From Supermarionation to Live Action

You know this would be a helluva lot easier if somebody hadn’t thrown away my freaking Top 10 Favorite Christmas Specials/Movies blog notes. I don’t know if it’s that or the Scotch but I think I am missing one in my head here.

So far my favorites have been “animated” in one form or another. I have one or two more of those on the list; you’ll just have to log on to find out. And when I tell you about tonight’s entry you might say, “But Jerry isn’t this A Christmas Carol?” You would be correct. However, I think this one stands alone and appears on the list separately for a few reasons.

  1. Scrooged – 1988

Today’s Bill Murray can pretty much do what he wants thanks in part to the work he did in the 1980s with Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and well, Scrooged (among other things). This film features an all-star cast and serves as a passable treatment of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Christmas redemption.

Instead of Ebenezer Scrooge, Murray plays bitter, mean, abrasive TV executive Frank Cross. His former boss, played with aplomb by John Forsythe, takes the place of Jacob Marley and foretells the visitation by the three spirits. Ha, spirits. I’ve never seen Tab (for those of you who remember Tab cola) used as a mixer except by Frank Cross with his vodka.

It’s groovy watching Cross transform from one of the meanest Scrooge-like characters into the generous reformed. While at his nasty best he actually suggests a stagehand should staple prosthetic antlers on a mouse when all other methods fail. As he tries to reconcile with an old flame, played by Karen Allen of “Indiana Jones” fame, Cross is mortified at her dedication to her charity work.

Through the Ghost of Christmas Past, a cigar chomping cab driver played by David Johansen, we see Cross as a young, aspiring, idealistic fast-climbing TV station employee. And we see how Frank chooses his career and upward mobility at the expense of his burgeoning relationship with Claire (Karen Allen). There is some hint that Frank and his brother were abused, or neglected at best, as children and learned that Christmas wasn’t a happy time.

Carol Kane plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and is she ever a scene-stealer. She has no tolerance for Frank’s reluctance to tag along and at one point, whips Frank’s ass with a toaster. I lose it every time I watch this scene – it is absolutely freaking hilarious. Kane’s bouncy, almost Tinkerbell-esque whimsy mixed with good old-fashioned Sadism are reason enough to watch this film. There is so much more. The dystopian approach to Christmas future is rather unique.

From Olympic champion gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s cameo as Tiny Tim to Murray’s hot, steamy kiss with one of the Solid Gold Dancers, Scrooged is a must-watch any time, not just at Christmas.

As always, the “Scrooge” character learns to keep Christmas and become a generous soul. Frank reunites with his long lost love; his assistant’s son has a breakthrough and delivers Tiny Tim’s iconic line.

I was born in 1969 and I was raised in the 1970s and 80s. I was 18 when Scrooged came out and I remember being a bit skeptical. I rediscovered it a few years ago when AMC did a three-night marathon airing of the movie and I got hooked.

If you haven’t seen it, give it a shot. If you have but it’s been a while, watch it again. Carol Kane kicking Bill Murray’s ass is worth it. Yes, I know I am advocating gratuitous violence, but watching the 5’2” Kane take the 6’2” Murray apart is off the hook.

Frank Cross’ revelation and redemption takes place on live television as part of a live production of A Christmas Carol – Cross’ big-time production. It makes for an interesting twist.

Just watch the movie, lest be Scrooged.

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