A Christmas Carol 2000 REVIEW

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A Christmas Carol 2000 goes all gangster on us in this modern retelling of the Charles Dickens classic with Ross Kemp, says GEMMA JOHNSON

A Christmas Carol 2000 REVIEW 1

TITLE: A Christmas Carol
DIRECTOR: 20 December 2000 on ITV
CAST: Ross Kemp, Warren Mitchell, Liz Smith, Michael Maloney, Angeline Ball, Ray Fearon, Mina Anwar, Lorraine Ashbourne

Review of A Christmas Carol 2000

Charles Dickins’ A Christmas Carol is one that we all know; it has been somewhat overdone in many different formats – with puppets, as a cartoon, and as heavy Victorian drama. It can make the story difficult to relate to, but then came this version in 2000, set in the modern era and with a stellar cast of talent.

Catherine Moreshead directed A Christmas Carol (2000), a British television film for ITV. Ross Kemp stars as Eddie Scrooge, who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (played by Ray Fearon) and flanked by lacky Bob Cratchit (played by Michael Maloney).

I recall watching this for the first time when it was aired on 20 December, 2000. It was the first modern version of A Christmas Carol that I had seen, and one of the things that struck me was how exceptionally relatable this was.

There is no doubting that the traditional Victorian versions of the festive tale have their own charm, mainly because they adhere to the vision of Dickins and the era when it was written.

However, they can have a romanticism around them, which then detracts from the raw, gritty nature of the time. Dickins was struck with the idea of writing A Christmas Carol when visiting the slums of Manchester and seeing the terrible conditions of the mills and factories.  It was written as a cautionary tale, encouraging the wealthy to change their ways before they are haunted by the consequences of their actions.

A Christmas Carol 2000 with Ross Kemp
A scene from A Christmas Carol 2000

The setting for this version was a dystopian, concrete housing estate lacking in colour and joy. There is no romantic Victorian-era candlelight here; instead, there are stark, flickering streetlights that briefly illuminate the grim stairwells and alleyways framing small, bleak flats. a suitably haunting environment for a traditional festive ghost story.

Eddie Scrooge is a loan shark preying on the vulnerable residents desperately clinging to maintain basic living standards. Among Eddie’s clients is a single mum who delights Eddie by not being able to pay her weekly fee, meaning that he gets to launch the TV off the balcony.

A delightful elderly couple (Liz Smith) is trying to save up for a stairlift but is short on payment. Bob Cratchit is also a victim of Eddie’s greed. Unable to pay his loan back, he has no choice but to work for Eddie for free.

Karma has a way of coming full circle, though, because Eddie is consistently haunted by his former business partner, Jacob, who was murdered. Did Eddie do it? Does he know who did it? Why is he so crippled by guilt? These questions become more important when we see the fraught encounters that Eddie has with Jacob’s mother each day.

I really do want to encourage you to watch this, and so I am not going to give too much away. It does follow the typical format of A Christmas Carol, but the three ghosts have unusual methods of both arriving and teaching Eddie a lesson; specifically, watch out for the first one, which is a visit from Eddie’s dad (Warren Mitchell). They are all very well created and enhance the uneasy, relatable, unflinching viewing.

Aside from being a Victorian ghost story, it was also a commentary on society, which Dickins was not afraid to confront. It is pleasing to see that director Catherine Moreshead approached this in the same way, seeking to use this as a platform to highlight the challenges people were experiencing at that time, challenges that have ironically become much worse 23 years later.

While Ross Kemp has very much channelled Grant Mitchell in this role, he does it well. so much so that you will loathe him, which is always a good indicator that the role of Scrooge is played well. There is no singing, no puppets, and no romanticism here, but it is very much worth seeing. I think that Dickens would be proud of this one.

Discover other adaptations of A Christmas Carol on Spooky Isles.

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