TITANIC (1997)

By Marc S. Sanders

James Cameron’s Titanic will always remain a timeless piece.  Audiences adore the relationship between the two lovers from different worlds, Jack and Rose, who meet aboard the maiden, and final, voyage of the doomed cruise liner.  Maybe more importantly, the craftsmanship of this film is still beyond compare.  Many know that when this picture was in the making, its budget ran way over and endless rumors of waterlogged technical challenges were rampant through media reports.  Titanic was predicted to sink James Cameron’s career.  Instead, it was the grand Hollywood underdog that no one expected.

I recall seeing the film twice in theaters during the Christmas season of 1997.  I was not so enamored with the script or the fictional love story that Cameron conjured as the central narrative for the real-life tragedy that took approximately fifteen hundred lives on April 15, 1912.  The visual effects were the marvel to watch, and what I patiently waited for, during the second half of the picture.  I had to tread water through the first half though.

A hardly known, but already Oscar nominated (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?),  Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jack Dawson, the poor member of the ship’s steerage company who falls in love with an aristocratic young woman named Rose Dewitt Bukater.  Rose is played by Kate Winslet, who’s uncomfortable with the snobbishly wealthy first class section of people she’s forced to associate with by mandate of her possessively cruel, and supercilious fiancée named Cal (Billy Zane) and her mother, Ruth (Frances Fisher).  Call it a Romeo & Juliet love story.  Two lovers are forbidden to be with one another.  Yet, they are going to do it anyway.  It’s simple and nothing dimensional.  It seems to have parallels to Disney’s rated G interpretation of Beauty & The Beast.  Fortunately, what saves the storyline are the performances and chemistry of DiCaprio and Winslet.  These are not even the best roles of either actor’s storied careers.  Yet, they are anything but unlikable. 

The relationship they share aboard Titanic, as it makes its way from Europe to the United States, is told in flashback by a 101 year old woman (Gloria Stuart) to a marine exploration crew who have been meticulously searching through submerged remains of the ship on the ocean floor of the Atlantic.  The most important element to come from this section is a wise choice by Cameron to include an informatively brief analysis of how exactly the ship took on an overabundance of ocean water following a collision with an iceberg, and how it gradually began to sink, weigh down, and split apart before finally concluding with a straight dive down into the murky, cold depths.  I must note that film critic Gene Siskel acknowledged this storytelling device upon the film’s initial release. He hailed this sequence because it offered an early “blueprint” of what audiences could expect to happen and witness during the film’s second half.  We all know the ending to the film, but how exactly did it happen?  The quick breakdown helps.

Ahead of the tragedy, Cameron and his set designers offer a grand, functioning piece of machinery that is absolutely impressive to modern audiences, even over a century later.  The decks and hallways are wonderous.  The forward and aft locations seem familiar and solid.  The CGI on this reinterpretation of Titanic is undetectable.  If this film was going to live up to its name, it most certainly has done so.  This ship looks tremendous and strong and indestructible just as the architect and engineer (Victor Garber, Jonathan Hyde) written into the script proudly lay claim to.  The famous moment of the film where Jack supports Rose on the forward bow of the ship with a sunset sky in the background is positively gorgeous.

I do have reservations with the film though.  I think both stories, the forbidden romance and the demise of the ship, in Titanic work.  However, when spliced together, the picture leaves me feeling uneasy.  James Cameron has weaved his fictional romance, appropriate for used, yellow stained paperback books, with a horrifying tragedy.  It’s what you would find in those cheesy Irwin Allen disaster epics from the 1970s.  When Cal’s anger over Jack’s intrusion comes to a boil, he pursues the couple, firing a pistol at them while the ship is continuing to sink.  Jack is apprehended and handcuffed in the lower deck and his doom seems imminent as the water level grows higher.  A priceless blue diamond serves as a MacGuffin that goes back and forth to deliver the operatic divide of these characters.  These are all cinematic inventions painted upon a well-known historical tragedy simply for the sake of adventure and suspense. 

I also found it unconvincing that the only person aboard the ship to question the contingency planning and safety measures ahead of any potential disaster is young Rose, who has no insight into mariner regulation or procedure.  Of all people, it only occurs to Rose that Titanic is not equipped with sufficient lifeboats for all twenty-two hundred people on board.  For storyline options, these avenues written by James Cameron sometimes take me out of the film. 

