12/14/10

Christmas Shorts: Carol For Another Christmas (1964): Rod Serling is the Dickens

In 1964, Rod Serling, coming off the fifth season of his popular television show Twilight Zone, penned this retelling of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. In Carol for Another Christmas, sponsored by Xerox and produced in association with the United Nations, Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden) is a wealthy industrialist, but he has never gotten over the death of his son (Peter Fonda who was cut out of the completed film) in World War II. He steadfastly calls for the United States to become an isolationist state, and, oh yeah, he doesn't seem to care about Christmas very much either. As you may guess Grudge is visited by three ghosts, The Ghost of Christmas Past (Steve Lawrence), Christmas Present (Pat Hingle), and Christmas Future (Robert Shaw) before he changes his wicked ways and professes a love for a united world. Along the way he also crosses paths with Eva Marie Saint, Britt Ekland, Peter Sellers, and Ben Gazarra. Basically it's the stuff that Glen Beck's nightmares are made of, and that might explain why it was never re-aired and never released to the public in any kind of fashion.This production is also noteworthy of being the first and only time that director Joseph Mankiewicz (Sleuth, Guys and Dolls, All About Eve) worked in Television.

While I got a chance to see the completed thing, I couldn't find any video to embed for you folks so here's a number of screenshots to give you a taste of what it was like.

The Past
Grudge is taken by the Ghost of Christmas Past to visit the rubble left behind from the bombing of Hiroshima. Grudge watches as his past self struggles to deal with the horrors of children effected by the bomb including a group of girls who sing even though their faces have been burnt away.


You don’t want to get involved you’ve got to give back the 20th century if you can find some chump to take it. And isolation, I’ve got news. That went out with gas light and fifty cent steaks.”
The Ghost of Christmas past


The Present
Pat Hingle (perhaps best remembered now as Commissioner Gordon in Tim Burton's Batman) as The Ghost of Christmas Present puts the screws on Grudge taunting him with a feast of food while confronting him with the world's starving masses.


The Future
The dystopian nightmare that Grudge's future features the few remaining bands of humans scrapping with each other to keep alive. The group that The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Grudge is headed up by the Imperial Me (Peter Sellers) who advocates total irradiation of all other groups and then each other until there is only one individual is left alive. The last rational person alive, Charles (Percy Rodriguez), Grudge's former manservant, is shot to death when he tries to talk sense into the raving crowd.


We are the individual me’s and we must carry our glorious philosophy through to its glorious culmination. - Imperial Me (Peter Sellers)

After seeing the error of his ways, Grudge returns home, professes his love of the United Nations to his nephew Fred, and intending to treat his staff with more respect, takes his morning coffee in the kitchen with them. (I hope he didn't strain himself with that grand gesture.) The big payoff comes at the end as Sterling Hayden sits there thinking about what an asshole he used to be while the credits roll.

Overall, I quite liked Carol for Another Christmas, but I can see where the heavy handed liberal message would have probably prevented it from becoming a time honored Christmas classic. However, fans of Christmas movies and Rod Serling should definitely try and track down a copy when they can.

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