, but he's eager to see whatever this Ghost wants to show him. When the Ghost stands up, Scrooge asks with genial curiosity, "What are we going to do?"

"Walk into the world this Christmas night," the Ghost explains. "So that you can hear and see and feel Christmas."

Scrooge's response if funny. "Did you say walk or fly?"

The Ghost is amused and offers his robe for Scrooge to touch. And without knowing whether he's actually going to walk or is in for another scary flight, Scrooge does it. The room goes dark and there's some fog and then we're outside.

Friday, December 17, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Seymour Hicks (1935)

In Henry Edwards' Scrooge, Seymour Hicks' Ebenezer wakes up in his bed before the strike of One and even predicts the tolling of the bell before it comes. I haven't been impressed with this version so far, but it does this part of the scene nicely, having Scrooge look around the room as if he expects something and then pulling the bedsheets over his head when nothing happens right away. 

He peeks out again just in time to see the lighting change and flicker wildly. So he gets up and goes to the other room where he sees the new ghost.

I'm not as excited about the actual Ghost in this version, but that's not a surprise considering the invisible Marley and the blurry Ghost of Christmas Past. At least this one is corporeal, but Edwards has taken big liberties with its appearance.

The room is impressive though with a blazing fire in the fireplace, stockings hung on the hearth, and greenery and food everywhere. The Ghost is sitting on a raised surface above the feast and appears quite large in more ways that one. At least he does until Scrooge walks over and stands next to him to provide some perspective. Scrooge is as tall standing up as the Ghost is sitting down. He's fat, but he's no giant.

He doesn't have room for a torch of any shape because he's got two fistfuls of food that he gnaws on throughout the scene, pausing to smack between lines of dialogue, then tossing his meat on the floor to pick up a goblet. He's probably shirtless under his robe (white-furred and presumably green, but it's a black-and-white film and that's impossible to tell). The robe is pulled tight around his neck though, so no broad, bare chest here. And his hair is all wrong from his short haircut to his beardless face.

I don't think we ever get a good enough look at the Ghost when he's standing to tell if he's barefoot or carries a sheath, but this version finally puts icicles on the holly crown. They're big ones that poke out in all directions like spikes.

This Scrooge has been a passive, defeated character almost from the beginning of the ghosts' visits. He's been one of the quickest to change and it's natural that he gets to say the line about having learned a lesson which is still working on him. In fact, he says this with hands together as if he's praying, so he's quite penitent.

The Ghost then invites Scrooge to touch the Ghost's robe and explains that he's about to show Scrooge how his poor clerk keeps Christmas. Scrooge already looks ashamed and hesitant about this, so the Ghost commands again, "Touch my robe." 

Scrooge lifts his hand dramatically and lays it on the Ghost's sleeve. Smash cut to the next scene.

Seriously Felicity | Todd Mulcahy, Part 2

Kristi and I flub an interview, rediscover our love for art, and meet super young Juliet from Psych. Also, some talk about Psych as well as Scott Foley's new show, The Big Leap

Thursday, December 16, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Mark McDermott (1910)

Thomas Edison's short, silent film has the same Spirit of Christmas showing Scrooge scenes from his past, present, and future, so there's no new ghost to meet this year. We do get a little interlude between visions though, first with a title card that tells us we're transitioning to "Visions of the Present" and specifically, "what the miser's wealth could do." But we also see Scrooge alone for a few seconds and apparently happy to be that way. He looks around the room and sees no ghost and I think I detect a smile. He pumps his fist as if in triumph and starts to get undressed and ready for bed. But before he even gets his robe off, the Spirit is back.

The Spirit brings no decorations or food and since he's the same ghost for all three time periods, he contains elements of at least the first two. He has the long white hair and clean shaven face of the first Spirit, but the holly crown and big torch (not horn-shaped) of the second. He's not giant, but his seat is elevated like he's sitting on a piece of furniture, so he does loom over Scrooge that way. 

It's a black-and-white production so there's no way to tell what color his robes are, but they're just vaguely regal and medieval and not like what Dickens described at all. He's wearing a fancy tunic and we don't get a good look at his feet (at least, not in my fuzzy print). I can't pick out a sword either, but it could be under the Spirit's royal cape.

Scrooge looks disappointed and impatient that this isn't over yet, so that's consistent with how he's been all along. He's shown emotion at the scenes from the past, but there's no hint yet that he's learning anything from them. He doesn't say anything to the Spirit, nor does the Spirit invite Scrooge to touch his robe. The Spirit is just going to show Scrooge some scenes in his room, whether Scrooge likes it or not.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Jim Carrey (2009)

After his apocryphal fall from orbit at the end of Christmas Past's visit, Robert Zemeckis' Scrooge is still flat on the floor when the clock tolls One and he hears a distant chuckling that grows louder as the dark bedroom grows brighter. Scrooge looks to where the light is coming from and sees it twinkling and spilling around the edges of the parlor door. 

