Strictly speaking, A Christmas Carol is a Christmas Eve yarn, but as I was otherwise occupied that night and on Christmas Day as well, I chose Boxing Day to take in Scrooge, the 1970 musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's enduring ghost story. Directed by Ronald Neame and starring Albert Finney as the penny-pinching miser and unforgiving moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge, this version forgoes brevity in favor of shoehorning in about a dozen songs by screenwriter and composer Leslie Bricusse, some of which I freely admit are catchy as hell. (Then again, I should expect nothing less from the Oscar-winning composer of Doctor Doolittle's "Talk to the Animals.") From Scrooge's anthem "I Hate People" to the rousing "Thank You Very Much" (which gets trotted out twice, as musicals are wont to do), Scrooge's songs are a bouncy counterpoint to the often drab and occasionally unnerving scenes surrounding them.
Take, for instance, Scrooge's sit-down with the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness), who tells him of the three spirits that have made appointments to see him that night, but not before attempting to scare the humbug out of him first. Marley does this by moaning Scrooge's name, rattling his chains, and appearing in a ghastly visage, but the pièce de résistance comes when they take to the skies over London, which are filled with the souls of damned. That's not quite enough to convince Scrooge to change his ways, though, so his spacious but ill-kept abode (a marvel of art direction/set decoration that was justly nominated for an Academy Award) still needs to receive three more spectral visitors before daybreak.
In the interest of parity, the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present (the prim and proper Edith Evans and boisterous Kenneth More) get about 20 minutes each to impart their respective messages to Scrooge, but the one that seals the deal -- and in roughly half the time -- is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who lets him see for himself what his afterlife in Hell would be like. This five-minute sequence, in which Marley helps Scrooge get settled in and Guinness camps it up gloriously, is the visual highlight of the film, and I'm not just saying that because it throws in four oiled-up, chain-bearing, black-hooded musclemen for good measure. Okay, maybe I am saying that. I'm not ashamed.