What I hold fascinating though is where the film depicts the eventual panicked response of the passengers and crew.  We see the captain appear helpless in his defeat against the nature of the ocean running its course over the ship he commands.  A string orchestra chooses to simply perform amid the ongoing disaster, which I have read actually happened.  Most breathtaking is how all the extras in the film react to the growing shift of the ship.  Their slant becomes steeper.  The people do their best to shuffle through the flooding, eventually having to keep their heads above water.  Helpless children are abandoned.  For an emotional punch, the steerage in the below decks is gated off from reaching the top of the ship, and giving themselves a chance at survival on a life boat.  James Cameron accounts for every response and detail that likely occurred during the sinking of the ship.  It’s captivating to witness, despite how tragic the outcome.

Though I do not care for the mix of the love story and the real-life submergence of the ship, Titanic has many strengths beyond what James Cameron achieved with the most up to date technology in visual effects, at the time.  Billy Zane is a villain that you love to hate.  Truly an underrated antagonist in the history of film.  David Warner is an intimidating henchman.  Kathy Bates is a welcome Unsinkable Molly Brown, the crass wealthy woman who sets herself apart from the pretentiousness of her lady peers.   

The exceedingly three-hour running time allows you to become completely familiar with the ship from stem to stern and again the set pieces are magnificent, whether you are hobnobbing with the wealthy up top or the steerage down below.  Every pipe or rope or stairway or hallway or chandelier serves a purpose.  The costumes and makeup designs are appropriate, including the frozen complexions on the bodies that float on the ocean surface following the tragedy.  Cameron’s use of the camera is amazing as he offers wide, expansive shots of nothing but dark ocean with hundreds of people suffering towards their demise. Thus driving home the point that there’s nowhere to find salvation and relief from the bitter cold air and sea water.  These poor people faced unimaginable challenges while competing with panicked crowds, and lack of foresight from those in charge of this newly designed technological wonder.  The movie covers everything that worked against these passengers.

Titanic is an incredible accomplishment. There’s much to see and absorb.  The last time I saw the film was nearly twenty five years ago and much of the footage never escaped my memory.  James Cameron left an indelible impression on moviegoers.  Regardless of the misgivings the film holds, Titanic has held its rightful place as an all-time landmark in cinematic achievement.

NOTE: I took advantage of seeing a newly restored 4K version in 3D at my local movie theater.  I have never been a huge fan of 3D as I often find it murky and distracting from the story.  Had Titanic been offered in standard 2D, that is what I would have gone to see.  Fortunately, this re-release is an exception to my impression with 3D presentations.  The picture is glorious, and I highly recommend the film be seen while it remains in limited release.  Titanic in 3D should not be missed.


By Marc S. Sanders

I was not raised on video games.  My father refused to allow us to have them in the house. While I was envious of every kid that owned an Atari 2600, dad didn’t want us to get addicted to them.  I wouldn’t know until later on how thankful I was for that rule he stood by.  I like arcade games for a once and a while escape, but once I reach the banana board (which isn’t often) on Ms. Pac Man, I’ve had my fill.

I recall seeing at least a few scenes of Walt Disney Studios’ Tron back when it was released on VHS.  Way back then, just like now, I just was never so impressed by it.  I can forgive the thin characterizations of really the only 5-7 actors with speaking roles.  Yet, the visuals and sound really do nothing for me.  What am I looking at?  Grids!  Just grids or endless squares.  A blank chess board looks more exciting to me.  The players in the film are dressed in what are presumed to be digitized armor that have carved out glowing blue and red lights.  Their human faces are grainy grays.  It all seems so flat to me, like that awful Pac Man adaptation Atari developed for their game consoles. 

Jeff Bridges plays Flynn, a game software developer done dirty by a corporate conglomerate led by a man named Dillinger (David Warner, the bad guy with the British accent).  Dillinger, along with a super computer intelligence known as the Master Control Program, have stolen Flynn’s intellectual property for dynamic new video games.  Since that time, Flynn has been making efforts to hack into the computer system and steal back what was originally his to begin with.  Master Control Program always fends him off, though.

A side story involves Bruce Boxleitner as Flynn’s colleague, Alan, working for the corporation. Alan has just developed a new security system known as TRON.  Dillinger puts a stop on the TRON program however.  Flynn, Alan and a third colleague named Lora (Cindy Morgan) break into the corporate computer lab one night, and before you know it, while attempting to hack in, Flynn is zapped right into the computer system, where he finds himself ensconced in a series of gladiator like games that were part of his original program write ups.

