Happy Holidays from the House of Franklin-Stein! Chris and Cindy are back with a special treat, a spooky, classic Christmas film! Join them as they watch and comment on the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, starring the screen’s greatest Scrooge, Alastair Sim!
The Humbugs continue with “Jonah’s Holiday Carol” from Marvel Holiday Special 2004. Peter Parker’s grumpy employer J. Jonah Jameson is visited by three super heroic spirits. Will they be able to change the old skinflint’s mind about celebrating Christmas?
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A Christmas Carol (1951) directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, music by Richard Addinsell
Spider-Man (2002) directed by Sam Raimi
“The House of Franklinstein XMas” by Terry O’Malley, of Stop Calling Me Frank. Download their NEW FREE Christmas single, "Some Kind of Christmas"
"Nutcracker Suite Medley" from Batman: The Animated Series' "Christmas with the Joker" by Shirley Walker
"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Andy Williams
"Spider-Man Theme" from Spider-Man: Homecoming by Michael Giaccino
“Monster Holiday” by Lon Chaney, Jr.
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23 responses to “Super Mates 95: House of Franklin-Stein Christmas”
“…starring the screen’s greatest Scrooge, Alastair Sim!”
Yes, he is. 😀
More later when I actually listen to the episode.
OK, let me preface my comments with this. The 1951 Scrooge has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. We used to watch it every Christmas Eve, trying to time it so that the end of the movie would be on after midnight on Christmas morning. This has since been revised to watching it on Christmas Day, as that just got to be too much work and Mr. Magoo is much better when you’re tired. 😉 So, to me, this is the definitive version of the story, even superseding the original text. (And I’m VERY familiar with the original text: http://twotruefreaks.com/media/podcasts/TheHammerPodcasts/mp3/THP-Episode009.mp3)
I would say that the major reason for this, outside of Sim’s just wonderful portrayal, is we actually get a reason for Scrooge turning against the world and his eventual redemption. The beauty is that they are the SAME EVENT! The death of Fan, the only member of his family that ever showed Scrooge love, made him reject everything and resent his nephew. Once Scrooge learns, via the ghost, that Fan’s dying wish was that he take care of Fred, the weight of his decisions comes crashing down on him. Sim does an absolute amazing job in this scene, resenting the spirit for brining him there initially and then begging for his sister’s forgiveness at the end.
I also really like the addition of the scenes with young Scrooge & Marley and how they come up in the business world. Remember, the text ends after Belle (here Alice) dumps Scrooge and then is shown to have a happy life. Everything else in this version in unique, and really adds to the character. In this one you can understand why he became a miser and shut himself off from the world and personal connections. It wasn’t just greed, as in most versions, including the original, it was because he was hurt so bad that he couldn’t risk that any more. You can tell that he’s doing it consciously when he almost goes over to Fezziwig, but decides against it. All connections must be severed, lest they be used to rip his heart out again.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must stand on my head. 😉
Agree 100% with what you said Gene. This version actually IMPROVES on the text, and if you can improve on Charles Dickens… well, that’s saying something! But it does it without really altering the text either. It just layers in more nuance and motivation for Scrooge.
I don’t know what I enjoyed more: the commentary about the Cratchit family fondling the goose or Chris’ spot on impersonation of Alastair Sim. Haha!
So pleased you all focused on the creepier horror elements of this film version. That has always been what sets it apart from other adaptations in my mind. I remember first watching it as a kid one evening when it aired on television, and it unsettled me as though I were watching an old horror film in the dark moments but brought me back to some holiday cheer in the lighter ones. And, I agree with Cindy – the revelation of Ignorance and Want inside the robes of Christmas Present is a borderline horrific image that has stuck me with for years, and how well any adaptation handles this revelation is one of the measures I use to determine how worthy it is.
Oh, and I was raised Methodist in the rural farmland of southern Delaware. We do funeral cooking just like Baptists except someone is going to bring some fried chicken to go with the ham. Haha!
Merry Christmas to you two! Thanks for a wonderful look at this classic film.
Thanks for the kinds words!
My intent was to mention every horror connection I could to this film…and then I forgot to mention that Carol Marsh, who played Fan, also played Lucy Holmwood in Hammer’s Horror of Dracula! She even famously dies in bed in both! I need to turn in my Hammer House of Horror card!
My family has always been fairly non-denominational Christians, so we’ve belonged to Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches at various times of our lives. I know about the fried chicken too! It’s a smorgasbord!
