Blu-ray Review Scrooge (1970) Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    With the one-two-three punch of Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music raking in tens of millions of dollars for their respective studios in the mid-1960s, Hollywood jumped once again on the musical bandwagon, and over the course of the next half dozen years, put as many film musicals into production as they could possibly manage. They borrowed most heavily from Broadway and London (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Camelot, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Half a Sixpence, Sweet Charity, Finian’s Rainbow, Oliver! Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly! On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Paint Your Wagon, Song of Norway) but also put forth musical biographies (The Singing Nun, Star!) and musicalized previously non-musical properties (Doctor Dolittle, Goodbye, Mr, Chips). Those latter two films were set to the music and lyrics of Leslie Bricusse and while neither was a box-office success (despite some glorious work on their scores, particularly the former), he next embarked on a musicalized version of A Christmas Carol. Not only did he pen the music and lyrics for the piece but he also wrote the screenplay adaptation of the Dickens classic and served as the film’s executive producer. The result was one of those rare miracles: a musical treatment that is so right that it lifts the original material into another dimension. While there are those who may prefer the versions of the story which star Alister Sim or George C. Scott (or Mr. Magoo for that matter), the 1970 version of Scrooge is for many the definitive screen adaptation of the vintage tale.



    Scrooge (1970) (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Ronald Neame

    Studio: CBS/Paramount
    Year: 1970

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   VC-1 codec
    Running Time: 114 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch

    Region: no designation

    MSRP: $24.99


    Release Date: October 11, 2011

    Review Date: October 7, 2011



    The Film

    4.5/5


    The story is the same as it’s always been. Pitiless miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney) thinks only of making money, indifferent to the pleas of the poor, the poverty of his overworked clerk Bob Cratchit (David Collings), and the imploring of his nephew Fred (Michael Medwin) to become one of the family. On Christmas Eve, he’s visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness) who in order to save Scrooge from a dire afterlife has arranged for three spirits (Edith Evans, Kenneth More, Paddy Stone) to visit him and show him visions of the past, present, and future which may alter his viewpoint and help him to begin to live life in a different way.


    Bricusse’s script stays remarkably faithful to the original story, but the genius of it lies in his use of song and dance to enhance the images Scrooge is forced to watch. From Scrooge’s opening soliloquy “I Hate People” to Bob Cratchit’s bittersweet “Christmas Children” sung as he spends his few puny shillings on making the best Christmas that he can for his large family, the songs fit into the story like a glove. The past scenes of his lonely life as a schoolboy, his happy employment as a clerk under Mr. Fezziwig (Laurence Naismith), and his engagement to the enchanting Isabel (Suzanne Neve) all serve up memorable melodies. “A Christmas Carol” (which also serves as the main title music) is a sweet ditty sung by the school children (with strains of “London Bridge” and “Mulberry Bush” cleverly mixed in), but it’s the masterful combination of the jaunty “December the 25th,” “You, You, You,” and the eerily romantic and poignant “Happiness” that really distinguish the first of the visions, and Bricusse segues from one tune to the next with such élan that you’re hardly aware a new tune has begun.


    The second vision involving Scrooge’s visits in present time to the homes of his employee and his nephew highlight two completely different tunes. The jocularly sarcastic Christmas Present’s jaunty “I Like Life” and the seriously ill Tiny Tim’s (Richard Beaumont) heartbreaking and ironic “The Beautiful Day,” a song about a hopeful future which he will likely never see, both further weaken Scrooge’s hard heart. Incongruously to some, Scrooge’s funeral in the third vision leads to the movie’s most toe-tapping tune (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated) “Thank You Very Much,” the film’s most elaborate and successful production number. The climactic turning point for Scrooge in “I’ll Begin Again” makes the character’s transformation a truly sentimental and triumphant one.


    Filmed on leftover sets from Oliver!  at a cost of less than $5 million, Scrooge was one of the few musicals of the period that actually made money. It’s not hard to understand: a timeless classic filmed in color and widescreen for the first time with a pitch perfect cast and fluid direction that never misses a trick. Does the film have flaws? Certainly. “See the Phantoms,” the song for Marley, is rather tuneless and unnecessary, and Bricusse takes Scrooge to hell in a segment that isn’t in the original story and seems there only to give Alec Guinness another scene as the ominous specter. Bricusse also uses the megamix philosophy at the end of the film by reprising many of the songs we’ve heard earlier stretching out the conclusion because he wants the audience to experience once again “I Like Life,” “Father Christmas,” and “Thank You Very Much” (all four verses again but in reverse order from their original presentation), a bit too much of a good thing.


