5TH Annual Countdown to Christmas – A Christmas Carol (1977)
Cast: Michael Hordern as Ebenezer Scrooge (The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh)
John Le Mesurier as Marley’s Ghost (Eye of the Devil)
Bernard Lee as Ghost of Christmas Present (Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell)
Patricia Quinn as Ghost of Christmas Past
Paul Copley as Fred (Downton Abbey)
Clive Merrison as Bob Cratchit (Doctor Who)
Brian Blessed as The Narrator (Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace)
Plot: I think you know the story by now. Scrooge is a miser and a miserable old soul. On Christmas Eve, he visited by three ghosts who show him what was, what is and what will be. Is it too late to avoid the lonely grave that awaits him?
Personal Thoughts: The BBC has a tradition of showing specials on Christmas Eve and Day, something that’s only recently come to the attention of American audiences, thanks to Doctor Who. In 1977, they attempted to create their own version of the classic tale. However, with a shoestring budget and the constraints of a one-hour timeframe, the result was rather limited. If you’ve ever seen a classic episode of Doctor Who from this time period, then you know how wobbly sets and poor special effects were a staple of UK TV. There are some odd sequences where actors are superimposed over poorly drawn artwork. I suppose it adds a certain charm but it causes those sequences to look incredibly cheap.
However, the acting is what elevates this low-budget effort from the obscurity it’s suffered through. Michael Hordern turns in a very convincing performance of Scrooge that surpasses other films and specials I’ve seen over the years. John Le Mesurier is good as Marley but not my all-time favorite. It was fun to see the familiar faces of Patricia Quinn and Bernard Lee. I really liked what Paul Copley did with his version of Fred but Clive Merrison was lacking a little in the Cratchit department.
Overall, despite it’s time and budget limitations, this is a version I will return to in the future. It won’t be a yearly visit but this version deserves more attention than it receives.
- Patricia Quinn is best remembered for her role of Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). She recently appeared in The Lords of Salem (2012).
- Bernard Lee was the original M in the James Bond film series, starring in the first eleven films before his death in 1981.
- Sadly, this version has never been released on home media in the United States and the UK version is now out-of-print. Luckily, it is currently available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. Watch it while you can!