Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of the most filmed stories in the history of cinema, so saying that Clive Donner's 1984 version is one of the best out there is no small bit of praise. Donner's interpretation has a Masterpiece Theater quality that permeates all aspects of the production, with George C. Scott setting the standard in the central role. Scott brings a thespian's commitment and a highly intellectual tone to the proceedings, making clear that Ebenezer Scrooge's disdain for Christmas springs from a place of logic and premeditation, not just reactionary negativity. Scrooge's disposition is not nearly so chilling when the actor and director choose to blame it on meanness only; the courage of his convictions is what makes Scrooge so dastardly. His joy in the final scene is therefore that much more cathartic, having been dug up from such a deep place. David Warner, a villain in such films as Tron and Time Bandits, turns out to be an excellent Bob Cratchit, and Edward Woodward is particularly memorable as a booming Ghost of Christmas Present, accounting for much of the film's humor. The grim reaper effects are sufficiently creepy, and Donner's film has a good period authenticity in its look as well. This A Christmas Carol is distinctive and enduring enough that one tends to forget it was originally made for television, and those origins don't undermine its credibility in the slightest. Truth be told, by 1984, the story had been told so many times, straightforward versions had stopped getting theatrical releases. Only modern updates like the Bill Murray vehicle Scrooged still found their way to the multiplexes.
by Derek Armstrong review