I'll come up with something in a minute.

Movie Review: Morozko (Jack Frost)

While I’m away, have a simple cut and paste job.




Morozko (1964 Gorky Film Studio Dir. Aleksandr Rou) MST3K Episode 13 of Season 8. Airdate: 1997-07-12


You might want to settle in folks, this is gonna take a while.


So here we are, another Russian movie that was on Mystery Science Theater 3000. There were actually three movies that fit this mold. This, Sadko, and a movie called Ilya Muromets, which I own but haven’t reviewed yet. Interestingly, not one of them exists on the show under their original name. Sadko became The Magic Voyage of Sinbad, Ilya Muromets became The Sword and the Dragon and this became Jack Frost. Out of the three, this one remains the least changed by the transfer to the West. The dub is actual actors doing the voices rather than two people talking in heavily accented English over the Russian track, and it seems to be the one that was on MST3K, so all should be well. The name isn’t even too far off as the character of Ded Moroz translates to Grandfather Frost (although usually made into just Father Frost) and he fills the same sort of niche as Jack Frost does in American folk lore with a little bit of Santa Claus mixed in. There’s more to it than that, but that will do for this review.


Look, kid. I’m a rooster, I really don’t care if that knit ends up on Ravelry.


So we begin our story with a woman telling the tale from her window. She only shows up here at the very beginning and at the very end, so we won’t talk too much about her. She tells the tale of a poor girl named Nastenka, who lives with her father and step mother, who looks like a comic version of Judi Dench if she was kept from her make-up people and beauty regime for a year. I’m not sure if we’re seeing multiple fairytales mixed into one movie, or if they just cross over, but Nastenka is going to take up aspects of half the Disney Princesses before we’re done. When we meet her, she’s being forced to work for her ugly step-sister, and told to finish making some stockings before dawn. In fact, she’s told if she doesn’t finish the stocking by the time the rooster crows, then Dame Judi will yank her lovely long braid off. This begins the first signs of Nastenka’s very annoying habit. You see, cute little Nastenka is auditioning for the role of Jesus, which she understands was left vacant after the whole crucifixion thing. A rooster shows up, and she stops to go talk to him. I mention this because they actually show the dog sitting down in reverse. There are four or five times in this movie that an animal is shown moving in reverse when they could have just as easily gotten and animal that could, you know, sit or something. It just helps this movie be a little more wacky I guess. Can’t imagine why they’d think it needs the help.


“ Where the hell is Bond?”


She runs to a rooster and begs him not to crow, explaining that she only has one row left. The rooster is sympathetic to her plight, what with her being the Snow White of Russia and all, but claims he’s got to crow when the dawn comes. You know how it is, we all are a slave to The Man in our own little way. Until the glorious revolution that is. Even the rooster knows that if he doesn’t get his stuff done his ass will be on the line. So does she knit faster? No. She runs to the horizon and begs the sun not to rise until she finishes this one last row. I don’t know much about knitting, but I’m guessing it would take less time to just finish the stupid sock than it does to run to the sun and ask it to screw up the fabric of space and time just for her. Still, the sun is sympathetic as well, since she has eyes the size of dinner plates and skin like alabaster. It sinks below the horizon and damn the poor Transylvanians who are waiting for the sun to come up and fry Count Dracula. They aren’t as cute as she is, and those stockings aren’t going to knit themselves. So the sun goes down, she finishes, Dr. Van Helsing dies checking his watch and an almanac while Dracula eats his face, and she shows the sun her pretty stockings. The problem is that finishing the stockings just gets her yelled at because in typical Cinderella fashion, nothings good enough for Dame Judi.


Do I have anything in my teeth? Why yes, I’ve got some awesome stuck in there.


So now we meet the male lead Ivan, and the first thing about him that we learn is that even his mother thinks he’s a douche. That’s not actually a joke. When he emerges, with the worst wig I have EVER seen, his mother begs him not to be a cockbite. She doesn’t use those exact words, but you can tell that there is a measure of cockbitiness about him and his wig isn’t doing him any favors either. If the first thing said about him is that even his mother begs him to stop being such a jerk, what does that say for the rest of the movie? Well may you ask, since he then proceeds to sing a musical version of “I’m Sorry, I Can’t Hear You Over the Sound of How Awesome I Am.” Actually, it starts with all the girls macking on his hot bod and bad wig (I guess his wig just brings all the girls to the yard) and then he proceeds to sing about how awesome he is. Not joking. He actually calls himself “a handsome, jolly lad” and demands people step aside for him in his song before declaring “Ain’t I great? I’m just a delight” and “Nothing’s wrong with me, I’m just right” despite the fact that he has… THAT WIG! So he doesn’t have a self-esteem problem then, though he should. I mean he looks in the mirror about a hundred times in the first five minutes we see him, he should be able to see how bad his wig is. I’m beginning to think, and stop me if I’m wrong, that maybe Ivan is an arrogant prick who is going to learn not to be a massive prick by the end of the movie. Ya think? Maybe? We’ll see.


He took a look at her and kept walking? Is there something wrong with Russian men?


Let’s get to one of this film’s major problems. Actually, it’s a problem many films of this type share. Whenever there is a movie based on fairy tales, there tends to be a sensation of fragmentation within the narrative structure. There are vignettes, and eventually the whole tale does come together, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that the movie could have had a stronger narrative thrust in the first act. I found a version of the folk tale online and the movie must be padded or have another tale in here or something. It’s done better here than in some movies, but it does mean that we meander around for a while without getting anywhere. Speaking of which, the next scene has just started.


It this about my wig?


Ivan is strolling around, talking about how just spiffy he is and how it’s a shame there aren’t two of him so he could kiss himself, when he’s set upon by bandits. These are the greatest bandits in the history of banditry by the way. While waiting for victims to show up, they pull the petals off daisies saying “We will rob them, we won’t rob them.” How can you not love guys like this? Anyway, Ivan stumbles into them and they decide to take his stuff, while not making fun of his wig. You’d think they would, but since most of them are wearing prosthetic noses, they probably feel they can’t complain too much about his artificial head covering. Ivan takes the whole thing pretty calmly, handing over his bag and letting the bandits fight over his rye bread. While the bandits are fighting, the throws their clubs into the air, announcing that they won’t come down until winter. And then… he just walks off. The bandits don’t stop him, or try to beat him up, or inform him that while he has a freaky wig, he does have a real perty mouth. They just let him wander off. Ivan wanders for a while before a mushroom starts talking to him.


After falling on hard times, Gerard Depardieu put on a false beard and joined a band of robbers.


A little guy with a beard and a mushroom hat who wants to play a game with young Ivan. The little man being a magic guy, he challenges Ivan to either a game of Hide & Seek or just a game of who is faster. The dub and subs disagree on this point, what they agree on is that if Ivan wins he’ll gain a nice bow and arrow set that the Mushroom guy just happened to have hanging around. Ivan looses the game, but for being a good sport, the little Mushroom guy gives him the bow and arrows anyway. Ivan starts to run off but the Mushroom dude tells him that he forgot to bow and say thank you for the lovely present. Ivan arrogantly tells him that his appreciation is in another castle and that bears can bow to him. Ivan walks off and the Mushroom make a comment about how the bear will bow but it will be his back that bends. Once again, it’s going to take forever for the pay off of that gag to come.