Once Scrooge has gotten to his feet, the door flies open on its own to reveal a golden lit room bountifully decorated with candles and garland. In addition to being more festive, the room is also much bigger and taller than it was when we last saw it. A variety of chiming clocks fill the air with sweet sounds as the Ghost's laugh gets still louder and more boisterous. And as the camera pans across, it finally reveals a mountain of food with the Ghost perched on top of it. 

The Ghost is so high above Scrooge that it's tough to get a sense of scale, but he certainly gives the impression of being enormous, both physically and spiritually. His horn-shaped torch is decorative, but doesn't have the usual, ridged texture of a cornucopia. It works though and the light from it is extremely bright. He's bare chested and has long, brown hair, though once again his holly crown has no icicles.

His green robe is also ornately decorated with embroidery, but the fur trim is light brown instead of white. And it's so long that we never see his feet and whether or not he's wearing any shoes. I peeked ahead and we don't even see his feet when he pulls back the robe to reveal Ignorance and Want. He has another robe underneath. Modest about his toes, this Ghost.

He's wearing the empty sheath and Scrooge even comments on it. Like the rest of this Ghost's clothing and accessories, there's a lot of detail on it and it looks quite old, but it's not rusted. When Scrooge points out that it's empty, the Ghost looks at it and seems surprised and shrugs. "Peace on Earth! Good will toward men!" I like that the movie pauses to explain that detail. It's not necessary to understanding what's going on, but if you're going to include the scabbard, as most versions do, you might as well acknowledge its symbolism.

I also like that when he talks about having 1800 older brothers, he adds, "Eighteen hundred and forty-two, to be exact." It's like we're getting helpful little annotations.

That said, though, I don't love this version of Christmas Present. Like the other Christmas Ghosts in the movie, it's also played by Jim Carrey, which is a gimmick. There's no reason for it in the story and he's not the best choice for the role. He looks like Jim Carrey in a wig and fake beard, his laugh is manic, and his half-hearted Scot accent isn't contributing anything.

Carrey's Scrooge continues to be strong though. He continues to be humble and respectful, even though he doesn't explicitly say anything about the lesson he learned from the previous ghost. "Spirit," he simply says, "Conduct me where you will."

So the Spirit laughs again and lowers the belt of his robe to the floor so that Scrooge can grab it. When Scrooge does, the belt lights up, the mountain of food begins to disappear, and the room changes in a way that's unique to this version. We'll save that to talk about next year though.

AfterLunch | Bond Novels – Diamonds Are Forever

I cover Ian Fleming's fourth James Bond novel, Diamonds Are Forever, in another solo episode. Bond returns to the United States to bust up a mob-run diamond smuggling operation, but how do these hoods measure up as a threat to a spy used to taking on mad industrialists and agents of the Soviets' assassination bureau? And what about Tiffany Case?

Download or listen to the episode here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Scrooge McDuck (1983)

Mickey's Christmas Carol opens this scene with Scrooge in bed, still distraught over reliving his break-up with Isabelle. I suspect that's as close as we'll get to his acknowledgment to the Ghost of Christmas Present that he's still learning from the previous Spirit, but it's enough for now.

This version is one of those that had Marley announce that all three Spirits would visit in one evening, so Scrooge's little bedside clock chimes Two and not One before the next Ghost arrives. Scrooge isn't nervously anticipating the new Ghost; he's still beating himself up about Isabelle when a light comes on through his bedcurtains and he hears, "Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!"

He peeks through the curtains and sees as lavishly decorated a room as we've had so far. This version has Scrooge living in pretty much just one room, so Scrooge doesn't even have to get out of bed to see what the Ghost has done.

Since we're dealing with a giant ghost, Disney has cast Willie the Giant from the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of Fun and Fancy Free (1947). Willie's kind of a dumb character, which is funny, but that does mean we're not going to get the joyful, ultra compassionate character I love so much from other versions. But because Willie was created as an antagonist for "Mickey and the Beanstalk," he's going to be a bit threatening to Scrooge and that may not be entirely inappropriate as we go through these next scenes. 

Physically, Willie doesn't have either a beard or long hair, but he's dressed correctly in the green robe with white trim and the holly crown (still no icicles, though). His chest isn't particularly exposed, but then maybe that's best when this version isn't defined by his heart the way that others are. He's not wearing a shirt under the robe though, so that's something.

He also doesn't have bare feet (and won't really need them since we won't get Ignorance and Want in this version). Instead, he's wearing medieval hose like he did in "Beanstalk." He has no sheath or scabbard of any kind and doesn't even have the iconic cornucopia-shaped torch. He'll find another light source when they get outside, which will be funny, but I still miss that torch. Like I said, though, the room is packed with food and the Spirit is sitting on a literal throne that's covered in and surrounded by it. 

