In the mid-1990s, Sir Patrick Stewart (taking a break from his Captain Picard duties on film) embarked on a successful run on Broadway performing a one-man stage version of “A Christmas Carol”. The rave reviews for these shows apparently attracted the interest of Turner Broadcasting executives, who came to the actor with what must’ve been an alluring pitch. Would Stewart be interested in playing Ebenezer Scrooge in a new film adaptation for the company’s TNT network? A large production budget was promised, along with the participation of writer/adapter Peter Barnes and director David Jones, names that Stewart knew from the London theater community.
And a promise was made: this version would be the one that was “The most faithful film to Dickens’ original book ever created.”
By the fall of 1984, the CBS television network’s golden years were starting to fade. Norman Lear was out, and Falcon Crest, Knot’s Landing, Airwolf and Dukes of Hazzard were in. Oscar-winning actor George C. Scott’s career was on the wane, too; the glory days of Patton and Dr. Strangelove a distant memory. As for English director Clive Donner, about the best that can be said was that he was simply doing hack work. When he wasn’t helping to crank out TV movies, he was churning out feature film nonsense like “The Nude Bomb” or “Old Dracula”.
That’s an inauspicious creative foundation on which to build the best filmed version of A Christmas Carol. Yet somehow, that’s exactly what happened.
There are two ways to look at Scrooge, the 1970 Christmas Carol adaptation that recast the Dickens classic as a musical. One view is to wonder why in the world this classic story needs choreographed musical numbers and what is sometimes only barely on-key singing by the lead character. The opposing view is a more direct appeal: when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, what fits the mood of that sequence any better than Ebenezer singing and dancing through the streets of London?
After the jump, they’re going to sing again, aren’t they?
Charles Dickens is something of a national treasure in the UK, an artist with words whose prose manages who manages the neat trick of being respected academically while remaining popular with the public; “A Christmas Carol” is one of his most admired and beloved works. So in post-war Britain, it was a bit galling that the 1938 movie adaptation of the novella was a hit and accepted as somewhat definitive. That Reginald Owen version was a distinctly Hollywood thing, a blazingly professional production of the treasured story, but one that captured little of the heart and grit and soul that Dickens had poured into his original writing. 16 years after the first UK attempt at A Christmas Carol and slightly more than a decade after the MGM version, British studio Renown Pictures was ready to reclaim Scrooge back to his merrie olde roots.
The Age of Empires developers have a holiday surprise for everyone. It’s an official Yuletide graphics asset Winter Celebration mod for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. It’s a free in-game download that will turn the ground snowy, change spears into candy canes, and snowballs become weapons of mass destruction. You have until sometime in January to download it, at which point the team will remove the mod from the listing. Once you have it, you can enable it from within the game and play in winter whenever you want.
My own natural inclination in film appreciation is an almost knee-jerk mistrust of mainstream Hollywood. I associate the movie business – particularly when the studio system reigned supreme – with making films as product. Box office profits were priority one in in the rising industry of the 1930s and 1940s; artistic merit often seemed an accidental occasional by-product. With all that being said, however, sometimes the sheer, brutal competency of a major Hollywood studio has its advantages, too.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter is the best dog-fighting action space sim ever made. Fight me for it. But there was a time before 1994 when TIE Fighter wasn’t a sure thing. Larry Holland and LucasArts had an earlier hit with Star Wars: X-Wing, but this was a game from the bad guys’ point of view! The disposable Imperial pilot, no less. Would it actually sell? We laugh about that question now, but imagine trying to market that game.
PC Gamer dug into the history of how the game was made, and one of the often forgotten bits of TIE Fighter’s success was that its demo was pressed and marketed thanks to Dodge Neon. Yes, that pokey little car that hit the streets in wacky colors like “Nitro yellow-green” and “Lapis Blue” along with other questionable choices.
“I wasn’t in much of a bargaining position; I didn’t have a whole lot to give in return, other than they get to use Star Wars in their advertising. For the Dodge Neon, which was nothing like a sci-fi or futuristic car. It was from Michigan. There was nothing sexy about it; it looked like a family car. But it was a big win, because we couldn’t afford to distribute 400,000 demos on our own, or do a TV commercial.”