Wow, Craigslist has gotten specific over the years.


Ivan wanders around a while, kills a goose to take one feather that evidently will lead him to destiny, and comes across Nastenka. She, it seems, is busying herself trying to find Bond so Judi Dench can yell at him. Until Bond remerges, Nastenka waters a stump until flowers grow up in it. Ivan, knowing a hottie when he sees one (unlike some Russian guys I could mention) decides to go over to her and turn on the mack daddiness. The problem is, while he’s telling her about how hot he is and asking if she’ll marry him, she’s sort of unimpressed. I’m guessing it’s because she took one look at his wig and decided against him, but decided not to press that particular issue. She says he’s sort of arrogant, which he objects to on the grounds that he’s so awesome and clearly the best thing in the universe. In order to prove how awesome he is, he tells her he’ll kill a bear with one arrow. Am I missing something about Russians here? Is whacking a bear the same as showing up with flowers and nice poem among the Eastern Slavic people? I’m sort of Celtic and Gallic with a dash of Teuton, so I don’t really know about how other folk’s courting rituals go. Being a viewer of Anime, I’m a little confused by how the Japanese run their mating rituals too.


And thus, the idea for the Bucket Head Knights from Alexander Nevski was born!


Well, it seems Nastenka isn’t impressed either because she bungs a bucket on his head. The Mushroom dude realizes that his moment has come and decides to get Nastenka blamed for his little trick. He bangs those two little twigs, or bells, or whatever it is he’s holding and BOOM(!) Ivan is turned into a bear. At least that wig is gone, right? Well, if anything the bear head looks worse. This freaks Nastenka right the hell out and she faints. Ivan grabs his mirror and checks for her breath. Since he can’t resist his reflection, he also gets a quick look at himself and finding that he’s a bear reacts badly. In fact, he calls Nastenka a witch and claims she did it. This causes Nastenka to sit down and cry. She suffers so much, she’ll probably die for our sins and come back from the dead before the movie is over.


But am I still pretty?


Now, why Nastenka crying into the river should cause flowers to grow in that stump she was working on before, I have no idea. Those tears do some though, and spill from her near alien like eyes. Seriously, do they have to be that big? Anyway, the tears spill from her massive blue orbs and into the stream and this causes the flowers to grow. They grow suddenly, and she sits down and has a proper cry next to them. Ivan runs around, until the Mushroom Man shows up again and then he begs forgiveness. The Mushroom Dude however, instead of turning him back into a person, proceeds to tell Ivan some pretty unpleasant truths about himself. He goes into his selfishness, his arrogance, his narcissism and the fact that he’s never done a good thing for anyone else in his life. Ivan interprets this commentary as a need to go do good deeds, and runs off instead of listening to the Mushroom Dude, who claims that the answer is in another castle. Mushroom dude mentions that he has to collect a hundred stars and defeat Bowser, but Ivan has run off already.


Seriously, look at her! She’s all eyes with a bit of nose and mouth!


We’re then treated to Ivan trying to find people he can do good deeds for, but all the girls think he’s a werewolf and run away from him. Then, for reasons only known to the Russians, we get almost a full half minute of bear cubs running around and grabbing fake toadstools. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean to the movie, but it happens. For 28 seconds, which is a long time on screen, it’s just these two bear cubs running back and forth. They grab a fake toadstool, pick it up in their little arms, and walk back off screen. It can’t be meant to be Ivan, he’s always shown as wearing his clothes and is just bear-headed. Is it symbolic? If I had Slavs instead of Gales, Celts and Teutons in my lineage would I understand this? Is this just some circus act that someone talked the producers into or perhaps the director’s brother in law? And no, this never goes anywhere. It’s just bear cubs grab fake mushrooms and toddle off. It makes no sense! It’s just randomly weird.


What are we even looking at here?


Anyway, Nastenka comes back to the flowers she helped grown on the old stump and they have a little conversation about Ivan. She tells the flowers that she’s hopes she’s not bothering them, all the time talking in the same breathy half whisper of a voice. I checked all three audio channels, and all three actresses portray her in the same way. A soft, half whisper of a voice that tells you that when you eat of the bread and drink of the cup you should do it in remembrance of her. She asks the flowers questions about Ivan, who answer by nodding up and down or shaking from side to side. So either, these are magic flowers, grown from her magic, or she’s batshit crazy and thinks when the wind blows the flowers it’s the flower talking to her. Personally, I’m going to vote for crazy. Being slave to the wicked Judi Dench has cracked her poor mind and now she thinks she can control the dawn and talk to plants. We then go see Ivan trying to do good deeds. He gives a beggar a copeck, but that’s not enough. Can’t buy your way out of trouble kids, at least not for such a low price.


Come on! You can be the Robin to my Batman!


Now we return to the trails of Nastenka, and the cruelties foisted upon her. Her sister and Judi Dench are preparing to meet a suitor and they abuse poor Nastenka the whole time. Wiping her face with soot and wrapping her head in a scarf to cover her long lovely braid. The sister wanted to cut it off, but Dame Judi objects that if she cuts off the braid she’ll have nothing to drag her around the house with. They then comically doll the sister up for the suitor and the matchmaker. We then cross cut back to Ivan, who finds and old woman and helps her with her wood. The old woman is a little too enthusiastic about hopping on his back and getting a piggyback ride though if you ask me. Like, waaaay too enthusiastic. It’s a little creepy to be honest, like she’s been waiting for someone to give her a lift all month and is really going to enjoy this chance.


Sometimes, you don’t need a joke. Sometimes you can just sit back and let the screen cap do all the work.


So we go back to Nastenka’s sister being shown off to the suitor, his mother, the matchmaker while Nastenka is hidden away. While playing up the sister’s attributes, they claim she can cook like a dream, which is a lie because she never does a lick of work ever. The mother and suitor want proof, so they send the sister out to kill and cook a goose. Knowing that humiliation is coming, the townsfolk all show up to watch her fail. When she chases the geese, she falls into the lake. Nastenka has to run to the lake ans save her step system walking across the water instead of doing anything so pedestrian (ironically) as swimming in it. When Nastenka pulls her sister out of the water though, some of the water must have splashed on her because her face is clean and her hair is perfect. She’s not even wet, perfectly on display.


And she stepped on the ball!


While this was happening, Ivan dropped the old woman off at her home, and found that it wasn’t enough of a good deed. The problem was that The Mushroom Guy didn’t want to make him do a good deed, he wanted him to be a better person. Ivan sees the old woman’s stick, and decides to take it back to her. This actually thinking about someone is enough for the Mushroom Dude and he changes him back, at which point Ivan throws the stick down and announces to the world that he’s going to go get Nastenka. The stick disappears, but I would think for the trick to hold he should have taken it back.


Am I still wearing the wig?