Scrooge is initially terrified of the Ghost, but after Willie declares that Scrooge is too distasteful and miserly to be appetizing to even a man-eating giant, Scrooge becomes more like his old self. Willie refers to the much more appealing food around them and Scrooge is greedily interested (unlike his earlier reaction to Donald's description of Christmas dinner). 

In lieu of Willie's actually being an exemplar of love and generosity himself, Disney has Scrooge ask where all the food came from, which prompts Willie to explain that it's "from the heart" and to give a speech about the generosity that Scrooge has "long denied your fellow man." That's what I mean about Willie's antagonistic background being a benefit. When he confronts Scrooge about his failings, it carries weight that little Jiminy Cricket - as fussy as he can be - could never bring.

Scrooge is still resistant though. He asks when anyone has ever been generous to him, clearly forgetting about the vision of Fezziwig he just experienced. But then again, the Fezziwig scene was really all about Isabelle for Scrooge.

Willie's first response to Scrooge's accusation is that "you've never given them reason" to be generous. That always makes me a little nervous, because I always forget what he says next. I don't like the implication that generosity is something that should be earned. Clearly people have been generous to Scrooge. Just look at Donald's consistent, annual invitation to Christmas dinner. That's a much stronger argument and happily it's where Willie is going next.

He tells Scrooge that there are people who care about him, but Scrooge is incredulous. By this time, Willie has already stuffed Scrooge in his giant pocket, so he lifts the roof off of Scrooge's house so that they can both leave and see what Willie's talking about.

This Scrooge is a tough nut to crack, so it works symbolically that the Spirit doesn't even ask him to take the minor action of touching the Spirit's robe. Instead, Scrooge is forcibly brought along with no choice in the matter.

Monday, December 13, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Walter Matthau (1978)

Rankin-Bass' version of The Stingiest Man in Town ended the previous scene with Scrooge falling asleep in bed as usual. But instead of immediately having him wake up again, the story cuts outside to Scrooge's window where our old friend BAH Humbug is peering in and wondering how Scrooge got back. He stayed behind when Scrooge left with the Ghost of Christmas Past, so he's not as caught up on events as we viewers are. 

Just as Humbug is trying to figure this out, the big, nearby church clock strikes One and worries the little bug. Inside, though, Scrooge is still fast asleep and not thinking at all about the impending arrival of the next ghost. In fact, he's awakened by the Spirit's boisterous, jolly laughter coming from the next room. Scrooge wonders what the sound is, but Humbug knows. "Looks like the Number Two Ghost is right on time!" I think that's a random train schedule joke and if it is, I like it.

Scrooge still isn't getting out of bed, so the door to his room opens on its own and a bright, yellow light pours in just as the TV special cuts to commercial. When we come back, Humbug is now inside and looking toward the open door and the bright light alongside Scrooge. 

Scrooge finally gets out of bed and goes to check things out, where we see his redecorated parlor. It's not covered in food, but there's a festive tree next to a table that has a candelabra, a couple of empty wine glasses, and a couple of dishes heaped with meat and fruit. The camera pans across the room to reveal the Ghost standing over a cake, a big cooked bird of some kind, and scattered grapes and potatoes. There's a barrel, presumably filled with wine, and the Ghost has a big, bare foot propped on something round that could be another food container or maybe just a piece of furniture. 

The Ghost is so big that we don't see his face at first, but he's barefoot, has the empty scabbard (not particularly rusted), and his robe is the right colors. He introduces himself as the camera pans up to reveal his broad, bare chest, his standard cornucopia torch, and his holly crown. There are no icicles on the crown, but the biggest alteration from Dickens' version is that this ghost has long, white hair and beard instead of brown. Like with the Marvel Comics version, I assume this is to suggest Santa Claus to North American kids in the audience. As he invites Scrooge to come and know him better, the camera pulls back to reveal his full form.

Since this is a musical version, we get a song here to explain what this Ghost is about. It's not sung by the Ghost himself though, but by toys and ornaments on the Christmas tree that come to life and dance around. It's a fun, earworm of a song with a chorus that goes:
"Listen to the song of the Christmas Spirit,
Can't you hear it? Can't you hear it?
Listen to the song of the Christmas Spirit,
Ringing in the air."
I won't reprint the entire lyrics, but a typical verse goes:
"Tinkling laughs of girls and boys
Mingle with the jingle of tinkling toys.
Words of hope and happy times
Sung to the music that chimes."
The point of the song is in the line: "Can't you hear it?" They're asking Scrooge why he can't hear the joy and spirit of Christmastime. Another line goes, "Boys and Girls can sing it too. They sing this song. Why can't you?"

Scrooge is distraught at first and asks the Spirit to stop the singing toys, but instead the Spirit hits Scrooge with a fireball from his torch (which is also what he used to bring the toys to life). Scrooge shrinks to toy (and Humbug) size and the toys quickly come over and pull both Scrooge and Humbug into the dance. Scrooge resists at first, which leads to some slapstick, but Humbug listens to the sound and joins in quickly. And before long, Scrooge has become caught up too and is enjoying himself with Humbug and the rest.