Master Control Program has the capability to erase Flynn from existence but insists on having him compete in the games that involve frisbees that deflect lasers and drive colorful racing cycles.  All of these games occur on this boring grid.

The actors mentioned above are utilized in the film much like The Wizard Of Oz.  They are introduced in the real world for the brief exposition portion of the film, and then later used to represent the TRON program (Boxleitner), as well as other elements that serve or perform under the eye of Master Control Program in the digital computer world.  The only real entity is known as a “user,” and that is Flynn.

I got sleepy watching Tron.  I think it is because like many video games it does not challenge me to figure things out or solve the dilemma. How can I envision Flynn escaping this world before he’s zapped out of existence?  I have no idea, because I’ve not been shown anything that demonstrates how this computer world functions.  Basic video games, at least from the early 1980s, were primarily about timing your button pushes and jerking the joystick accurately and timely.  Like the film Tron, they were never about application of the mind. 

No.  Movies are not meant for me to solve their riddles all the time.  Often, if I’m not trying to figure out how to resolve a story’s conflict, then I’m at least absorbed in the writing and performances of the cast.  The music might heighten the adventure or suspense.  The set designs will dazzle me.  Don’t get me wrong.  This Star Wars fanatic loves visual effects, but without any kind of story or suspense for the players and their outcome, what’s left to watch?  Tron is as dimensional as a blank index card for me. All these grids and lines are no more exciting than office stationery.

Tron from 1982 may seem very outdated, forty years later, but as a ten-year-old, I recall not being impressed either.  The sound design is annoying as when the digital players walk with clunk, clunk footsteps.  The objects on film are just sketched out, geometric glowing, colored lines on a black background. There is no depth, at all, to Flynn, Lora, Alan, Dillinger, or their computer counterparts.  In 1982, this might have been groundbreaking. For the Atari lovers this may have been the answer to many of their prayers.  I dunno.  Maybe I couldn’t relate or understand back then because my tyrant for a father denied me of an Atari game console.  I certainly don’t understand the fascination now. 

I have a 100-sheet pad of graph paper, here in my desk.  I’ll stand my Darth Vader action figure on a page and just stare at it for five minutes.  There!  Now, I can say I’ve watched Tron for a third time.

THE OMEN (1976)

By Marc S. Sanders

The best horror films don’t have to splash blood all over my popcorn.  I’m flattered that at times, a schlock monster fest will tantalize me with a half alive victim’s laced up intestines hanging out of the belly as they walk towards the camera.  Oh, my how long and endless and bloody they are.  Thank you so much for the garage sale autopsy.  Still, I hardly get impressed with that kind of junk.  Terror is most effective for me when the scares come from the mind of the characters and who occupies the surroundings. 

One of the best ways to scare the bejezzus outta me is when you make a child the monster.  Six year old Damien is a monster.  He’s no kind of kid that I would welcome in my house, and I’d think twice before throwing the little devil a birthday party or taking him to the zoo.  Damien may just be the Antichrist of Richard Donner’s 1976 film The Omen.

Gregory Peck made a long-awaited return to the cinematic screen as Robert Thorn, an American Ambassador to Great Britain.  His wife Katherine, played by Lee Remick, have a son named Damien, delivered on June 6, at 6pm.  Think about that point in time for a second and then maybe you’ll have an idea of where this film is going.  Think about the name Damien.  Does it perhaps sound like another word that’ll send shivers up your spine?

Robert and Katherine are a happy couple.  They feel blessed to have a child of their own and after Damien’s sixth birthday has arrived, odd trappings seem to occur.  Their nanny seems to know how to put a damper on the birthday party.  Rottweilers don’t take too friendly to the Thorns, and the replacement nanny, Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), is…well…just watch the movie and you’ll see what Mrs. Baylock is like.  (I shudder just typing her name, Mrs. Baylock….gah!!!!!  I must forge ahead.)  As well, there is a priest who keeps visiting Mr. Thorn insisting he knows something about Damien that cannot be ignored.

What works to put the scare into The Omen is that it does not rely so much on supernatural stunts or effects.  It should never be so easy to presume that an angelic child could actually be the son of Satan.  Leave the clues, but don’t be so overt.  If it’s too obvious, then the film fails.  In order for the film to work successfully, put some doubt into what is or isn’t possible.