Meanwhile, time passes and it becomes winter. Judi Dench tells her husband that she’s tired of Nastenka turning water to wine, raising the dead, curing the possessed, doing that loaves and fishes thing… yeah I’ll stop now. Anyway, she tells Father of The Year here to take his only daughter out to the woods and leave her there to die. And he does! WOW! What a dad! Actually, half way into the woods he decides he’s not going to do it. And seeing that her father is having a moment of courage that can’t possibly be maintained for more than two minutes, she hops off the sled so that we can tell everyone she was killed by men she loved. And seriously, when the father gets back to the house and discovers his daughter isn’t with him? He slinks right back into being the coward he was before. I hate this old man. Even the dog has nothing but contempt for him.


I haven’t had a bowel movement in fifteen years.


Ivan wanders through the wood, with no coat, hat, scarf, thermal underpants, or anything sold by either Carhartt or North Face. All he has to keep him warm is his very stupid looking wig. Still, he must be doing okay, since he’s clearly been carrying on all this time. Wandering through snow and ice, shouting Nastenka’s name over and over again. That is until he comes to the most awesome cabin in the WORLD! See, this is a cabin that walks around on chicken feet, and when it tilts the snow doesn’t shift, which means that BABA YAGA has entered the tale! WOOO HOOO!!! It seems that Baba Yaga knows Ivan, but he calls her Hunch back fairy in the dub and just old witch in the subtitles. Then comes an awesome bit of comedy. Baba Yaga wants the house to face the woods and Ivan wants the house to face him, so they go back and forth, stomping on the ground to make the house listen to them. It goes about five or six times and Baba Yaga keeps doing a little dance every time she comes out of the door. I know how dumb it is, but it cracks me up every single time.


See if you can get a gumball in my mouth from there.


Eventually, Baba Yaga announces that she’s had it with these melon farming snakes on this melon farming plane and gets the trees around her cabin to beat Ivan up. Seriously, there is nothing about this part of the movie that isn’t awesome. Once the trees throw him into her cabin, the trees hop in and push Ivan onto a large baking peel and get ready to shove him in to an oven. But the awesome doesn’t stop there! Ivan turned around and he doesn’t know how one should go about it. Seriously? Has that worked for anyone in the history of ever? Well, she falls for it, so that’s one. So, complaining about what they’re teaching kids in school these days, Baba Yaga shows him how to sit. This yields what, in hindsight, should have been predictable results. He shoves her in the oven and tosses the trees out into the snow. I’m not sure he notices, but his wig slips back quite a way during this event. He lets her out and tells her to tell him where he can find Nastenka, since that was the whole reason for his visit here.


What it’s gonna take to get you into one of these babies today?


We then cut to the other story, where a song has started and some singing has begun. It turns out to be Grandfather Frost, who at 48 minutes and 45 seconds finally shows up in a movie that bears his name! The whole movie is only like 84 minutes long by the way, so it’s taken this long to get to the title character. It also occurs to me that this is getting quite long and we’re only half way though. However, most the insanity is actually over and from here on out we basically just have plot and stuff. Frost wanders around, putting snow on the trees in some pretty good reverse filming. Normally, with someone with flowing robes, it’s very easy to tell that the film is running in reverse because of how the fabric flows. The actor and crew who did this though are great and the only sign is the obvious one that the trees shudder a bit and suddenly have snow leap up onto their branches.


I’m here! I’m here! Don’t start the movie without me!


Frost comes across Nastenka, who is freezeing to death in the snow and asks if she’s cold. Nastenka lies and tells him that she’s fine, and he rewards her lies. He takes pity on her and wraps his big coat around her. She confirms her attempt at stealing the throne of Jesus by telling Frosty that if she takes his coat, he’ll be cold so he better not. A bird lands on his staff and she proves how much you should hate her by warble-whispering ‘a bird’ like she’s never seen one before. It’s the whisper voice that bugs me with her, she never raises her voice or speaks in anything but that breathy “I’m so adowabwe that you must wuv me so evew much” sort of voice. The bird lands on the staff, becomes a lump of ice and falls off. While she morns the loss of the bird and her frustrating inability to bring it back to life despite touching it, he explains that whoever touches the thing will freeze and never wake up again. I mention this because he all but looks into the camera and shouts “Did everybody get that? Don’t want you to miss it when it becomes a plot point later!” They get on his rocket powered ice sleigh and go back to his big palace. Can I point out how awesome his outfit is and how annoying it is that our Santa just wears a big red fur coat? Father Frost’s outfit is so awesome that Santa looks sort of dull and boring by comparison.


With my new frosted highlights, I’m even cuter!


We go back to Baba Yaga telling Ivan all about how to find Nastenka, which turns out to be simply sending a little sled with a pig’s head on it to find her, which sending a cat to get there before them and pull a trick on Ivan. She keeps dancing as she goes into the house after letting Ivan go, she’s so awesome. I want to ask Baba Yaga over to have dinner with me. She’d be a hoot! Point of order, all the animals are just run backwards in this. The cat runs up the steps, and instead of shooting it running down again, they just reverse the film so the cat obviously walks backwards. Don’t know why they keep doing that.


Huh. Normally that works on the first try.


The trick is that the cat runs by Nastenka and, for our sins, causes her to touch the tip of Frost’s staff (scepter you perv!) and she turns into a cutecicle. The cat and sleigh both get back to Baba Yaga and she rewards them happily, proving that she might be evil but she likes cats and thus can’t be all bad. The movie even mentions the whole anyone who touches the staff turns to ice thing again. Her dog senses a disturbance in the Force and runs to lead Ivan the rest of the way to the house. They get to Frost’s house only to find she’s turned transparent, which is supposed to indicate frozenness. Ivan apologizes to Nastenka, which causes her to come back to life. He followers find only that the boulder has been pushed out of the way. Anyhow, she wakes up, Frost and the dog walk backwards again when just walking out would have done fine. Ivan brags at how he’s not a braggart anymore, and this time Nastenka thinks it’s cute and agrees to marry him. Baba Yaga isn’t through with them though, she knows this movie has twenty more minutes and we’ve got to have a big finish.


Did I leave the oven on?


We go back to the house of the old man, where Judi Dench is shouting at him for getting rid of Nastenka. It seems that without her to abuse and work like a slave, life isn’t fun anymore. While complaining though (or speaking of the devil one might say) Nastenka and Ivan come home to show they’ve made good. It seems that by virture of being cute and having big eyes polite, Frost has given them coats and a big sleigh and a big box of jewels for a dowry. Sidenote: I have got to get a Russian seamstress, those people knew how to dress! SRSLY! While he had an awesome coat, Ivan still has that ugly stupid wig. Nastenka tells her father all that happened and how being cute won her all the bling she could ever want.


She is just not impressed with ABC’s new Thursday night line-up.


Now, the story isn’t quite over yet. If this were a German tale, it undoubtedly would be. The good people were rewarded, that’s about it as far as Grimm’s goes. But this is a Russian tale, so there must be some misery before we’re through. The step sister demands to be take out to the woods so she can get a chest of jewels and a husband like Nastenka got. The problem is that the sister is not cute and doesn’t have big eyes spoiled so she insults Frost and demands these things from him. Now, in some versions of the folktale, Frost leaves her to freeze to death, but this is a children’s movie made in the 60s and even the filthy stinkin’ commies aren’t going to do that. You have to wait a little while though, because we have to have the pay off to the club thing from about a million years ago.