This version leaves out Dickens' line about Scrooge's wanting to continue learning what the previous Ghost taught him, but we see the same basic effect. Scrooge was frightened and saddened by his glimpses at the past, but having been torn down from that experience, he's already being built back up here before this Spirit shows him a single thing. 

At the height of these shenanigans, the Spirit scoops up Scrooge and the Humbug and tosses them out the window where they fly over the city. Scrooge returns to his normal size and is concerned that he's going to fall, but the Spirit (who has followed them out the window) commands Scrooge to "touch the hem of my coat and be lifted."

The "hem" reference is interesting, because it's not from Dickens. It's from a couple of instances in the Gospel of Matthew that refer to people being healed by touching the hem of Jesus' garment. I noticed in the Marley scene that this version is more overtly Christian in its language than other versions, so I imagine that it's making an intentional connection between the Spirit of Christmas Present and the spirit of Christ's teaching. Properly manifested, both have the power to heal.

AfterLunch | A Marvelous Holiday Special

Back on Episode 15 of the old Fourth Chair Army Invasion show, we imagined a live-action TV version of a DC Super Hero Holiday Special comic. Now it's Marvel's turn as Rob and I welcome Michael DiGiovanni, Mike Westfall, and Ben Graham to assign each other super heroes and holiday elements to turn into segments on a Marvelous Holiday Special.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Alastair Sim (1971)

Richard Williams' cartoon has Scrooge awakened by the clock tolling One, but Scrooge's bedcurtains are already pulled aside and the light is already pouring through his door. He climbs out of bed and shields his face from the brightness as the unseen (by the audience, anyway) Spirit bellows, "Enter, Ebenezer Scrooge!"

Scrooge goes into the other room where the giant-sized ghost does sit on a throne of food. Garland decorates the walls and the only sound other than the Spirit's voice is the crackling fire in his cornucopia-shaped torch.
The Spirit's appearance is pretty much like Dickens describes. His robe and trim are the correct colors and the robe is open in the front to reveal the Ghost's broad, bare chest. His chest is oddly colored with a band of brown that I think is supposed to indicate hair. It's the same color brown as the Spirit's long hair and beard, it's just not like any patch of chest hair that I've ever seen.

He has the bare feet though and the swordless sheath, but the sheath isn't particularly rusted, nor are there icicles in the holly crown. The animation has always been very good in this version and there's a lot of detail in this scene around the food, but it skimps in other areas like these parts of the Spirit's costume.

This Scrooge has been humble and compliant since the end of Marley's visit and that continues in this scene. He doesn't talk about the previous night's lesson still working on him, but we've seen that it has and he tells this Ghost that he's willing to profit by whatever the Ghost has to teach him. All the other dialogue is cut out though, including the stuff about the Spirit's older brothers. That's a shame, but this is only a half-hour cartoon, so trims are necessary.

The Spirit of course invites Scrooge to touch his robe and I like the way that Scrooge's hand is engulfed in the fabric as he grabs hold. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Teen Titans #13 (1968)

The Teen Titans Christmas Carol is a unique bit of fun in our study, because it isn't an actual adaptation, but simply an adventure inspired by Dickens' story. The Titans have noticed similarities between Dickens' characters and the people involved with their current case, so they're using Christmas Carol tactics to try to redeem a crooked, old sinner named Ebenezer Scrounge.

Kid Flash impersonated the Ghost of Christmas Past and showed Scrounge a photo of his younger self with an old flame. It was a sad, half-hearted attempt to show Scrounge a better version of himself, but we don't really know that Scrounge was all that much better off in the past and there's no reason to think that the tactic will actually work to change Scrounge. Except that of course it will because Bob Haney wrote this and he wasn't exactly known for nuance or subtlety. It'll work because A Christmas Carol worked.

One thing that definitely worked though was that Scrounge thought he was seeing an actual ghost and he was terrified of it. So in this year's scene, he runs out of his junkyard office and tries to make it home through the snow. He's stopped though by Robin (his green glove gives him away to the readers, if not to Scrounge) in yet another half-assed Christmas Ghost cloak like the one Kid Flash used, just a different color. 

He claims that he's here to show Scrounge how his stinginess hurts other people. Scrounge is still scared to death of these ghosts, but hasn't shown any desire to repent yet. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Graphic Classics, Volume 19: Christmas Classics

Alex Burrows and Micah Farritor's version give a page and a couple of spill-over panels to this scene. At the end of the last Christmas Past page, Scrooge goes to bed and the final panel of the page has the clock striking One.

On our main page, Scrooge doesn't sit up in anticipation of the next Ghost, but is awakened by banging and crashing sounds coming from his sitting room. There's no light under the door, but he goes to check out the noise and that's when he meets the spirit. Whom I presume made the racket while setting up the Christmas feast?

The largest panel on this page introduces the Ghost who's sitting at a table filled with holiday food that's also spilling onto the floor. It doesn't appear to cover every inch of the room, but it's bountiful. There's also festive garland on the walls. 