Chris, I recently re-watched both the Alastair Sim version and the Jim Carrey version, and it occurred to me that comedic actors have had the most success at portraying both extremes in Scrooge’s transformation. Maybe this is because there is typically a fine line between the comic and the tragic, and comedic actors walk that line fairly regularly. Other actors, like George C. Scott, Michael Caine, and Patrick Stewart, root Scrooge too firmly in a realistic portrayal whereas Sim and Carrey are more comfortable swinging for the fence in their performances. In other words, their dark (Scrooge’s miserliness and cruelty) is very, very dark while their light (Scrooge’s change of heart) is almost luminescent in its giddiness.
To be fair, Carrey’s performance owes A LOT to what Sim does in his portrayal.
Also, don’t call the dogs on me, but I am not a fan of the Finney version. Just terrible, terrible music.
While I had other favorite versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, including Mickey’s classic and the Bill Murray movie SCROOGED directed by Richard Donner (maybe you’ve heard of him?), the Alastair Sim version was the definitive version in our household. This is the one that was always airing (sometimes marathoning) on Christmas Eve. It was the last movie we watched before going to bed and I adore it. Wonderful commentary episode, Chris and Cindy. This was a terrific holiday treat!
A few quick thoughts:
1. I’m pretty sure the Ghost of Christmas Past’s segment is always the longest of the three, regardless of adaptation. There’s so much backstory to cover, as opposed to Christmas Present when he really only needs to visit Bob and Fred, and in some cases they even skip Fred.
2. Regarding Jacob Marley’s deathbed redemption, it depends on what kind of Christian he was. Catholics, for instance, don’t believe that man’s soul is saved by Faith alone. Only God’s Grace can save man, and Grace is granted through a combination of Faith and Good Works. So Jacob trying to repent in the last seconds of his life, while commendable, would not relieve him of the burden of his chains, which is why he told Scrooge to change his behavior instead of ghost-whispering the secret get-out-of-hell-for-free password.
Although I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in, oh, thirty years, that’s probably why I call B.S. on Anakin Skywalker’s ghost standing in the Light Side at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI. Yeah, Darth Vader died to save his son and kill the Emperor, nice work, we all appreciate that, but there’s twenty years of atrocities that still need to be atoned for. #ItAllComesBackToStarWars
3. Terry and Stop Calling Me Frank’s new Christmas version of the theme song is AWESOME!
It’s so nice to know that the Sim version wasn’t just a big deal in the Franklin household!
1. Yeah, you’re right, it usually is longer. But this one is VERY long. Not that I’m complaining! Not for nothing, but the Mr. Magoo version puts Christmas Present first, then Past, then Future. That has always weirded me out! Who does that?
2. That makes sense. Jacob certainly didn’t have time to do any good, which may also explain why Scrooge doubled down on the goody goody the morning after. And yeah, Anakin doesn’t deserve to be hanging in the Light Side Lounge, especially younger Ani, while Obi Wan ,Yoda, Luke and Leia have to be old!
3. Terry’s surprise gift of a Christmas theme was one of my favorite presents this year…and Christmas isn’t even here yet!
What a nice Xmas surprise, even though I was in on it from nearly the beginning!
With all the various cinematic versions of ACC, you do realize you have to do this every year, right?
Merry Xmas Franklin Family!
Challenge accepted! Time to start binging for next year….
I purposely don’t read other parts in the scripts the better to piss my pants at other people’s jokes.
It scares me that I know you guys (or at least your on-air personas) well enough to “write” for you and have it sound authentic in my head. Get out of there!!! I need all the room I can get!
Well, once you know I’m a ghost, you pretty much know what I’m about.
Well done on the commentary, Franklins! This was very entertaining as I could tell how much you both really enjoy watching this film. It’s the same in our household. From as early as I can remember, this was my Mom’s favourite Christmas movie and we would watch it every year at Christmastime and I try to keep that tradition up. As much as I enjoy Scrooged (“Will you hold the goddamn hammering, please!”) and A Muppet Christmas Carol (“The love is gone…… the love is goooonnnnne”), this is probably the definitive version of A Christmas Carol. So much so, that most versions that I know of Scrooge are made to look like Alistair Sim, though I don’t know about Scrooge McDuck.
This was thoroughly enjoyable and I hope the House of Franklinstein starts taking over other holidays, a la Nightmare Before Christmas. Keep up the great work!
P.S. – I came for the Scrooge talk and came away with a Star Wars discussion. A Christmas miracle!
Well, you never know when the House may pop up now. Glad to hear of another family who watched Sim as Scrooge together!