Nice coat, shame about the wig.


You remember the bandits from the beginning of the movie? Well, they don’t like the cold and Baba Yaga offers them more money than they’ve ever seen to whack Nastenka and Ivan. I love the person playing Baba Yaga. Georgi Millyar gives so much life and fun to this character. I want this Baba Yaga to come to my birthday party. I have GOT to see Baba Yaga drunk sometime, cause that’d be awesome. So, the bandits take on the commission and jump Ivan and Nastenka, almost causing Ivan to loose his wig in the process. However, just when our… do we call them heroes? Anyway, when it looks darkest for our heroes, those clubs Ivan threw at the beginning fall from the sky and knock out each bandit in turn. Then they kick Baba Yaga in the butt and send her on her way.


I have doubts! Not about anything specific, just doubts.


For our final bit of movie, we’ve got the return of the sister, who is on a small sled pulled by pigs. The dowry turns out to be a box of crows and the whole town turns out to laugh at her again. I feel sort of sorry for the sister at this point, because the movie is sort doing that “You see, ugly people are horrible and deserve to have bad things happen to them” thing and I don’t like that. Also, while she’s spoiled, they over do it and she’s just a product of bad parenting. The sister was sort of crapped on by this movie and I feel bad for her. The father then throws off his coat and tells Judi Dench that he’s going to make the rules now, because seeing his wife publicly humiliated gave him some backbone or something. Anyway, at that point the movie is over and all that’s left is to have Ivan and Nastenka’s wedding feast where she is as lacking of personality and pointless as she’s been this whole movie and Ivan wears and even uglier wig.


You want to see how bad this wig is? Look!


This movie is pretty good, and in places it’s really excellent, but I hate that wig. When you reach the end you sort of notice that Nastenka has made no progress as a character at all, she’s just been a sort of Christ figure and a pretty thing for the boy to eventually win. However, it’s an inventive and fun little movie, and it doesn’t even cost very much on Amazon, you do have to get it via the marketplace, but it still won’t run you much more than $20. The DVD has about 9 subtitle options, but the Russian, French and English dub tracks are all good and I think they were all dubbed so you don’t even need to worry about loosing part of the performance if you choose to listen in English. But you will need the subtitles for the songs, which aren’t dubbed.




Also, sorry this got so long. It’s a Holiday special though, right? They play this movie on Czech TV every year between Christmas and New Years, so it counts. It’s fun and it’s cute and it takes place in the same alternate dimension where The Adventures of Robin Hood takes place. It’s that super colorful light hearted romp you can watch with the kids. See? I like some things, they’re just all fricking weird.


I’ll catch ya on the flip side! Peace out G!
(I’m at a loss weather I love this lady or Baba Yaga more)


You wanna watch the MST3K Episode? Okay. I’ll embed it for you. Just for you though.

December 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

VEWPRF Advent Calendar: Happy Cultural Imperialism Day!

December 25th


PS: We’ve got the 10 best things about A Christmas Story on the other side today.

December 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

VEWPRF Advent Calendar Door #24


Scrooge (1951 Dir. Brian Desmond Hurst)

The laxatives just started working, huh?

This is the Alastair Sim version. You know, I could almost just end the review right there and walk away from the computer. However, if I did that this would be a very short review. If you’ve never seen the movie, you won’t know why I say I can just walk away saying only the actor playing Scrooge in it. You might think it was lousy and that would be a darn shame. Because this is possibly the single best version of the story ever done, which is funny for some reasons I’ll go into in a minute. Most people who are fans of the story put this version as either their number one or number two favorite versions.

Does Marley hafta smack a bitch?

This if often sighted as the most accurate version of the book out there, even though it isn’t. There are several additions to the story, particularly in the Christmas Past section that don’t appear in the book, but they feel so true to Dickens’s work that we forgive them. I have had conversations with people who would swear that all that stuff is in there, but it’s not. It’s one of the few places where an addition in a movie actually feels welcome. When we meet Scrooge we see one of the first additions. He has a brief scene in the London Exchange where he explains that Christmas is a humbug to a couple of acquaintances. Side note: Does he mean the hard mint candies or that it’s a fraud? Then we see him on the steps cruelly telling a man he won’t give him an extension on his loan and to take his wife to the poor house. Right there we see exactly what kind of business Scrooge is in and what it entails, he’s a moneylender. It’s never really said in the book that I remember, but here it spoken exactly. A few other versions went with this explanation, but others came up with alternate businesses for him.

See? I totally wrecked my car over there.

The two charitable gentlemen are the first ones we see in Scrooge’s office, and then followed by Fred. Scrooge comes off as less cruel and nasty than most versions. I always thought this was the most important thing about the character, that he be depicted as someone who thinks he’s doing things right. He believes that the world needs a hard man making hard choices. In this version, instead of being wantonly cruel or anything, he is merely disinterested in all this Christmas folderol and more interested in conducting his business. He’s not a bad guy, just misguided or perhaps too wrapped up in himself too see the world around him. He’s the man who cut himself off from society, because he judged his fellow man to be an idiot, and that constricted his monkey sphere to the point where he could no longer empathize. Then he’s shown that the world he cut himself off from has value, and meaning, and that in fact HE was the idiot for cutting himself off from it. I think this helps greatly in making him more believable later. This makes his transformation more realistic to me, he doesn’t completely change personalities. He just acts like someone whose eyes have been opened.

So… do you like gladiator movies?

On a side note, this is one of the very few Fred’s that I don’t want to hit with a shovel and bury behind the coal shed. I regularly find Fred an irritating twit who just sort of skips stupidly through life without understanding anything. I know that Fred is supposed to be the eye rolling, good natured younger relative, cheerfully dealing with his elder’s casual bigotry, but it always makes him seem a bit of an empty suit. I think perhaps its Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge that helps. When Scrooge isn’t evil, just blinded by greed and the stupidity of those around him, the idea that Fred sees the good in him is more realistic. Bob in this one is not my favorite, but he’s likeable enough, I think he’s a little weaker than some of the other Bobs. I’ve never really loved Bob Cratchit though, even though he’s probably the Cratchit I like best. Hard to explain that one, but I love this version so much that I might be blinded by it.

You ever just find you’ve run out of snarky things to say?

We get all regular points for our check list though. The ‘whole day’ conversation is had when Scrooge leaves for the day. I do love the way that Scrooge dismisses Bob in this version though. He tells Bob that he can have the whole day but to be back all the earlier the next morning, Bob responds that it’s very generous of him and scrooge replies “Yes I know it is. You don’t have to tell me.” I love that line. It sort of exemplifies what I was saying earlier. Think Scrooge is probably a genius, and like many geniuses he’s easily annoyed by those who don’t seem to think as much as he does. He’s not a bad guy per say, but a distracted one who gets annoyed by the idiocy around him. We also get a bit from the book’s description of Scrooge happening right after that where a blind man’s dog pulls him from Scrooge’s path because even the dogs know him.

Wow, Scrooge has a hottie for a sister. A… dead sister.