The Ghost himself is very large and carries what I'm now considering the standard, one-handed cornucopia-shaped torch. He has the green robe with the white fur trim. And while his chest isn't bared, his robe falls loosely enough on him that we can see he's shirtless underneath it. The robe is also long enough to cover most of his feet and we don't get a good look in this scene, but a peek ahead in the book shows me that he's barefoot.

He has the long, brown hair and the holly wreath, but still no icicles in this version either. He does have the swordless sheath though and kudos to the colorist (Farritor, I presume, but I don't know for sure) for giving the sheath a rusted texture. That makes this the most faithful version yet and I especially like Farritor's design of the Ghost's face with its high cheekbones and large, strong nose. He's quite distinctive.

Scrooge doesn't mention anything about the effect of the previous night's experience on him, but we've seen him strongly affected by it in those scenes. Spelling it out is unnecessary in this version, so all Scrooge needs to say is that if this Ghost has something to teach Scrooge, he's ready to profit from it.

That ends the main page of this scene, leaving the Ghost to invite Scrooge to touch his robe (and Scrooge's actually doing it) in the first panel of the next page that will also have them actually hitting the streets.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Campfire’s A Christmas Carol (2010)

Like the Classics Illustrated and Marvel adaptations, Scott McCullar and Naresh Kumar's version gives this scene two pages. The first has Scrooge wake up and pull back his curtains, and the narrative text specifically calls out that he's doing it in order not to be surprised by the next ghost. By the end of the page, Scrooge has seen the light under his door and opened the door to be flooded with brightness.

The second page isn't a splash, but still gives most of its space to dramatically introducing the Ghost. This is my favorite depiction of the feast so far. Food and candles are everywhere and I love the muted, brown and golden color palette. It's very lush and decadent. And the food's extending behind the Ghost gives the impression that he could be sitting on a throne of it.

The Ghost himself is giant-sized, though not supernaturally so (which isn't a requirement). He's got the one-handed cornucopia torch that I like and his robes and fur-trim are the right colors. He's also got the broad, bare chest and long, brown hair. We don't see his feet for a good, long time, but peeking forward in the book, they are bare. He's got the swordless scabbard, too, which is a little more detailed than the Classical Comics version, but still not explicitly rusted. It does have an ancient quality to it though (or maybe I'm reading that into it). Like the Classical Comics version, this Ghost has everything except the icicles in the holly crown.

Kumar's inconsistent depictions of Scrooge early in the adaptation led me to the theory that this version is a malevolent sociopath who may be hallucinating all these ghosts in an effort to climb out of his own insanity. That continues in this scene. When the Ghost asks if Scrooge has ever walked with any of the Ghost's older brothers, Scrooge smiles kindly(?!) as he replies, "Never." There's nothing humble or apologetic about it, but there's also no sense that he's resentful or smug. There's no sense that he's interacting with a real being at all. Or at least that he believes he's interacting with a real being.

The dialogue modifies Scrooge's speech so that he doesn't say anything about having learned a lesson the night before. Instead, he tells the Spirit, "If you have anything to teach me, let's get this lesson done, so I may benefit from it." It's a perfectly inconsistent statement for this confused Scrooge. "Let's get this over with," but also, "I'm willing to change."

The Ghost does invite Scrooge to touch his robe and there's even a small panel focused on Scrooge's doing just that. As irregular as this Scrooge is, he's at least taking steps to get better.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (2008)

Classical Comics' version by Sean Michael Wilson and Mike Collins is a long graphic novel with plenty of pages to devote to each scene. Where the earlier two comics give it at most a couple, here it gets four.

The first page deals with Scrooge's waking up at the stroke of 1:00 am and pulling back his curtains in anticipation of the next ghost. The second builds tension as Scrooge waits, then sees the light under the door to the next room, then goes to open the door where he's flooded with light.

The third page is a splash with the introduction of the Ghost of Christmas Present. The banquet is confined to a table, so it doesn't cover every square foot of space, but the table is huge and the lay out of food is lavish. We can't really see what the Ghost is sitting on, but he's got one, giant foot resting on a bunch of kegs. There's also festive garland everywhere. It's an impressive page.

The Ghost is absolutely giant and has the cornucopia torch, looking more in this version the way I usually imagine it than the two-handed affair of Marvel's Ghost. He's got the green robe with the white fur, the big bare chest and shoeless feet, and his hair is long and brown. And though we won't get a good look until the Ghost and Scrooge hit the streets, the Ghost is also wearing the scabbard without a sword (though there's not enough detail to show that it's rusted). The only thing missing from Dickens' description are the icicles on the holly crown, so this is the most accurate representation of the Ghost so far.