Yeah, Scrooge spends much of this movie seeing and hearing things nobody else can. And he establishes in the “why do you doubt your senses? Because a little thing affects them” scene that he has a medical history of these kinds of episodes. Oh don’t get me wrong, his face turn is a fine moment in the movie in that it makes the people around him happy. That’s awesome so far as that goes. But I’d be seriously concerned about the CAUSE of it: this is a guy whose personality so drastically alters overnight after these visions — which he used to recognize as just being imaginary – well, they aren’t imaginary anymore, now they’re supernatural entities with time-travel powers. Basically cosmic-level powers that (according to Ebenezer’s interpretation) they judge to be best deployed to impress this one Londoner. Because Scrooge is just that important, apparently!
“I’ll retire to Bedlam,” he mutters to himself early on — and, Scrooge, I’m afraid so, my man! What are the chances he’ll keep this Christmastime adventure to himself? Oh no, people will soon enough hear his version of the events of that night. The word, the gospel he has received! From Christmas apparitions. Given 1840s neuroscience, my money is on our protagonist ending up in a special home of some sort.
No, Mr. Cratchit, I’d say let’s not have Mr. Scrooge get super-involved in your family life if you can possibly keep him at arm’s length for a bit.
Franklins, I loved this episode! It was a FUN …bug!
Hope you have a geeky Solstice and a spooky Snow Halloween!
Well, Jameson questions if he has a brain tumor in the comic story, so, maybe there’s something to your theory there, Doug. Or, creepy mechanical Doug!
Thanks for another brilliant show, Cindy and Chris, this is my go-to version of the Dickens classic, playing it straight and getting it right; as you say, where it’s changed, it’s improved. My other big fave is Scrooged (I’ve never seen the Muppets’ take, finding that a little Michael Caine goes an awful long way).
It’s nice that George Cole played the young Scrooge, given Alistair Sim was his informal dad.
I was unlucky enough to try the first episode of that BBC A Christmas Carol of a couple of years ago… just foul stuff.
As regards Bob working on Christmas Eve, did you know that Christmas wasn’t a holiday until 1958 in Scotland? Inhuman!
Of all the female Scrooge stories, my favourite is the TV movie A Carole Christmas with Tori Spelling, William Shatner and Gary Coleman… how could you resist this next year? (Unbelievably, Tori has an even better Christmas film on her resume, The Mistle-Tones, which is just a delight.)
I forgot to say, thanks and congratulations to Terry and the gang for the wonderful theme.
I didn’t realize until listening back to the episode, that I failed to mention that Sim was Cole’s mentor/father figure in real life. That’s the peril of doing a commentary track. Hard to edit stuff back in! I did mention it in the notes in the gallery at least.
Wow, that is hard to believe about Christmas not being a holiday in Scotland! I didn’t realize Scrooge was a Scottish name! 😉
The Sim Christmas Carol is my favorite version as well. There’s a book you might want to look for, “Alternate Oscars” by Danny Peary…one critic’s opinions of what he would have chosen for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress from the first Oscars to the time of the book’s publication (1991). Alastair Sim’s performance as Scrooge was his pick for Best Actor of 1951. He particularly praises Sim’s transformation from being “as stingy with kindness as he is with money” to being “the warmest, most delightful screen presence imaginable.”
(Actually, that year he named a tie for Best Actor, since there had historically been a tie between Wallace Beery and Fredric March in 1932. Peary’s co-winner with Sim was Robert Walker in “Strangers on a Train.”)
You might appreciate the book for its appreciation of films and performances in genres that the Oscars rarely honored…Peary’s pick for Best Actor of 1945 was Boris Karloff for “The Body Snatcher” (he also named Karloff as a “runner-up nominee” for both “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein,” as well as naming Colin Clive a nominee for “Frankenstein”…and Gene Wilder for “Young Frankenstein”!) And his pick for Best Picture of 1933 was “King Kong.”
I will have to look that book up Erich, thanks! Lets face it, many of the films that won Oscars are forgotten now, while the movies and actors you mentioned are still being talked about today. I honestly don’t put much stock in the Oscars, as I feel they are often very stodgy and unimaginative in their selection. Karloff and Sim definitely deserved at least consideration for their performances. I will argue to my dying day that “The Body Snatcher” is Karloff’s best performance, even over Frankenstein!
Something else that I noticed watching it this year, Scrooge may have more clothes than Crachit, but Crachit’s are in much better condition. Scrooge’s suit coat us fraying along the lapels and his vest has several nearly threadbare areas. That’s a great attention to detail on the part of the costumers. Yes, he has money, but he won’t spend it unless he absolutely has to.