Marley is what you want him to be, or at least what I want him to be. He shows up on the doorknocker, he rings all the bells, and he rattles his chains as he comes to the door. He’s transparent, sorrowful for himself and hopeful for the chance he’s giving his only friend. Jacob Marley is, after Scrooge, my favorite character in this tale. So I notice a lot of small details about him. Marley merely tugs the cloth from his head, instead up untying it like some versions. We get one of the only times that Scrooge picks up the toothpick ad challenges the ghost to see it and notes he doesn’t look at it. This Marley is the best out of all of them in my feeling. His sorrow is constant, his agony and despair at how lost he is comes across perfectly. This is a Marley who has seen things you wouldn’t believe and has to now continue with the constant knowledge that nothing can be changed for him, not ever. He is doomed, completely and totally doomed, and he knows it.

Get down with your bad self Scrooge!

We also get one of the bits that I’ve always found chilling. When Marley leaves, he draws Scrooge’s attention to the other spirits of rich and greedy men like himself. I always like to fact that we get to see that Marley is in no way an isolated case. Dozens of ghosts stand around throwing ghostly coins at a mother and baby on the street outside of Scrooge’s window but they have lost the power to help forever. Surely a sign that we should all do good while we can. It manages to be sad, but not quite as poignant as it is in the Patrick Stewart version, which had significant help from advanced graphic technology.

When you asked if I wanted to enter a business relationship, I had no idea you meant that!

Christmas Past is right out of the book. He’s an old man dressed in a white robe with flowers about his neck and waist. The only part missing is the large candle snuffer. Christmas Past is transparent in this version, which means the actors probably didn’t perform together. What you probably had was Sim on set, doing his lines while the actor shouted just off camera and then the actor shot against black and double exposed in. Still, they don’t behave as if they can’t see each other, both actors do a wonderful job of making us believe they’re really face to face. Scrooge looks less frightened and more bewildered and a little worried in this version. Again, he’s different than most any other version of the story.

One of the saddest bits of the movie. I mean, the hottie dies.

It’s here that we start having the additions. Christmas Past is expanded greatly in this version. Scrooge’s mother being dead when he was a child is brought up for the first time in this version as is the idea that Fan is the only person Scrooge ever felt truly loved him. His later coldness might be understood by this paranoia. It’s also the first time we ever learn that Fan died in childbirth, and that Scrooge’s mother died giving him life. This is not to the book as Scrooge was the older sibling there. This adds and extra layer of hypocrisy of Scrooge’s coldness to Fred, since he’s cutting him off for the same reason his father cut him off. It’s completely a creation of the filmmakers and yet it feels so true to this tale that people swear it’s in the book. I’ve got a copy right next to me though and it’s not there, not a word or a suggestion of it.

Dude. Pimping? Not easy. Nor is inserting this stupid joke over and over again.

One of the things I genuinely love is how the part of Fezziwig is expanded. After the party, we see how Scrooge leaves Fezziwig’s employee to work for another businessman. He falls in love with a girl named Alice instead of Belle here, but names aren’t that big a deal. We also get to see one of the things that will change Scrooge forever in this version. Fan’s death is shown to have happened on Christmas, which could be another thing that turned him against both the holiday and his nephew. In a tragic turn it’s seen that Fan begs Scrooge to take care of Fred, but she only manages to get it out after he’s left the room. Old Scrooge hears it for the first time when on this trip down memory lane. We are shown the first time that Scrooge breaks down weeping here as well and with everything else, it is completely believable.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to be a smug S.O.B.

Then Scrooge goes and works at the new business. It’s at that new office that we get to see him meet his long time partner Marley (played by John Steed himself Patrick Macnee) and then how he ends up buying old Fezziwig’s business. I feel Alice dumps Scrooge more for his paranoia and fear of the world more than his greed in this version. Scrooge also dismisses Alice and is the one to leave her in this version instead of her walking away from him. I think this may be the only time he doesn’t watch her walk away and convey a moment of wanting to chase after her. It all increases the feeling of coldness about the character.

We had no idea you were into that!

We get to see even more of Scrooge and Marley doing business, and see Alastair Sim playing Scrooge in the past as a middle aged man for the only time I can remember in any version. It seems that Scrooge and Marley got control of the company they worked for by buying the company out of a hole they were in. It seems that this company was run by the Bernie Madoff of his day and they bailed the company out. The company then goes on to take the money in the form of bonuses and evicts hundreds of people from their homes while telling everyone that it’s Carter and Clinton’s faults that the economy is collapsing. We then finally get to see the event of seven Christmas Eves ago when Marley passed away. Yeah, it’s because the insurance company cancelled Marley’s Policy the second he got sick. I’ll stop now. In this scene we see that that Scrooge has some sympathy for Marley, or at least that wishes Marley to go without too much worry. While Marley is lying on his deathbed, realizing that they’ve acted badly at the last moment, he tries to warn Scrooge to save himself. In this scene we also see Scrooge’s washerwoman and the undertaker that make an appearance during Christmas Future.

Some day I’m going to get a robe like that. It’s just… perfect!

So much time is spent in the past that a full half the run time is spent before we ever see the ghost of the present. Instead of causing trouble for the story though, it expands the characters greatly and makes this a far more real movie. There is a real rise and decent in the narrative. The character arcs are far more complete in this version than any other I know of. Alice’s normal fate of being the mother of 27 children is deleted here, but we will see her again. I’ll mention it when we get to her.

LOOK! Another cutie to help save the movie’s hotness factor!

The Ghost of Christmas Present is all he should be. A huge man with a great fest surrounding him and his voice is looped through an echo machine. The first place we see with Present is the miners, then we follow Bob Cratchit from the road and into his section of the story. All the normal things from almost all versions are here, from Martha hiding to Present telling Scrooge that Tim will die and throwing the surplus population line at him. The Ghost of the Present is more kindly about that here than in some versions and I must admit I like him. I like it when Present snaps the line at him and looks like he’s contemplating just smashing Scrooge’s head open with the fire irons and leaving it at that. However, somehow when the lines are delivered flat, without judgment to this Scrooge, we sort of feel that the Ghost doesn’t need to judge. Scrooge condemns himself by this point. We get the Bob announcing that Peter’s got a job, which is another rarity, and the toast to Scrooge and Mrs. Cratchit giving the unseen Scrooge both barrels.

A man can only take smugness so far.

We are then transported to Fred’s house and they have the conversation about how Fred feels sorry for Scrooge. As much as I don’t hate Fred in this version, it strangely extends to his friends because I don’t want to napalm them either. Perhaps it’s because the scene is so short. I never got into this scene because this was where my accusation of Dicken’s being an upper middle class liberal jerk comes from. He is, in no uncertain terms, dictating to each group how they should celebrate Christmas, because he knows better than you do. The poor should spend time with family, eating humble food and being grateful for having nothing, the upper class should spend time with friends and play games and drink, and the rich should support everyone below them and stop using street urchins as fire lighters. There is all the worst of the liberal “I know better than you and will tell you how to do it” thing that everyone hates. He all but suggested the wine you should be drinking based on your social standing. There is a balance between explaining someone is being a complete cockbite and dictating how everyone should live, and Dicken’s dropped the ball on Christmas Present. ANYWAY! We are almost immediately taken to some kind of shelter for the poor and sick, and there we see what has become of Alice. She’s playing nurse to the poor people. It is then that we get to see the scene with Ignorance and Want.