The fourth page has the bulk of Scrooge and the Ghost's conversation before leaving the house. This comic has shown some willingness to change in Scrooge that started during Marley's visit and continued into Christmas Past's, so it's fitting that Scrooge recites the line from Dickens about learning a lesson the previous night that's still working on him at present. And the Ghost's inviting Scrooge to touch his robe is a perfect way to end the page before moving to the street for next year's scene.

AfterLunch | Bond Novels – Moonraker

I'm solo again with a short episode about the third James Bond novel, Moonraker. It's a unique entry in the Bond series, offering a glimpse at Bond's daily life while also sending him to solve a murder at a remote country estate where he meets one of the most remarkable women of his career.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Marvel Classic Comics #36 (1978)

Like the Classics Illustrated version, Marvel's adaptation also wastes no panels on having Scrooge nervously anticipate his next visitor. As soon as the clock tolls one, Scrooge is awake and the Ghost is beckoning him into the next room.

It's not as lavishly decked out as the Classics Illustrated story. There's plenty of food scattered around, but the floor isn't exactly covered in it. It certainly doesn't mound to form the Ghost's seat, though I like that his throne is carved to represent food. 

The Ghost is giant-sized. Just how much doesn't become clear until they hit the street later, but he's huge. He also has the cornucopia torch, represented as an enormous horn of plenty that the Ghost has to hold two-handed, with light pouring from it's large opening. That's not how I imagined it, but I'm probably influenced by movie adaptations (particularly the George C Scott one). This is a valid way to represent it and I like it.

Instead of a green robe with white fur, Marvel's Ghost has a red robe with white fur, probably to suggest Santa Claus. That likely also explains why the Ghost's long hair and beard are snowy white when Dickens specified that they were dark brown. The drawings are vague enough that it's hard to tell if he's bare-chested or wearing a shirt under his robe, but he is barefoot. The holly crown has no icicles and the sheath without a sword is also missing.

This version includes the line about Scrooge's learning a lesson the night before, which is nice to see because I've been worried about this Scrooge. He began the story almost maniacal, but seemed to settle down under the influence of Christmas Past. He's making progress and I hope he doesn't relapse.

The Ghost invites Scrooge to touch his robe, which Scrooge does, and the room immediately disappears.

Monday, December 06, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)

The Classics Illustrated adaptation starts this scene with Scrooge's waking up in bed and immediately seeing a light in the next room, so Scrooge doesn't have to pull back his curtains and wait nervously for whatever's about to happen.

He spends the next panel opening the door to the other room and then the bottom two-thirds of the page are taken mostly with the grand depiction of the new Ghost in all his glory. 

The sumptuous feast from the book is there, but I can't tell if the Ghost is sitting on a throne of food or if he's brought his own chair. He's certainly giant-sized and has the long hair and holly crown of the literary version, but there are no icicles on the crown and the adaptation takes other liberties with his appearance. 

He has a torch, but it's just a regular old torch and not cornucopia shaped. He has the sheath, but there's actually a sword in it, which directly contradicts Dickens. The Ghost's beard covers his chest, so we can't know for sure, but we can imagine that he's shirtless under there. Likewise, his long robe covers his feet and there's no telling if he's barefoot or not. But he could be. 

The most noticable change is the color of the Ghost's robes. Rather than being green with white fur trim, they're light orange with black fur trim. They're pretty striking and I love the black fur trim, but they're not very Christmasy.

Scrooge hasn't shown strong signs of change up to now, but - true to Dickens' text - he tells the Ghost that he learned a lesson the previous night and he's willing to profit by whatever this Spirit wants to teach him. This version of Scrooge was especially mean and businesslike early in the story, so it's nice to see that the small hints of change that he let show throughout Past's visit are signs of something bigger going on in Scrooge's heart.

This version of the Ghost of Christmas Present does invite Scrooge to touch his robe. We don't see Scrooge do it, but we can assume that Scrooge takes that action since the narrative text tells us that "immediately the room vanished and they stood on the city streets on Christmas morning."

AfterLunch | The Cure, Part 1

My brother Mark returns to the podcast along with third brother Matt to talk about one of our favorite '80s bands. Starting with The Cure's debut Three Imaginary Boys album and covering up through 1985's The Head on the Door, we talk about our own experiences with the band, favorite and not-so-favorites songs, the group's evolving sound, and the three "genres" of music that the group tends to make. It's a different sort of episode for AfterLunch, but whether you're already a Cure fan or merely Cure-ious, I hope you'll enjoy this detailed look back at the early days of Robert Smith and Company.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Dickens

"Scrooge's Third Visitor" by John Leech

As I talk about Dickens' original version of the scene, I'm going to copy the entire text in bold italics and insert commentary in plain type. That'll help identify elements that we want to pay attention to in the adaptations.

Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One. He felt that he was restored to consciousness in the right nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the second messenger despatched to him through Jacob Marley’s intervention. But finding that he turned uncomfortably cold when he began to wonder which of his curtains this new spectre would draw back, he put them every one aside with his own hands; and lying down again, established a sharp look-out all round the bed. For he wished to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be taken by surprise, and made nervous.

