Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Carol for Another Christmas

Saturday December 22, 7:27 p.m.

Turner Classic Movies have done it again. The channel pulled out another movie that hadn't seen the light of day publicly in almost half a century, and has aired it twice: last Saturday and today. I was just lucky that I put it on just 10 minutes into the coverage.

"A Carol for Another Christmas" is Rod Serling's 1964 modern take on "A Christmas Carol" via a television movie. Basically, it comes out as an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone", Serling's masterpiece. Even at the time, it was boasted as an all-star production about how one embittered Daniel Grudge rails for American non-interventionalism years after his son is killed in battle. And that's when the Ghosts of Christmases come in. Basically, it's a promo for the United Nations and the striving for world peace.

Considering the UN's reputation nowadays, my eyes rolled a few loops but it was interesting to see for the star power. I did mention that even at the time it was star-studded, but that didn't include some of the supporting cast who have gone on to become very familiar faces or even screen legends. There was Sterling Hayden, who I remembered as the crazed general in "Dr. Strangelove", and the shocking appearance of singer Steve Lawrence as the tell-it-like-it-is soldier Ghost of Xmas Past. And the stars just kept on rolling in: Eva Marie Saint, James Shigeta, Pat Hingle, Robert Shaw from "To Russia With Love" and "Jaws" as an almost unrecognizable Ghost of Christmas Future, Ben Gazzara, Percy Rodrigues, and the stunner....Peter Sellers as a loony leader with an American accent in a post-apocalyptic civilization. All on TV, shown just once. It was basically done as a stageplay with large sets and stage as it was done way back in the early days of television, and the sermonizing was laid on pretty thick, especially by a considerably slimmer Hingle as the gluttonous Present. And Steve Lawrence seemed to have been channeling Captain Kirk's cadence, a full 2 years before that character actually made it to screen.

Definitely an interesting take on the Scrooge tale. And it's notable that there hasn't been any videos of it on YouTube, except for the Henry Mancini theme.