Tom Simon (superversive) wrote,
Tom Simon


That greeting is courtesy of Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, in which Baldrick manages to do a handmade Christmas card without getting a single letter of ‘Christmas’ right: an amazing feat. Far more creative of its kind, pace nscafe, than the famous kawphy. (Which I insist should be spelt kauphy, but that’s another story.) It was also on that episode that we had the immortal approximation of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’:

God bless Mr B at Christmas time
And maybe Jesus too
If we were little pigs we’d sing
And ‘Piggywiggywiggywiggywiggywiggywiggywiggy
O! Piggy wiggy wiggy woo!
O! Pig wiggywiggywiggywiggywiggywiggywoo!’

Which Ebenezer Blackadder (this is after his reformation) quite rightly praises as ‘utter crap’ and rewards with a door in the face to the carollers. Some elements of the classic Dickens tale never grow stale.

A much more serious version of A Christmas Carol, and still my favourite, was the 1984 production directed by Clive Donner and starring George C. Scott. Scott requires no introduction, though the echoing horn notes from Patton would do in a pinch. Donner has an extensive C.V. of Dickensian work; he edited the 1951 Scrooge, the Alistair Sim version that nearly all film critics (but almost no readers of Dickens) swear by, and he did adaptations of A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist for the TV anthology series Hallmark Hall of Fame.

In my considered opinion, the 1984 Donner version of A Christmas Carol was definitive in nearly every respect. Filmed entirely on location in Shrewsbury, it was made with loving attention to period detail and close (though not perfect) adherence to Dickens’ text. Of the all-star cast, Mark Strickson (whom Doctor Who fans will recall as Vislor Turlough) did an excellent turn as Young Scrooge, David Warner gave a real solidity and dignity to Bob Cratchit, and Edward Woodward is perhaps unsurpassable as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The one weakness that draws fire, especially from Sim fans, is Scott’s weak attempt at an English accent. Of course what they mean by this is that he does a very poor BBC accent. Most of those who make this complaint seem to be Americans; British viewers, I suspect, are at least as likely to complain because the Cratchits sound too posh. Actually George C. Scott sounds a lot like an Ulster Presbyterian who has lost his faith, moved to England to make his fortune, and taken lessons from an elocutionist, only to quit halfway through the course because he decided it was a waste of money. (C.S. Lewis, who was an Ulsterman though no Presbyterian, shows a similarly imprecise accent, compromising between near-perfect Oxbridge and a braying twang that can only have come from Belfast.) Apart from his rather Northern-sounding name, Scrooge could easily have been just that. Bob Cratchit probably, and the other Cratchits certainly, ought to have spoken a fairly broad Cockney; Scrooge’s accent, though wrong in details, was just the kind of thing it ought to be.

My favourite thing about this version, however, and one in which it puts all others I know of to shame, is the soundtrack. By turns uplifting, soaring, chilling and terrifying, it is built upon a theme song that would fit very well in the company of the classic English carols: and that is high praise. Tony Bicat has posted the complete lyrics in an online forum, and I shall dare to reproduce them here, without his explicit permission, but hoping that neither he nor the copyright holder will take exception:

God Bless Us Everyone
(Music by Nick Bicat, lyrics by Tony Bicat)

The past of man is cold as ice:
He would not mend his ways.
He strove for silver in his heart
And gold in all his days.
His reason weak, his anger sharp,
And sorrow all his pay,
He went to church but once a year,
And that was Christmas Day.

     So grant us all a change of heart,
     Rejoice for Mary’s son;
     Pray, Peace on earth to all mankind,
     God bless us everyone!

The present man is full of flame:
He rushes here and there.
He turns away the orphan child,
The widow in her chair.
He eats for ten, he drinks for twelve,
Forgets how brief his stay,
And stands a-jingling of his change
In church on Christmas Day.

     So grant us all a change of heart,
     Rejoice for Mary’s son;
     Pray, Peace on earth to all mankind,
     God bless us everyone!

The man to come we do not know:
May he make peace on earth,
And live the glory of the Word,
The message of the birth,
And gather all the children in
To banish their dismay,
Lift up his heart among the bells
In church on Christmas Day.

     So grant us all a change of heart,
     Rejoice for Mary’s son;
     Pray, Peace on earth to all mankind,
     God bless us everyone!

Of course, I cannot convey anything like the full effect without the music, which, as far as I know, has never been separately released. Track down the George C. Scott Christmas Carol, if you have not yet seen it: you will be in for a treat, and in more than this.

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