The bell is "again upon the stroke of One," because in the book, it's now 1:00 am on a second night. Since Marley showed up on Christmas Eve the Spirit of Christmas Past would have arrived at 1:00 am on December 25. That makes this 1:00 am on December 26. At least, that's what Marley's Ghost said would happen, but as we'll see at the end of the story, there's not really a point to following this too closely. 

Dickens reminds us that the Spirits are being sent to Scrooge "though Jacob Marley's intervention." That's what Marley told Scrooge earlier, but it's a quick line of dialogue that no one ever remembers. Scrooge's getting this warning and second chance is Marley's doing.

I like that Scrooge tries to regain some control by pulling back his bed curtains so that he can see when the Spirit arrives. If he's going to be visited, he wants it to be on his terms as much as possible. Curious to see if adaptations show this.

Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being acquainted with a move or two, and being usually equal to the time-of-day, express the wide range of their capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects. Without venturing for Scrooge quite as hardily as this, I don’t mind calling on you to believe that he was ready for a good broad field of strange appearances, and that nothing between a baby and rhinoceros would have astonished him very much.

According to Michael Patrick Hearn's The Annotated Christmas Carol, a "free-and-easy" was a kind of gathering place that offered smoking, drinking, singing, and gambling. So a "free-and-easy sort" was the kind of guy who would go there. To "plume yourself," is simply to "pride yourself" in something silly that you really have no control over, like a bird showing off its plumage. 

Being "acquainted with a move or two" is just a fun way of saying that they're worldly and "equal to the time-of-day" just means that you're able to take things as they come. You're ready for whatever may happen.

Pitch-and-toss was a Victorian street gambling game that more or less involved tossing pennies at a target with the person closest collecting the loser's coins.

This is all to say that Scrooge was ready for anything and I love the line that "nothing between a baby and rhinoceros would have astonished him very much."

Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion, without having the consolation of knowing it. At last, however, he began to think—as you or I would have thought at first; for it is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too—at last, I say, he began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.

I love that Dickens basically shames horror movie fans who ridicule characters for not behaving completely logically.

The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

Most adaptations do their best to convey this huge redecoration of Scrooge's sitting room, but it'll be interesting to see if any don't. Same with the cornucopia torch. I'm thinking of a couple of adaptations that include it, but I don't know how many. I don't know if I ever made the connection before that this Ghost's torch replicates the light given off by the flame-like Christmas Past. And will be contrasted with the darkness of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The past and present both illuminate, but the future is hidden and unknowable.

"Brawn" is apparently some kind of pork product and "twelfth-cakes" are large pastries made with honey, ginger, and pepper, then frosted and decorated and served on Twelfth Night, the last official celebration of the Christmas season in England (in early January). There's a whole thing about baking a bean or coin into the cake and whoever finds it gets to be the king or queen of the feast. It reminds me of the Mardi Gras King Cakes with their plastic babies that serve a similar function.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know me better, man!”

I love this line and its double-meaning. The Ghost welcomes Scrooge into the room, but he also welcomes him into a relationship with Christmas itself.

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

I had to look up "dogged," because I was associating it with "hang-dogged," which means dejected or shamed. I knew that didn't fit Scrooge here, because his lack of eye contact suggests that he is dejected and ashamed. "Dogged" by itself refers to someone who's persistent and tenacious like a hunting dog. That describes Scrooge's feistiness earlier in the story, but that's not him any more. 

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

I've often wondered why the Spirit is shirtless and open-robed, showing off a lot of chest. According to Hearn, since the chest was the home of the heart, Victorians would have associated a large, bared chest with an overflowing of compassion. Let's see how many adaptations are willing to show off this Ghost's chest.

We'll also keep an eye out for the green robe with white fur, bare feet, long hair, the iconic holly wreath (and will it have icicles?), and the rusted, sword-less sheath. And of course, the Ghost's generally jolly and unselfish demeanor.

A note on the rusted sheath, because I like this: This Spirit's appearance obviously borrows a lot from Father Christmas, the formerly pagan, but now-Christian symbol of the winter holidays. The Ghost's giant size and cornucopia are both references to his pagan origins. Along with armor, the sword was often an element of Father Christmas pictures, symbolizing the conquering of pagan traditions. Dickens' ghost conquers not with a sword though, but with love and generosity.

“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed the Spirit.

“Never,” Scrooge made answer to it.

Another double-meaning. Scrooge has never encountered the kind of generosity that the Spirit represents. Or if he has, he's ignored or misunderstood it.

“Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?” pursued the Phantom.

Again, Scrooge has no relationship with Christmas.

“I don’t think I have,” said Scrooge. “I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?”

“More than eighteen hundred,” said the Ghost.

Eighteen hundred and forty-three, if the story takes place in the year it was published.

“A tremendous family to provide for!” muttered Scrooge.

The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.