OMG! Don’t you ever wash?

The Christmas Present does the great job of throwing Scrooge’s words back at him when he tries to reach out for the kids. While the words “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” Echo in Scrooge’s ear he runs away from the spirit and nearly bangs right into the Ghost of the Future, represented for the only time really properly in my view. Future isn’t 9 feet tall here, but rather human sized and dressed all in black. There is a tendency to make the hand of The Ghost of The Future skeletal and to show the skull face. I don’t like that, it hammers away at an idea that doesn’t need hammered. I think Future should be shown as it is here, a black draped mummer whose only signs are the pointing of a naked hand.

Chamber of Commerce this ain’t.

We are first given the post Tim Cratchit family and Bob’s description of the place where Tim is to be buried before breaking down crying. Future is done quickly, as Present was, because the movie it running out of time. We are treated to the full version of Old Joe’s with the same housekeeper and undertaker as before with the addition of the laundress as well. We then see the two fellows that we saw at the very beginning in the exchange. Sadly, we don’t get the whole ‘who were they talking about’ bit that the book demands, but as it’s never much of a surprise I guess we can let them off the hook. Sim doesn’t completely break down, and instead of wishing that he not be the one they were talking about begs to be told he’s not already dead and that he can still change things. He begs forgiveness and a chance to set things right.

I’ve uh, never done this before.

The last few minutes of the movie provide us with the greatest Scrooge transformation of them all. We get to see him scare the living daylights out of the housekeeper by dancing, singing and standing on his head. She runs out of the room, screaming and throwing her apron over her face. It’s amazingly funny watching her loose it like this. He then raises her pay and gives her some money for a present. He then gets the boy to buy the prize turkey like always. We get a short scene where we see Bob & Family receiving the turkey followed by another short scene where Scrooge comes to Fred’s house to beg forgiveness. The nervousness displayed here is made all the more priceless by Fred’s maid giving Scrooge an encouraging nod before he goes through the door to greet his nephew. I love the scene in this version, which I normally hate. Something about the fear of the transformed Scrooge here before he’s accepted always rings true.

Comedy gold!

There is a slight problem with Scrooge teasing Bob though in the almost last scene, or maybe there isn’t. Scrooge seems to be on the verge of grinning and laughing the whole time and then he starts laughing after telling Bob that he’s going to raise his salary. In someway it seems like Bob shouldn’t be as worried as he is, but then again I suppose he really should be. The movie then ends with the same narration that almost every version ends with. I don’t think its Scrooge’s nephew, as it often is, in fact it sounds like Alastair Sim doing the voice over but I can’t be sure.

In here? Not late am I?

Yeah, it’s cool, the orgy doesn’t start for half an hour.

My version of the DVD is an old one. There is a new version out this year, but it’s not out at the time I’m writing this. My version has an interesting added attraction. In 1989, Patrick Macnee did some bumpers* for the movie to be shown on WGN Chicago. The introduction and closing is presented on this version as part of the program. There is a copy of the Rudolph cartoon, and a descriptive audio track for the blind which is interesting. All in all, I fully suggest you buy this movie. It’s my favorite version out of all of them, with tomorrow’s entry coming in as my second favorite.
*It only just occurred to me you might not know this term. Bumpers are the bits before and after a commercial, but aren’t actually part of the program. Any host bits for a movie shown on TV are bumpers.

This man has just discovered “Happy Go Time” vibrating butt plugs.

Addendum: I don’t want to re-write that last paragraph, but I am going to correct it slightly. I have since bought the new DVD of this movie which you can find here. This is a stacked pair of discs. There is a newly restored version of the movie (I haven’t viewed the movie yet or done any comparisons so I can’t say how it looks) an new 16×9 version of the film (don’t bother, it’s the 4×3 version only cropped to look 16×9 and it’s not great) a colorized version with Macnee’s introduction (that’s actually kind of cool, I don’t agree colorization is the great Satan) and a copy of the 1935 version of the movie (which they must have just had lying around or discovered it was public domain or something) and all the features from the old disc remain apart from the cartoon. There are also some new featurettes and a commentary track, and all this costs about $14 at Amazon.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

They call it a “Holiday Special”

You know the great thing about the Star Wars Holiday Special? It never disappoints. It is as bad as they say it is. I think that’s why it endures. Because we all can agree that it’s bad, a group can bond over this crap. Once you’ve lived through it, you can talk to other people who have been through it. You can gather around your computer or TV with other dweebs who are also too socially inept to be having sex with girls, and all hate it together. I should mention I watched it with the two girls I should have been having sex with instead of watching it. I hate my life.

Good is subjective, but bad is just bad. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but ugly goes down to the bone. In that way, bad entertainment is a better social lubricant than anything good. If that is true, than this is the social equivalent of that frictionless material physicist think math exists in.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Public Appeal

Dear Friends,

You could help a friend of mine greatly if you’d check out these two shops and buy something if it strikes your fancy. She needs an extra boost so she can move across the country. I would mention that she currently feels like about as trapped as a rat and moving would be the best thing for her, but I abhor such emotional manipulation. So instead I shall simply say that Fancy said “So let it be written… so let it be done.” And you don’t want to argue with Fancy do you? No, I thought not. At least go have a look and see if you like anything.

Fortunate Sky’s Etsy Shop
Purple Mercury Cat’s Shop

Same person, two different styles of stuff.

Here is her personal comment about the whole thing…

In a few weeks I’ll be making a trip across the country. Moving all I can carry to live for a few months until a new place is found and the movers can pick up everything else from storage. To accomplish this, I’m going to need to rent a car, feed its driver, and stop at a hotel or two along the way. (No, flying not an option for this trip. Just trust me on that one, though the following would still apply.)
As much as I hate to say it, I need a little help. Any help. So that is my wish.

If you really want to just help, she has a paypal button that you can just click and donate.

EDIT: Only you can’t because of how WordPress does things. Please Go Here to donate.

I thank you for your time.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

VEWPRF Advent Calendar Door #23


From X-Entertainment
The Ginger Family, and Reindeer Corn
Peeps and stuff

From I-Mockery
Home For The Holidays

Traditions of Christmas

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The Gift of Your Love

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And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree

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Double Whammy on movies today!



December 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

VEWPRF Advent Calendar Door #22

A Christmas Carol 1984

A Christmas Carol (1984 Dir. Clive Donner)

Street musicians, pre-hippy days.

So here we are at the George C. Scott version, which is my second favorite of them all. You won’t get any arguments from me though if you were to tell me it was your over all favorite. This is perhaps the most cinematic version of the story ever shot, using a larger scope than most versions have. It’s odd because this was made for TV and yet it comes off larger than almost any other version I can think of. If you lived in Europe, you might remember seeing this in theaters actually. While it played on CBS in America, it was shown theatrically abroad. I understand it was shot entirely in Shrewsbury, England using only a few sets and mostly utilizing the buildings on hand.

Okay… um… somthing funny… Huh? I’m on? I’m not ready yet!

