An American Christmas CarolOverview -
It is Christmas Eve 1933, and the townspeople of Concord, NH are trying to hold onto their holiday spirit in the face of the Great Depression. But old Mr. Benedict Slade (Henry Winkler) is ruining what hope they have left by mercilessly repossessing their prized goods. Alone in his apartment, Slade is visited by three ghosts--Christmas Past, Present and Future--who take him on a fantastic journey through time that will show him the tragic consequences of his actions if he doesn't mend his ways forever.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
'A Christmas Carol' has been adapted, remade, and reimagined so many times that it's impossible to keep them all straight. This time around we get an American version of the tale in the form of a made-for-TV movie. The names of the principle characters are changed and the movie even finds time to throw in a reference to the original novel.
The reason why it's been adapted so many times is that Dickens story of Ebenezer Scrooge undergoing a personal transformation on Christmas Eve is one of the most indelible moments of literature there is. Charles Dickens perfectly captures the real meaning of the Christmas season in his wonderful work. So, year after year we find ourselves revisiting that story. Feeling the same sense of love and selflessness that we felt the first time we heard it.
This version of the unforgettable story takes place in the American Northeast; New Hampshire to be exact. Benedict Slade (Henry Winkler) takes the place of miserly old Scrooge. Although, Slade is the same nasty, curmudgeon that Scrooge was. Slade prides himself on being a heartless businessman. He relishes in foreclosing on people's properties when they can't pay, and he loves repossessing their belongings to sell at auctions. He deals in the misery of his fellow man. He can't get enough of it.
Christmastime is here and we know what must happen to the central character. Slade lives a lonely life, punctuated by hate. Those closest to him despise the way he does business. He dislikes everyone and everything. Then it happens.
Christmas Eve, Slade is visited by his long-dead business partner who warns him of the three apparitions that will pay him a visit that night. Slade brushes it off as a hallucination.
When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows up we realize that these ghosts are a bit different. They're people that Slade recognizes. People that he's recently wronged by foreclosing or reposing their homes. We travel back in time with Slade to a happier him. I felt that this was the strongest part of the movie. We get to see a young Winkler happy and in love with his sweetheart. He's been given a chance by a local craftsman to become a master furniture maker. All too soon the businessman in Slade begins to rear its ugly head. He suggests production lines and cutting quality to make a bigger profit. He only sees money where other people see time and effort.
The rest of the story follows the same lines as every other remake out there. The lessons are the same, as is the endgame. This version is brought a little further into modern times, but not much. Other than that it's the same old tale of Ebenezer finding his way, only this time he's named Benedict Slade.
In the end it feels a little stale because we've seen it so many times, but it's pulling from such a strong source that it's hard for the movie to ultimately fail. The chintzy make-up and made-for-TV quality hamper the proceedings a bit, but there's enough Christmas Spirit for everyone to enjoy. And, let's face it, we'll watch anything Christmas themed when the season hits.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Shout! Factory release. It comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc, is packaged in a standard keepcase, and is coded for Region A.
Yikes! The pillar-boxed 1080p presentation of 'An American Christmas Carol' sadly underperforms in every way. This is mostly due to the age and state of the source, but it seems like there was little to no effort put into cleaning it up in any way.
The picture goes beyond soft and enters into the downright hazy category. People are engulfed in fluffy halos of light whenever any backlight is present. Edges are indistinct, detail is barely there (although there are times where you can see the dreadful shortcomings of Winkler's old guy make-up), and the whole experience feels like you're watching something on VHS.
Noise is rampant. Scratches, pockmarks, and other distractions have gone unchecked. The pale picture is gloomy and murky. Blacks are flat and shadows crush. I didn't notice any blocking, but banding was evident frequently. There are a few moments of clarity (which is a relative term here), but not many. Overall, it's a pretty dreadful presentation.
Accompanied with an LPCM 2.0 uncompressed mix 'An American Christmas Carol' fails to deliver a decent audio experience too. The soft, tinny presentation lacks fidelity. Clearly produced dialogue is few and far between. Hissing and crackling can be heard on occasion.
Range is almost non-existent. Every sound seems to reside in the same part of the limited audio scale provided. Blowing wind drowns out just about everything else. Hushed dialogue is almost impossible to hear most of the time. Turning up your receiver from its default volume will most likely be in order. This was a difficult track to listen to. It rivals the video in terms of horribleness.
- Interview with Henry Winkler (HD, 9 min.) — Winkler discusses the part and why he was attracted to doing the movie in the first place.
It's a decent enough TV movie. There's nothing overly special about it. Dickens' story is an absolute classic so if you follow it closely enough you're going to come away with a movie with some emotion. It's just too bad that the presentation, both audio and video, are so horrid. Unless you feel like watching this every Christmastime, or if it's an obscure family classic to you, then don't worry about picking it up.
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