Imagine Grand Admiral Thrawn’s personal Neon. It would likely be the pimped-out one with the headlight hoods and chrome accents.
If “A Christmas Carol” movies have become part of a worldwide seasonal ritual these days, the first “talkie” version of the Dickens book is an inauspicious beginning. Watching it today, it’s hard to imagine that movie versions of the story would ever become much of a big deal. The 1935 adaptation – setting a bit of a precedent by being called simply “Scrooge” – is hands-down the funniest of all the various versions of the movie we’ll review here. Unfortunately, all of that comedy is unintentional.
After the Jump, the Plan 9 From Outer Space of Christmas Carols
Since I was a wee tot, I’ve been enthralled by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, his 1843 five-chapter novella, and particularly its filmed adaptations. I’ve seen them all. “Canonical” versions true to the short story, loose adaptations, short cartoon versions, versions with Mickey Mouse, versions with Muppets, versions with Mr. Magoo, and even alternate settings that kind of work. An American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler is almost good. 1989’s Scrooged, on the other hand, is a noisy, soulless mess. But over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing up the seven major filmed/animated versions that try to hew closely to the original story.
But first, let’s discuss the points that should be in any version of A Christmas Carol, as well as some important bits that are usually left out.
Microsoft is adding Battle Royale to Forza Horizon 4. The Eliminator is a free mode coming today that features up to 72 players duking it out in open-world car tomfoolery. Everyone starts in a 1965 Mini, but winning races or finding “rare drops” can give the players better cars, and everyone tries to eliminate other drivers. And yes, there is a circular border that slowly contracts throughout the session that will knock players out if they stray too far. It’s like PUBG, but without the inventory shuffling or teabagging.
Electronic Arts’ Command & Conquer Remastered will feature the original voice actor for the player’s AI assistant. According to Frank Klepacki, in 1995 Westwood recorded most of their in-game voices using office staff, jury-rigged equipment, and a padded broom closet. Kia Huntzinger, office supervisor, agreed to be EVA, the computer voice of the player’s UI. To many gamers her “Greetings Commander” became as comforting and familiar as Alexa or Siri. Unfortunately, the master recordings were lost, and the game files contained audio flaws that became exacerbated in the remaster process. The solution? Bring Kia back! Luckily, she was game for the opportunity to return to the role. You can hear some of her work in the video here.
Players of Command & Conquer Remastered will be able to choose between the new audio or the original files.
Google has refused to waive their standard fee for Fortnite’s in-game purchases. According to The Verge, Epic asked Google for an exemption or reduction in their cut to have Fortnite listed on Google’s Play store for the Android platform. Google, not surprisingly, told Epic to take a hike. The tech giant pointed out that Epic apparently pays Apple the same rate to be listed on the official Apple iOS store, and that their portion of revenue is necessary to maintain their distribution and support costs. Epic says it’s high time for the industry to change.
We have asked that Google not enforce its publicly stated expectation that products distributed through Google Play use Google’s payment service for in-app purchase. We believe this form of tying of a mandatory payment service with a 30% fee is illegal in the case of a distribution platform with over 50% market share.
Fortnite is currently not available in Google’s Play store for Android platform. It has to be manually loaded onto Android tablets and phones via Epic’s store.
Sony is finally, better-late-than-never, allowing cross-play in Minecraft. The Bedrock Update is coming to the PlayStation 4 version of the game. This will bring the PS4 version up to date with every other platform. The main roadblock to PlayStation getting the update was Sony’s refusal to allow cross-play with its rival in Redmond. That corporate resistance has faded as games like Fortnite and Rocket League have demanded it.
The Bedrock update originally launched in 2011 for iOS, and it subsequently launched on other platforms throughout the years. This update will also allow PlayStation players to purchase the in-game DLC that’s been available for so long. Rejoice! You can give Sony and Microsoft more money at the same time.