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How many movie versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL presently exist? In all honesty, I'd have to say somewhere between not enough and way too many. In 1999, TNT and Hallmark Entertainment took another stab at bringing Charles Dickens classic novel to life, this time starring Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge. I was fortunate to witness Stewart's one-man stage production of A Christmas Carol when it played on Broadway about a decade ago. On stage, Stewart was mesmerizing in every single role, however it is his experience with the character of Scrooge that serves this production best. Stewart may be the most fearsome and tragic of all cinematic Scrooges because he plays the character as a human being with a lot of emotional baggage, who lashes out at the world, instead of just being the stereotypical skinflint one finds in so many other productions of Dickensí tale.

The plot of A CHRISTMAS CAROL involves the spiritual rehabilitation of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, when his is visited on Christmas Eve by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come. Although created for television, this particular production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL exceeds expectations with beautiful sets, costumes and clever special effects. With Patrick Stewart leading the charge, the acting is of course, first rate. The supporting cast of A CHRISTMAS CAROL includes Richard E. Grant, Joel Grey, Ian McNeice, Saskia Reeves, Desmond Barrit, Bernard Lloyd, Dominic West, Trevor Peacock, Liz Smith, Elizabeth Spriggs, Kenny Doughty, Laura Fraser, Celia Imrie and John Franklyn-Robbins.

Warner Home Video has made A CHRISTMAS CAROL available on DVD in its intended full screen television aspect ratio. Generally, the image is sharp and well defined, although some of the special effects place a slight fuzz on the picture. Film grain becomes noticeable from time to time, however since this is a television production with budget limitations, once can't expect theatrical level perfection. Colors tend to be subdued, giving the outdoor scenes a stark, wintry quality. Interiors have somewhat better saturation and the colors do become somewhat more vibrant towards the end of the program, as Scrooge is being transformed by his experiences. Blacks are solid and inky, plus the picture provides a good level of shadow detail and very even contrast. There are a couple of scenes where the special effects lighting threatens to blow out the image, but the transfer holds things together. Digital compression artifacts never make their presence known.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack decodes to surround and provides the production with a better than average television mix. There are a few directional effects across the forward soundstage, although this is primarily a dialogue driven film. The surround channels are used for atmospherics and to lend musical fill. The actors' voices resonate nicely, and the dialogue is completely intelligible. Music is well recorded and is nicely integrated into the mix, although it does maintain its own separate musical presence. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and French. The interactive menus contain include music, but are otherwise fairly basic. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, plus a couple of extras. Two brief promotional documentaries are included on the DVD, as are cast/director profiles.

Patrick Stewart is a great Scrooge and this production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is different enough from the others to warrant its inclusion in your holiday arsenal. Warner's presentation is also a winner, so at $19.98 you can't go wrong using this DVD as a stocking stuffer.


A Christmas Carol


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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