    Albert Finney won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor (Comedy/Musical) for his inspiring performance as Scrooge. Intelligently cast because he could play both the young and the old Ebenezer at various points in the story, Finney is a marvel, enhancing his performance by giving a very believable enactment of physical old age with Scrooge’s crooked posture and sometimes stiff fingers and showing off a melodious singing voice even though he sings very much in character throughout. David Collings brings hope and heart to the optimistic Bob Cratchit while Kennth More’s Ghost of Christmas Present is the definitive interpretation. Anton Rodgers gets to strut his stuff showily as Tom Jenkins in all those verses of “Thank You Very Much,” while Suzanne Neve’s lovely Isabel has both a soft, beautiful voice and impressive dramatic moments in the final confrontation with Scrooge where she weighs her merits versus those of his gold. Richard Beaumont’s sweet Tiny Tim has a pale but clear voice to do justice to Bricusse’s treacly tune.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film’s Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully presented in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. Though the main titles may led one to believe the transfer will be less than optimum, it’s a delight to report that the transfer is mostly first-rate. There are a few dust specks here and there, but overall, sharpness is excellent, and color saturation is beautifully rich and consistently maintained. This is by far the best Scrooge has ever looked on home video enhanced by deep blacks and excellent shadow detail. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does a glorious job with the musical portions of the program. Individual instrumentation in the orchestrations can be easily heard in various channels, and the split channel vocals give the soundstage an impressively broad range. Ambient sounds like ringing bells and swirling wind can also be heard in various front and rear channels though you aren’t going to get the greater sophistication of modern musical soundtracks in this one. Dialogue is also well recorded and appears clearly in the center channel. The LFE channel offers nice bass support for the music, and those thunderous rumbles in the hell sequence also offer some nice opportunities for your subwoofer.



    Special Features

    1/5


    It’s true: the overture which ran about four minutes on the previous DVD release of Scrooge is not present on this disc. The exit music is present placed with a still of the Scrooge main title card from the opening credits.


    The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p 1.78:1 and runs for 3 ½ minutes. After seeing its shabby quality, you’ll be even more impressed with the way the main feature looks.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    Scrooge is not only a Christmas classic; it’s a film classic that impresses more with each passing year. The Blu-ray release does present a mostly gorgeous picture and glorious lossless sound, and while the lack of real bonus material is regrettable, most fans will be thrilled to be able to add this to their collections.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Matt,


    Your review warms my heart. Looking so forward to giving this
    a look once it arrives. Going to play it loud, too.


    Not particularly happy about the overture being taken out. Paramount

    should have known better than to simply remove it. Sometimes I just

    don't understand decisions like these.
     
  3. moviepas

    moviepas Supporting Actor

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    I am not happy either that the overture is left out but I have ordered the disc a few weeks ago and do have the DVD and probably the LD in my collection. I will never understand why companies do these things but I have many LDs that have stuff not on the DVD versions and overtures are one such along with trailers. Paramount is the major offender in fooling around with originals for one reason or another. In the case of some commentary tracks on LD, the reason can often be that the current owner doing the DVD has no rights to that commentary track. If Blu Ray is the ultimate disc format and probably the last such disc format in our lifetime than it should be done complete & be done with it.
     
  4. Tom M

    Tom M Stunt Coordinator

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    Perhaps it was just an oversight. It seems odd that not one single person is even trying to contact Paramount about this. Remember back when Cleopatra (1963) was released on DVD and the exit music was missing? FOX responded to complaints and fixed it. Still, if worse comes to worse, I'll just listen to the overture from the CD I made from the soundtrack LP. Curiously, the soundtrack LP is missing the Exit Music. Strange, no? Just for fun, here's some screenshots from my 16mm print: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  5. ChrisCook

    ChrisCook Screenwriter

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    http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment?sk=wall PHE_CustomerService @ Paramount.com 5555 Melrose Avenue Hollywood, CA 90038 323-956-5000 (If any of the above is incorrect, please let me know.)
     
  6. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    Enjoyed the review. I did not know the sets from Oliver! were recycled for this film. I have just ordered the Blu-ray. Looking forward to watching it this Christmas season.
     
  7. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    the Sets/costumes from "Oliver" were the reason the film was put into production. The story was public domian and the only major costs were the actors, music and production team
     
  8. Mike_Richardson

    Mike_Richardson Supporting Actor

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    I find that impossible to believe. It's not like an Ed Wood film where you get a bunch of people together to make use of still-standing sets. FWIW, in Oswald Morris' autobiography, he mentions the sets Terry Marsh designed -- which were nominated for an Oscar I believe -- and that the film was a kind of "sequel" to Oliver because they employed many of the same crew. Nowhere does it mention that they just re-used all the same sets and costumes.
     
  9. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    I don't find it hard to believe at all that sets from Oliver! were reused. Stuff is reused fairly often in the movie business (I've seen Forbidden Planet props show up in several movies and TV shows).
     
  10. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    Why is it impossible to believe? They built a massive London set for "Oliver", and it was just sitting there. Don't know if it was the director or in the press materials/souvenir program somewhere it was said they decided to do a musical of A Christmas Carol using the sets and costumes left over from "Oliver" and it made perfect sence.


    Jack Warner filmed "Finian's Rainbow" because he had the sets left over from "Camelot" this is also true - check out Francis Ford Coppla's book


    They used the "Hello Dolly" sets in One of the Planet of the Apes films (Also in Butch Cassiby and the Sundance Kid)


    Warner Bros used the same town set for 100's of films - "The Music Man", "The Chase", even today it was the town in the "Gilmore Girls" this is very common esp before 1971
     
  11. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    CBS originally was to produce this as an annual television special, but dropped the idea once it became apparent that it could be released to theatres at Christmas and make it's cost back. At that point they increased the production budget to give it the class it has as a film.
     
