On the 7th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me A Modern Interpretation of a Classic Tale

David Johansen and Bill Murray in Scrooged.

All but one of the first five entries in the countdown of my favorite Christmas shows/movies/specials has been animated in some way – from traditional 2D animation to Supermarionation. Today’s entry is the first full-length live-action feature on the list and it won’t be the last. I was born in 1969, raised in the 1970s and came of age in the 1980s. So, I consider myself an 80s kid. By the time this film was released I had graduated high school and left home for the U.S. Navy. Actually I had been enlisted for a full year. There are a handful of films that encapsulate the excesses of the 1980s and this is one of them.

7. 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 GhostbustersCaddyshack, and well, Scrooged (among other things), even though he’s been dragged through the mud as of late thanks to some questionable behavior. This film features an all-star cast and serves as a passable treatment of Charles Dickens’s 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 (Charlie’s Angels), 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’s head 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 New York Dolls founder David Johansen (a.k.a Buster Poindexter), 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 a big hint that Frank and his brother were abused, or neglected at best, as children and learn that Christmas wasn’t a happy time for the Cross boys.

Carol Kane plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and is she just chews the scenery. 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, Tinkerbellesque whimsy mixed with good old-fashioned Sadism is reason enough to watch this film.

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 and his assistant’s son has a breakthrough and delivers Tiny Tim’s iconic line.

I was 19 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 was hooked for good.

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 take place on television as part of a live production of A Christmas Carol – Cross’ opus. It makes for an interesting twist.

Just watch the movie, lest be Scrooged.

12 Days of Knaak Christmas
On the 12th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me A Twilight Zone Episode
On the 11th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me An Animated Classic
On the 10th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me An Incandescent Nose
On the 9th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me A Sweet Backstory
On the 8th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me A Dose of Christmas Spirit

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