Lee Remick is quite good as the wholesome loving mother and wife gradually turning into a woman disturbed by her own child.  Try to imagine that dynamic for second.  It’s perfect movie material.  It’s been done before in films like The Bad Seed or in later years with the dreadful The Good Son.  To pull it off, to be disturbed and frightened of your own six year old boy, requires pacing in the script and a range of performance to get to that point and understand what the maternal character is going through. 

Gregory Peck is a seemingly likable politician.  Unheard of, I know.  I think Peck’s reputation contributes here.  He’s not so quick to accept that these odd occurrences add up to something supernatural.  If it is the case, he’ll find out for himself. 

Richard Donner, in his first cinematic film, sets up magnificent scenes.  There’s that birthday party I mentioned before.  So wholesome, and innocent, and eventually it becomes unforgettably tainted.  A trip to a cemetery at night never bodes well.  Of course, our experience with scary movies heightens our alertness when a tomb or a grave is investigated, but still, while we can expect something to happen, it’s the not knowing what happens that leaves us on edge. 

As I watched The Omen, with goosebumps all over, I was challenged with reasoning out how the film would resolve itself.  Thankfully, it leaves you thinking and perhaps trembling a little bit.  At least it did for me.  So much so, that before turning in for bed, I had to turn on an episode of Seinfeld to remind myself that though the devil or his offspring might be nearby, at the very least I can be amused by the ongoing sins of George Costanza.


By Marc S. Sanders

I got the urge to watch Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country after seeing the compelling HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The Star Trek franchise succeeds best when it applies current and true-life events to its fictional future set in the 23rd century.

Like the USSR, the savage Klingon empire suffers a terrible accident at one of their most powerful energy planets, that spirals them into possibly having only fifty years of life left to survive. Therefore, Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) reaches out to representing Ambassador Spock of Starfleet (Leonard Nimoy) to begin peace talks that will help prolong the alien race’s survival.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) however, is not so keen on the idea, especially after he blames them for the murder of his son. It turns out many other factions are not enthused either, as Gorkon is assassinated and Kirk and McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) are sentenced to an ice like Siberian prison planet.

There’s much to think about in the original Star Trek cast’s final film together. Beyond the sentiments of the crew retiring and the Enterprise being put out to pasture so to speak, there’s an interesting story to ponder about how we map out the future for upcoming generations when we are still living with the past that we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s telling, considering much of the real-life events happening twenty-two years into our new century with historical statues being removed and minorities fighting for fairness among their communities.

As well, is one country or people too proud and always wanting to be at odds with another by relishing in being a super power? Can we think beyond that nature? I think that’s maybe where the curious title, The Undiscovered Country, stems from. We just haven’t seen the possibility that could be truly within our reach, if we all wanted it that way.

Christopher Plummer plays Klingon General Chang who vows revenge for the assassination. Plummer is spectacular; a villain not recognized enough on all of those on line top 10 lists of bad guys. Plummer brings his theatrical training to the role as he relies on Shakespearean quotes to take in the scene at hand. He’s at least as good as Ricardo Montalban’s Khan is remembered.

The crew is adored as usual. The supporting cast are given their fair share of lines and moments in the spotlight. Kim Cattrall joins as a Vulcan Federation Officer who’s helpful to uncover the true criminals at play.

Director Nicholas Meyer contributed to the best of the Star Trek films, and this is a perfect example of his strength within the franchise. The story was partly conceived by Nimoy with Meyer credited on the screenplay. Cold War politics really lend to this film. It’s interesting to see how the Klingons are initially in denial of assistance or the desperate problem they face which is similar to Russia’s response following the horrifying nuclear accident at their power plant in Chernobyl. I just love how the ideas within The Undiscovered Country parallel the world’s response and effects of what was happening just a few years prior to this film’s release, in 1986.

Never let it be said that movies can’t teach you anything.


By Marc S. Sanders

Leonard Nimoy is an actor who can also direct himself.  Man o’ man, he accomplished amazing feats with Star Trek III & IV, didn’t he? On the other hand, William Shatner is just an actor.  Look at Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and you’ll see what I mean. 

(Mind you, I’m not being fair, because actually Shatner is a very good literary author.  Read his TekWar series to understand what I mean.)

