Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol

Welcome, all, to another installment of Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch one of the many movies I own and blog about it.  Why?  Because a friend told me many years ago he thought it'd be neat to see.  Anyway, I know it's May, but this is for a Christmas special, which is why I always indicate the date I actually watched these and wrote these entries.  When did I watch this?  January 6, 2018.  What did I watch?  Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol.

When I was a kid, I had a peculiar hobby.  I collected Christmas specials.  Every December, when they started showing them on TV, I'd pop a tape into the VCR and record them.  I had three VHS tapes full by the time I gave up on it in my teen years.  So I'm occasionally surprised when I discover an animated Christmas special that I had never heard of or somehow missed.  This past Christmas, I found two such DVDs in a discount bin, but when I went back for them, they were gone.  So, I bought them online, and they just arrived. 

The first of those two is Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. 

In the grand pantheon of animated Christmas specials, Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol holds a special place.  It was the first one.  The entire concept of animated Christmas specials all started when Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol premiered in December of 1962.  It was a television mainstay throughout the 1960s and 1970s, before finally fading away in the mid-1980s.  No doubt TV stations started pulling it because of the political incorrectness of Mister Magoo. 

For those who don't know their classic cartoon characters, Mister Magoo was a kindhearted old man who was nearsighted to the point of near-blindness.  His visual impairment would always get him into and out of all kinds of mischief...and he was usually oblivious to it, thanks to that visual impairment.  As I'm sure you can easily figure out, Mister Magoo has been the bane of many organizations for the blind over the years as he seems to openly mock those with visual disabilities.  On the other hand, because they always used the premise for spectacular slapstick gags, many animation historians regard him as one of the greatest cartoon characters ever created. 

Despite this, there's a whole generation that grew up with Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol and even regard Mr. Magoo as their favourite actor to portray Scrooge.  The nostalgia was there that it was brought back for it's 50th anniversary in 2012, which is when I finally saw it on TV.  I only caught the last half, as I was flipping around, and discovered it, and was like, 'Huh.  I'd always heard about this, but had never seen it."

The title pretty much sums it up.  It's A Christmas Carol, with Mister Magoo playing the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge.  This is even explained in a framing story that establishes what we're watching is a Broadway musical, and Mr. Magoo is literally playing Scrooge on Broadway.  I'm also pleased to report that gags about Mr. Magoo's sight are kept to a minimum.  There's one in the beginning where he mistakes the restaurant next to the theatre as the stage door, one at the end where he inadvertently brings the set down while taking his bows, and that's about it.  Oh, and there's a couple at the end of A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge/Magoo is all delighted at having made it through the night, although I'm sure that can be attributed to Scrooge's giddiness. 

The special also holds a special place among Broadway geeks for songs written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, right before they went on to compose the legendary Broadway musical Funny Girl.  I will admit, the songs are quite good.  The one that sticks out for me is Alone in the World, sung by young Scrooge when the Ghost of Christmas Past comes to call. 

In the end, it's kind of sad that Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol is being forgotten, because it is quite good, and surprisingly faithful to the Dickens original.  Give it a chance, should you happen to stumble across it.

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