Produced by the English movie pioneer R.W. Paul, this version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ was thought to be the earliest surviving adaptation of Dickens’ work on film, before the discovery of ‘The Death of Poor Joe’ -http://youtu.be/yqufG89Jlyc. The only known print, held by the BFI, is incomplete, but manages to tell enough of the story for it to be recognisable.
This early cinematic excursion into Dickens’ most popular tale was an ambitious undertaking at the time. Not only did it attempt to tell an 80 page story in five minutes, but it featured impressive trick effects, superimposing Marley’s face over the door knocker and the scenes from his youth over a black curtain in Scrooge’s bedroom.
The earliest films might not have been made until the mid 1890s but that didn’t stop people in Victorian Britain enjoying all sorts of visual spectacles and wonders, created using lights, smoke, mirrors - and plenty of imagination. In this short film, ‘Professor’ Mervyn Heard performs a magic lantern show, while Dr John Plunkett (Exeter University) and Phil Wickham (curator of the Bill Douglas Centre) explore why the stories of Charles Dickens were adapted so often in the pre-cinema age.