According to Hearn, there was a deleted section here where the Ghost's rising revealed the claw-like feet of Ignorance and Want who appear later in the story. Scrooge asks about it and the Ghost compliments him for even caring that much, but the Ghost doesn't yet reveal who's under the robe. I kind of like the foreshadowing, but I understand why Dickens thought it better to keep that part a surprise for later.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge submissively, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.”

Scrooge acknowledges that he's taken the first steps toward change. Curious to see what versions still try to make him curmudgeonly at this point. We should be starting to see changes in him by now.

“Touch my robe!”

Christmas Past invited Scrooge to passively accept its touch on his heart as protection. Christmas Present needs Scrooge to be more active.

Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.

So here's what we're on the look out for this year:

  • Does Scrooge pull his bed curtains back before the new Ghost arrives?
  • How has Scrooge's room been redecorated? How lavish and generous is it? Is there a throne of food?
  • The Ghost's appearance. Does it have the following?
    • Giant size
    • Cornucopia torch
    • Green robe with white fur
    • Broad, bare chest
    • Bare feet
    • Long, loose, dark brown hair
    • Holly wreath hat with icicles
    • Rusted, swordless sheath.
  • Is Scrooge showing signs of changing by now?
  • Does the Spirit invite Scrooge to touch his robe?

Saturday, December 04, 2021

The Christmas Carol Project | “Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!"

Christmas time is here, so once again it's also time for my long-standing tradition of covering A Christmas Carol scene-by-scene, paying attention to the way the story has been interpreted and adapted to other media over the years. 

My podcasting schedule has gotten really heavy. Which is how I like it, but it means that I've cut way back on blogging. I even skipped participating in the annual Halloween Countdown this year, focusing instead on the Crestwood House podcast and spooky-themed episodes of other shows. And to be candid, I thought about maybe not committing fully to the Christmas Carol project this year either. But I just couldn't cut it out of my schedule. I love doing it and this year's scene is one that I've been looking forward to for a long time.

For anyone not familiar with how this works, I’ve broken the story into scenes (or sometimes parts of scenes) and each year I look at the adaptations of one of them to the following comics, TV shows, and films:

• Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
• Marvel Classics Comics #36 (Marvel; 1978)
• A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (Classical Comics; 2008)
• A Christmas Carol (Campfire; 2010)
• "A Christmas Carol" in Graphic Classics, Vol. 19: Christmas Classics (Eureka; 2010)
• Teen Titans #13 (DC; 1968)
• A Christmas Carol cartoon (1971) starring Alastair Sim
• The Stingiest Man in Town (1978) starring Walter Matthau
• Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) starring Scrooge McDuck
• A Christmas Carol (2009) starring Jim Carrey
A Christmas Carol (1910) starring Marc McDermott
Scrooge (1935) starring Seymour Hicks
A Christmas Carol (1938) starring Reginald Owen
Scrooge (1951) starring Alastair Sim
• "A Christmas Carol" episode of Shower of Stars (1954) starring Fredric March
Scrooge (1970) starring Albert Finney
A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) starring Michael Caine
A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart

This year, we finally get to meet my favorite of the three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Filthy Horrors | The Masque of the Red Death Board Game

Darla supported the board game version of Masque of the Red Death (based on the Edgar Allan Poe story, illustrated by Gris Grimly, and published by IDW) on Kickstarter. So now she, Jessica, special guest Chandra Reyer, and I are playing it to determine who will be the most popular noble left in the castle after the blood-spattered specter comes to visit.

Monday, November 29, 2021

AfterLunch | KieferThon, Part 1

I'm joined by my brother Mark to start a journey through the filmography of one our favorite actors, Kiefer Sutherland. In this first episode, we cover Sutherland's career from his first jobs in Max Dugan Returns (1983) and The Bay Boy (1984), his revelatory 1985 performance in Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories, and all four of his 1986 movies, including his blink-and-miss-it part in At Close Range, the wildly varying-in-quality TV films Trapped in Silence and The Brotherhood of Justice, and finally his breakout role as Ace Merrill in Stand By Me.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Hellbent for Letterbox | Buck and the Preacher (1972)

Pax and I welcome back Evan Hanson to talk about Sidney Poitier's directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher, starring himself as well as Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

AfterLunch | After Dinner Lounge – Put That Friend in That Box

Rob, Evan, Pax, and I continue our ramble through various topics spurred by what we've been watching and thinking about. Discussions include big, spoilery discussions of Ted Lasso's second season and the first of Only Murders in the Building as well as deep thoughts about holiday travels, the importance of Thanksgiving, and celebrity crushes.

Download or listen to the episode here.

Monday, November 22, 2021

AfterLunch | Apple Music Presents - The After Dinner Lounge

Rob, Evan, Pax, and I gather again for another drifting discussion about what we've been listening to and reading. Big topics this time include superheroes Daredevil and Jason Todd, listening through musicians' discographies, and when it's appropriate to start celebrating Christmas.

Download or listen to the episode here.


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