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Image Entertainment presents
Scrooge (1935)

"Bah! Humbug!"
- Scrooge (Sir Seymour Hicks)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 04, 2002

Stars: Sir Seymour Hicks
Other Stars: Donald Calthrop, Robert Cochrane, Mary Glynne, Garry Marsh, Oscar Ashe, Marie Ney, C.V. France, Maurice Evans. Philip Frost
Director: Henry Edwards

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:17m:36s
Release Date: October 29, 2002
UPC: 014381184624
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ A-C+C+ D

DVD Review

Few pieces of so-called classic literature have been told as often and in as many different ways as has Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The story of crusty curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge and his life-altering visit by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future has seen a number of styles applied to it since the advent of motion pictures, from traditional to animated to comedy, with men, women, cartoon ducks and/or puppets taking the role of Scrooge. It's a testament of the simplicity and power of Dickens' work that it allows itself to be modified so easily for so many different audiences, with no dilution of the story's heartfelt message.

This haughty British-made 1935 version, directed by Henry Edwards (who would go on to direct Boris Karloff in Juggernaut), not surprisingly plays it straight. This film is notable for a particularly enjoyable performance by Sir Seymour Hicks as Scrooge, who also happened to have played the role in a 1913 Leedham Bantock-directed silent version. The heart of A Christmas Carol is the cold-hearted nastiness of Scrooge, and Hicks owns the role with a shock of wild white hair and a jowly grimace. He utters his lines with pure contempt, and it is his portrayal that prevents this telling from looking like a harshly acted, overly dramatic rendition largely hampered by the other performances. The supporting cast, which includes a young Maurice Evans as Scrooge's nephew, recite their lines with broadly delivered theatrics and subsequent hamminess; Mary Glynne's Belle especially is a real laugh riot during her big scene, dressing down Scrooge and his heartless ways.

Though age has not been kind to this print of Scrooge, Edwards' vision of 1843 London still holds up exceedingly well as grim, grubby and just plain dirty. Edwards employed a number of (for 1935, that is) cutting-edge sequences featuring fairly elaborate sweeping camera shots that add a depth to the sets, which when coupled with the use of some harsh Expressionistic lighting created a film that is at least visually compelling. A scene during the Christmas Future sequence, where Scrooge's hired help is coldly pawning off his possessions, uses some surreal lighting techniques that give the moment a properly dark and nightmarish tone.

The good news is that Image has restored this release of Edwards' film to its original length, though the transfer has been restored only to what the back cover refers to politely as "very good quality." Transfer issues aside, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is so familiar, and equally wonderful, that it really doesn't matter that much about the image quality, and I know there are Scrooge-ophiles who love to see any and all renditions of Dickens' story. Sir Seymour Hicks captures the dark heart of Scrooge solidly, and even though we know the path he will take before the title card disappears, the message is always humbling to behold.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: In a word: Dark. The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer is very, very dark, with some supposed night scenes rendered all but incomprehensible. There is an inconsistency to the overall presentation, with some interiors looking perfectly fine (for a 1935 era film, that is), while others are simply horrendous. Blacks and greys run together, and image detail is often quite weak, compounded by excessive flicker. Purists will likely appreciate the restoration of the film's original length, but the quality will leave them wanting.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: As one might expect from a film made in 1935, the English mono track is fairly heavy with hiss and crackle, and instances of multiple voices tends to cause some undo strain on the fidelity and clarity of the audio track. Age issues aside, I imagine this track is comparatively clean and clear for a film of this vintage, though it is far from perfect.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than an adequate 12 chapter stops, Image has omitted anything else that might be construed as an extra.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Dickens' oft-told, near-perfect seasonal tale of a bitter old man who learns to change his ways features a terrific scowling Scrooge in the form of Sir Seymour Hicks, but the overall transfer leaves a little to be desired. Outside of Hicks' great histrionics, the familiar story is acted with the broad flamboyancy of an amateur theater production. The material, though, is so good that it might be possible to look past such stumbling blocks as Mary Glynne's highstrung theatrics and actually absorb the simple message of Dickens' original work.

Recommended for Scrooge completists only.


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