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Magic Lantern Entertainment, a joint venture between The Roan Group and VCI Home Video, has released probably the best screen adaptation of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL ($30) just in time for Christmas 1998. The 1951 rendering of A CHRISTMAS CAROL was originally released in Great Britain under the title SCROOGE and this presentation maintains the original British title. A CHRISTMAS CAROL stars Alastair Sim, who many consider to be the definitive screen Scrooge. Sim's portrayal is near perfection; he brings to life the miserly skinflint in broad strokes, yet gives subtle nuance to the character as he undergoes a transformation that allows him to redeem his life.

For those few individuals unfamiliar with Charles Dickens' classic tale, the story finds the heartless Ebenezer Scrooge visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern) on Christmas Eve. Marley warns the heartless Scrooge of the horrors that await him in the next life and has come to give him a chance to avoid that fate. Scrooge will be visited by three spirits of the Christmas season who will show him the errors of his ways. Only through their guidance can his soul be saved. The Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future show Scrooge how each life touches so many others, and how inhumanity breeds more inhumanity. The first class British cast of A CHRISTMAS CAROL also includes Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, George Cole, Francis De Wolff, Rona Anderson, Carol Marsh, Brian Worth, Miles Malleson, Ernest Thesiger, Glyn Dearman and Patrick Macnee.

Magic Lantern Entertainment has made A CHRISTMAS CAROL available in both its original black and white and colorized versions on opposite sides of the DVD. As a purist and fan of black and white cinematography in general, I cannot abide the colorization process. Therefore, I leave it to the discretion of the individual viewer to sample the adulterated version of this classic film. The black and white transfer for A CHRISTMAS CAROL was made from the original 35mm negative that was discovered in England. This version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is the finest presentation of the film that I have ever seen. The sharp black and white picture has a good level of detail. Blacks are deep black and the image offers dependable contrast. The film element does have some blemishes and bits of negative dust, but none of them are too distracting. Digital compression artifacts remained in check throughout the presentation.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack showed more signs of age than did the picture. There is some hiss, a few pops and clicks and a brief passage where the audio sounded as if it were being played back at the bottom of a well. Overall, dialogue remained intelligible and the track would take a fair amount of amplification without becoming distorted. As supplement the DVD features an introduction by actor Patrick Macnee, plus the Technicolor Max Fleischer cartoon RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER. The DVD's simple interactive menus supply the standard scene selection feature.


A Christmas Carol


DVD reviews are Copyright 2003 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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