Let’s begin shall we? We begin with a narration, and as usual it’s the actor who plays Fred doing the narration. I’ve never understood why it’s always Fred doing the narration, but almost every time there is a narration it’s the actor playing Fred that does it. The performance in the opening credits is properly done to the book. A heavy fog was supposed to have blanketed London and right here we have the fog. Looks great seeing people as half concealed shadows moving through the mist. It makes finding good screen caps a little tough though. The lighting inside is often done with the light sources through windows and such which helps the feeling that something bigger than a movie of the week for TV is going on here.

You know, what that man really needs is a Raido Flyer to carry that stuff in.

Scrooge starts the movie with a wonderful bit of business about how clothes are better than coal since they can be used indefinitely and coal burns. It’s a short piece but it manages to convey everything we need to know about this Scrooge in a few seconds. He’s not mean for meanness’s sake. Rather he considers himself a logical thinking man who is irritated by the illogicalness around him. Christmas is just another illogical thing that people engage in without really thinking. This of course makes him unfeeling and the argument made by the ghosts in the end is that cutting off the feeling part wasn’t logical and didn’t result in good ends for him. His logic is therefore refuted by other logic.

Marley gonna hafta smack a bitch!

Fred is the first one to come, and Scrooge delivers the boiled in pudding with a steak of holly through his heart, is delivered with a laugh. We’re given to understand that this is a Scrooge long since annoyed and now entertaining himself with a good idea. This is another of the Fred’s I want to hit with a shovel, but I only want to hit him once, not kill him. Sadly the impassioned speech about how Christmas has done him good and will do him good is delivered too calmly and doesn’t make him the powerful speaker his uncle claims him to be. This Fred is just too calm, and too sterile to come off properly. Sadly, David Warner is too intelligent to come off as Bob Cratchit I’m afraid. Bob is supposed to be sort of a stupid fellow and David Warner is clearly too intelligent a man. The whole day conversation is had and then Scrooge leaves for the exchange. Scrooge meets Tiny Tim in the street, who is at least played by a boy both tiny and sickly looking. Too many Tims look perfectly healthy to me.

If David Bowie refuses to reprise his roll in Labrynth 2, we know where to get his replacement.

In the exchange, Scrooge is shown to be the shrewd business man he’s supposed to be. It’s here that we see the two charitable gentlemen, where Scrooge does come off as being a bit more nasty and uncaring than normal. Clearly there is more than a bit of the 80s business man as Scrooge seems to be amused at his insulting of the idiots he perceives around him. We get to see some time with Bob and Tim watching children playing in the streets before we go back to watching Scrooge.

Throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like you just don’t care!

Marley shows up in the door knocker, right on cue, even if he’s a little hard to see in it. Marley calls to scrooge several times before showing up and his face appears in the tiles like it’s supposed to. The bells ring, chains rattle and Marley shows up properly taking the cloth from his head before speaking. The cloth you see was a device in those days to prevent the mouth from dropping open at the funeral. Marley is supposed to be dressed as he was buried. Marley isn’t transparent in this version though. He’s clothed in grey and made up all in grey, but the actor is right there in the room. He arrives transparent, but becomes solid as he enters the room. Besides that one detail, this is the Marley I like best. He seems to be the most accurate to the description in the book.

Just stand still, wait in the background, don’t let anyone know you jsut smoked a splif with Christmas Past.

Marley’s performance is just about perfect. He carries the sorrow and self pity, mixed with the hope that he can help his oldest and only friend. He knows it’s too late for him, but there is the faint hope that he can save Scrooge. He doesn’t tell Scrooge that he’s going to have to spend three nights with the ghosts but rather that he will spend just the one night amongst the ghosts. We hear the wailing of other ghosts when Marley leaves, but we don’t get to see them.

So… like, if everyone could just stop fighting ya know? Then, if everyone would jsut not have wars, then we’d totally have world peace man. I got the munchies.

The Ghost of the Past is played by a woman again, and she looks like she might have stepped out of an 80s rock video. She does carry the big candle snuffer though which makes her a rarity among Spirits of the past. The Spirit is dressed properly though, and I find no problem with any of the ghosts being played by women. I find it slightly odd that it’s the Past that most often gets played by women. If there is a woman to play as one of the spirits, then she’ll get to be the past. They go through the rarity of having the conversation about the reality of Robinson Crusoe before Fan arrives. His joy at seeing Fan is short lived because his father actually makes an appearance in this version to tell him that he’s been apprenticed to Fezziwig’s. I like that the father (named Silas Scrooge in the credits) is played by an actor that bears a resemblance to George C. Scott. You can almost see a familial resemblance when they’re facing each other.

That is a man with an eye towards eating!

Fezziwig is as he should be as is the entire party at the Fezziwig establishment. We get the usual Belle breaking up with Scrooge, where the young man playing Scrooge is out acted both by the young woman playing Belle and the snow on the ground. What I very much enjoy is that this leads to a conversation with the Spirit where Scrooge justifies his actions and points out that what he has done in life has brought him a great fortune. This segues wonderfully into the Spirit showing him what he’s lost after he explains what he has gained. Belle ends with only about 14 children instead of the normal 86 they give her. Scrooge then turns and kills the spirit, which is always a fairly chilling moment, which then turns into him strangling a rug.

You know, from that look, you’d never know he murdered the entire town of Sussex.

This Spirit of Christmas Present is the best in my view. He has just the right mixture of joviality and menace. He’s properly joyful over the day and correctly nasty to Scrooge when the moment calls for it. I think the actor must be wearing some kind of device, because when seen in the wide shots he towers over everyone, making him the giant he’s supposed to be in the book. This is one of the only times that the walk through the market really looks right. They don’t flinch from the unsanitary nature of the local markets of the day, showing us the butchers working outside with meat that’s only been refrigerated by the cold. The Cratchits don’t seem to be doing as badly as some versions, but they aren’t in the upper middle class bracket like some versions. We have the bit where Fred has offered to give Bob’s soon Peter a job which turns up once in a while.

Is Christmas Present gonna hafta smack a bitch?

I love that every time Scrooge make a comment about how things are going like that the goose is quite small, the Ghost is right there to growl “It’s all Bob Cratchit can afford!” which is awesome. I get the impression that the Ghost of the Present wants to just take Scrooge out to the Thames and drop him in it at some points, but is willing to try for the sake of the story. I’ve always felt that Christmas Present should be about three seconds from smacking Scrooge like a bitch, which I probably got from watching this as a child. We go from the Cratchit house to Fred’s house, where games are played and Scrooge is teased behind his back during the games. It’s interesting the mixture of people who know Scrooge and don’t in the stories. What I find most interesting is that during Christmas Present Scrooge is talked about by everyone he knows.

I’ve got a headache this big, and it’s got product placement written all over it.

The final scene involved a poor family that’s near starving, having to live in a sewer or something. The homeless problem was something of an issue when this was made, and if you look carefully you can see shades of issues from the 80s again. We then end Christmas Present with the showing of ignorance and want. The ghost becomes so disgusted with Scrooge that he seems to enjoy deliberately leaving him in the streets alone in the dark. Scrooge then talks to himself for a while, facing the fact that he’s been abandoned.

Say hello to my little friends!