  12. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    They are still using the "Hello Dolly" sets. About 1/12th of them are still standing. You can see them every week on "Bones" if you happen to catch them coming in and out of the "Founding Fathers" nightclub. Right in front of "Founding Fathers" is where they filmed "So Long Dearie," so many years ago. Those sets are placed in and around--and in front of other sound stages on the Fox lot. I hope they never have to tear them down, but I've been there a lot lately and the wood is pretty much disintegrating. The only sets from Camelot used in Finian's were the dark forest scenes, and those were almost completely redressed anyway. It's not that big of a deal. Lots of cheap movies use leftover sets from bigger-budgeted movies. That's been going on since day one.
     
  13. Guest

    I have a friend who was in both Oliver! and Scrooge. I'll ask him if he knows.
     
  14. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Watched SCROOGE today and it is beautiful. I don't think it has looked this good since I saw it in the theatres during it's original release. The colors are bright and drape when they need to be (great black levels) and the sound is excellent. Great to see the morning Christmas stubble on Scrooge's chin when he realizes what he missed. Still wish for the Overture, but wonderful to hear the Exit Music again. I have posted this before when I first saw this, it was a the ABC Mid-South Paramount Theatre in Memphis, TN and the at the end the full house audience was dancing in the aisles as they left the theatre while the exit music played. This film can not but help melt a Scrooge's heart.
     
  15. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I've mentioned this before in other Scrooge threads over the years, but I first saw Scrooge at Radio City Music Hall. In that huge theater with thousands of people, it was a truly memorable experience. I remember kids screaming around me during "See the Phantoms" as those ghastly ghost faces filled the screen, and it got thunderous applause at the end.
     
  16. TheVid

    TheVid Stunt Coordinator

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    BAH, HUMBUG! on the missing overture; CBS is currently the license holder, so Paramount is probably not responsible for dropping it off the HD master. It really is a shameful omission-NO THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! - but there's no denying that this is the best video version available now. Highly underrated Briscusse and marvelous musical supervision by Ian Fraser.
     
  17. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Paramount would be the culprit. While CBS controls the film along with the other 29 Center Cinema Films, Paramount is the one in charge of elements. They produce and distribute for CBS Home Entertainment along with handling any theatrical re-release of a title.

    They did do a great job with the transfer, but failed with loosing the overture. You can tell which companies have people in place that know their library and who don't. I was really giving Paramount kudos on their past Blu-ray releases, but they dropped the ball on this one. Even if CBS gave them the elements, they should have know about the Overture since it was on the DVD.
     
  18. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    Just saw it; have to add that the sound is about 10 times better than the old dvd. It's so unrestrained compared to that dvd; sounds like a completely different movie in many ways. While the picture doesn't make for the most spectacular-looking bluray in history, it still does look worlds better than older releases. I would add that the black levels are now amazing. The older releases make the film look translucent compared to this bluray. There are still some not-so-good sequences; usually those involving matte shots or composite shots. But that's as it should be, for a film from 1970. I think they used a different print than the one from the dvd. It does look somewhat cleaner, but some of the artifacts and boo-boos remain. These mistakes and shortcomings, however, seem to have existed in the film since day one so there's no need to fix them, really. The color levels and balance are a lot better too. The old dvd looked very brown in places, grey in others. This bluray seems to fix all those balance problems and gives the film a color clarity that I had no idea even existed. I do recommend the bluray for an upgrade; I don't have to add that it's a pity they lopped off the overture, but who knows--maybe there'll be a disc replacement program or something if we howl loud enough... :D
     
  19. DP 70

    DP 70 Supporting Actor

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    :)I first saw this this film at now gone Astoria cx road in london as 2 week showing of 70mm films before it closed as a cinema.
     
  20. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Of all things. I had forgotten to preorder this film when all your reviews

    started pouring in this week. Amazon was able to deliver this Blu-ray to
    me in one day and I spent my morning watching one of my all-time favorite

    musicals.


    I agree with Ethan that Scrooge looks completely different on Blu-ray. In
    a way, it's like seeing the film fresh for the very first time. The print is

    in marvelous condition (albeit a few minor blemishes).


    No matter how many times I have seen this film over my lifetime, I never

    tire of seeing it again. My favorite part of the movie has always been the

    "hell sequence" with Alec Guiness. And, the film's rousing and climatic

    encore of "Thank You Very Much" still makes my feet tap wildly.


    Yes, I am very disappointed that the overture is missing. Think this was

    a glaring mistake by Paramount, and by all means, do write them about it.

    However, something tells me that there will not be any corrections. I believe

    that one of the forces behind pushing to get this title to us (with thanks to

    you, the HTF membership) is no longer there.


    I am just so grateful to Paramount for listening to the HTF membership

    and getting this title out.
     

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