What a terrible shame that this fifth film in what was mostly a successful and beloved film franchise descended so poorly in craftsmanship, writing, direction and performance.  The lesson to be learned when committing to a plot that has your cast of characters meeting with the Lord, Almighty God is…I guess you’ll always come up short.  Someone will be there to say, “Well that’s not my God!” or “God?  Who is this God, you speak of?”

The behind-the-scenes story goes that Shatner agreed to return for the fourth film on the condition that he direct the fifth installment.  Producer Harve Bennett and Paramount agreed, and Shatner got to writing.  What set this film up to fail from the get go is what a skeptical producer later recounted.  If you have a film where the crew of the Starship Enterprise meets up with God, it’s never going to please everyone.  Someone-a lot of someones-are going to be disappointed.  Talk about hindsight. 

Shatner’s other mistake was offering up a shocking new development for the franchise’s most treasured character.  Spock (Nimoy) has a long-lost step brother.  Yes.  Of course, use your film installments for big moments like this, but not this way.  Sybock (a dumb sounding, uninspired character name, played Laurence Luckenbill) is a crazed Vulcan heretic who brainwashes people by easing what pains them the most.  He arrives on a planet in the neutral zone (between Klingons and the Federation) and rounds up a posse masking them as hostages to bait Captain Kirk and the Enterprise to arrive, thereby hijacking the starship.  Next stop a mythical Eden, where God presumably resides.  This is supposed to be Spock’s brother????

When the veil is pulled off on who Sybock is, Shatner’s scene set up is kind of anti-climactic.  He portrays Kirk in a silly kind of comedic frustration against the no nonsense Spock for not sharing this news.  Lines like “Aha…. See?  See what I mean?” creep in.  It’s kind of sophomoric and hokey, like a failing stand up comic.  Spock doesn’t even find Sybock’s arrival very fascinating. (In case you aren’t aware, Spock exudes enthusiasm by declaring something fascinating.)  Instead, it’s just matter of fact.  So, why should the audience raise an eyebrow at any of this, if Spock won’t even make the effort?

The Final Frontier fails miserably on its visual effects.  The renowned Industrial Light & Magic was not available for this picture.  Shatner and company resorted with another contractor and the lack of substance in space travel and models shows terribly.  At one point Sulu (George Takei) must fly a shuttle transport into the hull of the Enterprise.  Reader, I’ve orchestrated better crash landings with my GI Joe toys.  This is one of the few science fiction films where I can literally tell that miniature models are being used.  The ships are not filmed to appear large and carrying vast amounts of crew members.  The scale of it all seems off.  God is just a holographic face in strobe blue light.  Why did the Paramount production team allow this to happen on such a valuable commodity as Star Trek?  After the enormous success of the last three films, especially Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, you would think that the filmmakers would be especially protective of their money maker. 

I guess I answered my own question, though.  The title Star Trek sells itself, like Batman, James Bond, Jurassic Park or Marvel or Star Wars.  So, let’s not kill ourselves with money and effort.  Is that the idea?  If audiences came in droves for the last picture, surely, they’ll want more and naturally return for the next one, no matter what’s plastered on the screen.  It’s terrible corporate hubris that happens all too often though, and it’s not right.

Star Trek always succeeds when each adventure is a reflection on our world histories and/or our current events.  The Voyage Home relied on the cause of environmental preservation.  The Undiscovered Country (the next film in the series) sprung from the Cold War politics that ended terribly for Russia with the Chernobyl disaster.  I like to believe The Final Frontier was aiming for religious doctrine, but ended up being a betrayal on a level of cult status, perhaps in the direction that Scientology or NXIUM have been suspected of taking.  A zealot will brainwash you into the illusion of immediate relief from what personally ails you. Then you will follow this so-called leader on a tour to meet the almighty, himself (“God” in this film is portrayed by a man, actor George Murdock.)  It’s regrettable, because nothing was gained from this.  Characters ranging from McCoy to Uhura, Chekov and Sulu all become followers of Sybock under his hypnosis.  Yet, Shatner’s story and direction never provide a relief from what overtakes them.  Were they ever deprogrammed?  Cults do exist and sadly people have to be reverted back from the mind control that’s overtaken them.  I’d argue science fiction could allow for a more economical and immediate relief, but even that is not offered here.  So, again nothing is gained or absorbed from Star Trek V.