We are then shown the ghost of the future, who is properly robed in black as he or she or it is supposed to. Each movement of the ghost is accompanied by some sort of screech from a string instrument of some kind, or possibly a rust hinge or something. The ghost doesn’t talk, but nods its head with this sound. It’s quite a creepy little sound. We see the men in the exchange again, discussing the man who died recently. Scrooge properly doesn’t understand that it’s his death that everyone in the future is discussing, even though the hand is tipped for those who are observant. I always find it interesting that Scrooge is able to tell the Spirit where to conduct him while the others made him follow along with them.

Suzy! Your date is here!

Old Joe is as wonderful as ever, but only has Mrs. Dilber to trade with. Interesting point, Liz Smith who played Mrs. Dilber in this production would reprise the role 15 years later in the Patrick Stewart version. Scrooge recognizes the objects as his this time, he also goes through denial stating that they look similar. We are then taken to the Cratchit house to be shown the effects of Tim’s death on the family. I note also that the ghost holds back from all the encounters, standing far back as Scrooge walks into the situations on his own. It’s an effective trick because it puts Scrooge that much more alone and isolated in the situations. We then finally get Scrooge asking about the dead man and the ghost showing him the tombstone. I really like Scrooge’s breakdown in this version, he really cries and begs.

Little known fact, Victorian England had helicopters with search lights.

Then we are treated to the end scene. Scrooge sends the boy to buy the prize turkey, is glad to have been given a second chance, tells everyone Merry Christmas, performs some charity, meets up with the charitable gentlemen, the turkey gets delivered, and Scrooge goes to his nephew’s house from dinner. Actually he goes to apologies and arrange to arrive for dinner as he doesn’t actually show up during dinner. Sadly, the clear attack of nerves that Scrooge is having at this time doesn’t come across in the screen caps. Scott’s performance requires moving pictures and sound because he’s such a complete actor that uses all his talents together.

Look kids! It’s a model shot!

I greatly enjoy the sense of menace that Scrooge manages when he growls out “Therefore I’m going to… double your salary!” only laughing after he’s tossed a small bag of coins towards Cratchit. We then get the narration from Fred, and the movie closes with Scrooge and Tim walking off into a city that looks like it’s got a big matte painting hanging over half of it. I think it must be a glass painting because this camera set up appears three times during this movie and it’s the exact same shot with the exact same angle and the exact same shading on the buildings each time. Not that it’s really important, I just notice matte paintings a lot.

I can has turkey?

This is a beautifully shot, well directed and well scored effort. This is only one of two Christmas Carol movies that I think has anything like remarkable music. The other one involves Muppets and much more music, but this one has very good music. There are recurring themes and good uses of sound design that work in harmony with the chose score. I would argue in many ways that the only thing that makes this second to the Alastair Sim version is that the Sim version has just that tiny bit more heart in it’s performance, just enough to put it over the top. As I said before, I can fully understand if someone puts this version on top of the Sim version, it’s all a matter of taste.

And they walk of together into the matter painting.

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

VEWPRF Advent Calendar Door #21

Let’s go crazy today!

First! A Video

Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella

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Whiter Than Snow

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It’s That Time of the Year

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This Christmas

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The Chanukah Song

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Morning Star

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How Great Our Joy

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Jean Shepherd‘s Dual in the Snow, which became A Christmas Story

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Jack Benny Shopping for A Paint Set

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A Frothy, Festive Toast with Alton Brown

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And some 6 Million Dollar Man Christmas Stories (no, I’m not kidding)
Christmas Lights

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Elves’ Revolt

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AND MORE VIDEO!!!!!!! WOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

December 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

And now, a very important VEWPRF Message from Fancy…

Fancy Fun Facts: Yule is The Beatles, while Christmas is merely Oasis.

EDIT: Saturnalia is the Rolling Stones, Sol Invictus is Pink Floyd and Mithras is Tears for Fears.

And of course VEWPRF is the ultimate Supergroup.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

VEWPRF Advent Calendar Door #20

Merry Christmas Mr. Bean

Merry Christmas Mr. Bean

I’m never the same on Mr. Bean. Either I find him amazing funny, or I want to hit him with a shovel and bury him in the back yard. It’s either a hit, or a complete miss. This one, I find hilarious. Now it’s always kind of hard figuring out where a British TV show’s Christmas episode fits. Normally they were always done as specials, but when they come to America the distributors will often just label it ‘Episode 7’ like they’ve done here. However as it has an Original Air Date of the 29th of December, 1992 and the last episode before that was in February of 92 I’ll assume this is a special. Like most British shows at the time it was shot on video although it’s a little unusual as outdoor scenes were normally shot on film while studio work was video. On that point, I never realized how tough screen capping video was. Clearly the muddy blurriness is how I can always tell video from film.

We start with Mr. Bean in a store doing some last minute shopping. Now normally almost the entire show is pantomime, at least the episodes I’ve seen. About 93.8% of this pantomime, but there is a lot more actual talking than normal. Mr. Beans plays around in the store, causing no end of silliness to happen. He unplugs the outside lights for the entire store, plays with the nativity set, eventually bringing in a dalek and having the infant flown away by an angel to a Barbie Dream house sort of set up until the floor walker comes and gives him his bag and he leaves.

Then he goes outside into the town and Mr. Bean meets his girlfiend, relieves a pickpocket of his goods, giving them to a Salvation Army band leader who asks him to take over for a second, leads the band, steals the town tree and goes back to his place for the evening. It’s hard to explain all of this in text form, because this is all done without any dialogue. I will say that I found the band leading section to be the funniest thing in the entire episode, it’s almost like a cartoon.

Anyway! Mr. Bean goes home and does all the normal Christmas Eve things. We see that he’s cut just the top 3 feet off the massive tree he’s stolen and throws the other 23 feet into the street. He mails himself some Christmas cards, makes a massive Christmas cracker out of about 7 little ones, puts up stockings for himself, his teddy bear and a mouse. He tires to watch TV, but finds nothing seasonal on but hears some children singing at his door. He grabs some chocolates, eats them and then closes the door on them instead of offering them any.

Then we have the morning itself and Mr. Bean acts rather like a 4 year old might. He opens the stockings, finding that Santa brought Teddy a new pair of buttons for the eyes he lost long ago. In his own sock he finds the mate to that sock and the mouse got a small bit of cheese with bean then puts on a mouse trap.

Teddy is left to watch Christmas TV, while wearing glasses while Mr. Bean tries to make dinner out of the turkey. This goes badly and he ends up wearing the turkey on his head. His girlfriend shows up, helps him get the turkey off his head, loosing the turkey in the process and they eat salami sandwiches instead. She gives him his present and it turns out he totally got the present she wanted wrong. He gets it so wrong in fact that she leaves him, never to return. Sadly, he decides to open the cracker and we see the explosion from the outside window.

This isn’t a bad show, quite the reverse, it’s just I find pantomime hard to talk about and these are more little moments than a real connected story. It’s very good to watch as part of a group of programs I’ve noticed. When I sit down to watch specials I like to slip this one in the middle. It sort of cleanses the palate as it were and we can all use that sometimes.

Here, have some pictures…


December 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment