Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

Grumpy old man, visits from ghosts, Christmas spirit, everyone lives happily ever after. Only this time, instead of Ebenezer Scrooge: Victorian miser it’s Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden): modern day grieving dad. He’s rich, but money isn’t the problem here. He lost his son seven years ago this very night in the war (Korea, I presume) so now he … what, hates war? After an exchange with his nephew Fred (Ben Gazzara), he sees a reflection of his son, Marley Grudge (Ugh!), passes out, and is then visited by three ghosts. Roll credits. Please.

Written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, A Carol for Another Christmas is chuck full of his other-worldly sensibility as well as his wordy preaching. What is Grudge’s problem really? Hating war seems perfectly natural. His grief is getting in the way of embracing his extended family? I don’t see how. Who does Grudge hold a grudge against? The message is amazingly muddy.

Christmas Past is hep cat Stevie Lawrence who shows Grudge the history of war being bad, which he already knew. He also shows him his own experience in the Good War, apparently demonstrating that Grudge was always an asshole. No clue what lesson is learned here.

Christmas Present does a little better. Grudge is shown how bad off some people have it, and that we have a responsibility to help. Intervene, we should. That’s his quote down at the bottom. But it’s yet to come where the wheels truly come off. Robert Shaw, the most talkative grim reaper this side of Billy & Mandy, shows Grudge an absurdist post-apocolyptic future let by populist isolationist Imperial Me (Peter Sellers). Don’t trust people outside of the group, only follow him, yadda yadda yadda.

A Carol was a made for TV event intended to be watched once. Written by Serling and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, it is a wordy mess. Is this a pro-Vietnam involvement film? The dialog is so convoluted it’s hard to say what it’s point is. To its credit it refrains from borrowing too much from the supposed source material. Just the names Fred and Marley, plus the convention of Christmas and the three ghosts. Dicken’s dialog didn’t get shoehorned in, and the entire Cratchitt family is blissfully absent. Thank god because It’s unwatchable enough as it is. AMRU 2.
“Mankind, Mr. Grudge, in there. The hungry part of mankind, the anguished part. The dispossessed. If you shared a loaf of bread with them, how would you be relinquishing your freedom? Or if you joined other nations to administer vaccinations to their children, how would you have desecrated your flag? Or if you had offered them solace and hope and comfort, how would you have made yourself susceptible to tyranny?”

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