Film Critic Gene Siskel made a simple and wise observation about the Star Trek films as a whole.  We like these movies because we like these characters and they like each other.  William Shatner offers a simple life approach to Kirk, Spock and McCoy as they camp out on shore leave in Yellowstone National Park.  They sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  It has its charm as Spock is dumbfounded by the illogical lyrics of the song.  You smirk along with Kirk and McCoy.  However, it has nothing to do with the crux of the film.  This moment reintroduces the characters at the start of the film and then it is bookended to close out the movie.  But why?  What was proffered from this?  It goes back to William Shatner spit balling as a writer/director.  In other films, before the meat of the story would begin, the characters would reflect on Shakespeare or Charles Dickens for example, and somehow it weaved nicely into the adventure or the outcome later on.  A campfire song has no relevance that I could determine with a quest for God.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was just aimless telling, and it bothers me to this day.  By the time this film arrived in 1989, the cast was already starting to wind down.  Their age was showing, and they only had so many more voyages to travel on.  Kind of sad that their second to last exploration was dull, short sighted and massively insignificant.


by Miguel E. Rodriguez

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (12/17/1984)
Director: Clive Donner
Cast: George C. Scott, David Warner, Joanne Whalley, Edward Woodward, Susannah York
My Rating: 10/10

PLOT: In 19th-century London, a bitter old miser who rationalizes his uncaring nature learns real compassion when three spirits visit him on Christmas Eve.


[SPOILER ALERTS! (For anyone whose souls are so dead they have never seen or read A Christmas Carol before…)]

The TV version of A Christmas Carol that first aired on CBS in 1984, starring the legendary George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, is the best version of Charles Dickens’ story that I’ve ever seen.

Oh, but let me tell you why.

Without exception, every other version I’ve ever seen, including live theatre versions, have made humor and lightness their prevailing mood. The musical Scrooge (1970) does have its share of dark moments towards the end, but the darkness is derailed by an unnecessary detour into cartoonish humor (while in the depths of Hell, no less). I’m not saying that making the story fun is wrong, necessarily. After all, it’s a Christmas story, with a strong message of redemption, so why shouldn’t it be a joyous experience? Right?

Ah…but this 1984 version takes a novel approach. It realizes what I’ve always known all along: that this is, above all, a ghost story with a Christmas message. And not all ghost stories are merry and bright.

Take the Ghost of Christmas Present, for example. In this version, he’s played by Edward Woodward, with a deep booming voice, an absurdly hairy chest, and hidden stilts making him upwards of 7 feet tall. His eyes twinkle, but something about his grin and hearty laughter gives you the sense of a cat toying with a mouse. There are moments when he berates poor Scrooge for his vices, and his voice becomes intense, and the smile vanishes from your face, and he tells Scrooge that his life may be worth less than MILLIONS of other souls like Tiny Tim, and…it’s quite a moment. It reminds you that this is a morality tale.

Another example, of course, would be the ever-popular Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. In every other version I’ve seen, this specter doesn’t speak, just points, usually with some kind of musical flourish. This version is no different, except the filmmakers ingeniously use an intensely creepy sound effect whenever this Ghost points or nods. It’s like someone pulling a violin bow across a huge piece of sheet metal. The effect is not comic or melodramatic. It’s deeply unsettling.

Of course, yet another reason to love this version is the towering performance from George C. Scott as the proto-Grinch, a man for whom Christmas is just an “excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December.” He injects moments of sly humor if you watch carefully (to the mute Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he mutters, “You’re devilishly hard to have a conversation with”), but for the most part he plays the character completely straight with nary a grin to be seen except on the rarest occasions. This is an aspect missing from every other version. The prevailing wisdom seems to be to amplify and overdo the character of Scrooge, so he’s not as unlikable, I guess. Not this time. Scott creates a mean, heartless, ruthless businessman who would as soon bankrupt you as say two words to you. Even Albert Finney’s interpretation in Scrooge, as completely as he disappears into the role, is not as dark and merciless as George C. Scott’s version.

It’s that darkness that appeals to me here. Yes, yes, the ultimate scenes of happiness and redemption are all there – the boy on the street, Scrooge skipping around his room, “giddy as a drunken man”, the massive turkey – but I love this version because it remembers its roots. This is a gothic ghost story, and as far as I’m concerned, any version of A Christmas Carol would do well to remember that.