Movie Sequels We Never Got: The Italian Job 2

This is my first in a look at several film sequels we almost, but never actually got. With more coming up through the year, first up. The Italian Job 2

Let’s get the ugly bit out of the way first. No, I’m not talking about the 2003 The Italian Job remake, I’m talking about the all time classic, 1969, Getta Bloomin’ Move On! (The Self Preservation Society), “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”, Michael Caine starring original flick.

ITALIAN JOB BLOW DOORS OFF

While there had been several aborted attempts at making a sequel to the remake (titled The Brazilian Job), it never came about. But perhaps what’s more of a surprise is that the original The Italian Job very nearly had a sequel too. Especially given it’s literal cliff-hanger ending.

Well, in order to get to the bottom of this one, I need to start at the end. As mentioned, the finale to The Italian Job is a literal cliff-hanger. The well planned heist had gone off without a hitch as Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) and his team make their getaway in a coach, after using (now iconic) three red, white and blue Minis to steal a load of gold. Winding their way through the alpine mountains on the Italian/French boarder and as the bouncy Getta Bloomin’ Move On! (The Self Preservation Society) tune plays, the over confident driver throws the coach around the tight corners of the mountainside road, loses control of the vehicle and it ends up teetering off the edge of a cliff. Gold bars at the back-end of the coach sticking out over the drop down the mountainside, Croker and his team in relative safety at the other end acting as a counter weight. One false move could shift the balance, then the coach, the gold and the heist team could all go over. 

ITALIAN JOB COACH

That’s when Charlie Croker tries to very slowly inch forward towards the gold. The coach creeks and dips as the weight balance is thrown off. Croker says: “Hang on a minute, lads. I’ve got a great idea.”, the camera pans out to show the massive drop off the mountain, the credits roll. We never learn what that ‘great idea’ was or if it would even work. The film ends with that afore mentioned literal cliff-hanger and goes down as one of the best endings to a movie ever. But… that wasn’t the original ending.

Oscar winner Michael Deeley, who was a producer on The Italian Job has revealed that they had not only previously planned a sequel, but said sequel was actually given the go ahead by the movie studio too. Now, the original ending was a little different. For the most part, the climax the film was largely the same, the coach still ended up teetering off the edge of a cliff, the gold at one end and the gang at the other. I’ll let Deeley himself cover what was supposed to happen when he spoke at the The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2019:

“We hear a grinding noise, which is a helicopter noise getting closer. Suddenly there’s a jerk underneath and the bus starts rising up far enough that the gold can slide out the front and the people can slide out the front. You cut outside and see two helicopters with a cable underneath the bus lifting everybody up. But of course, waiting outside is the mafia.”

Yup, both the gold and the gang originally escaped the coach, but had to hand over their loot to the mafia. According to Michael Deeley, the sequel had even started to be written and the opening of the film had been completed. Details on what the sequel would’ve been about are quite scarce as the story was never completed. But from what I’ve managed to dig up, supposedly after handing over the gold to the mafia, Charlie Croker and his gang come up with a scheme to steal the gold back from them. Even Michael Caine himself talked about the proposed sequel when he appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2016:

“What happened was, we were in the south of France. We switched on the engine, ran it for several hours. The gold was at one end and we were at the other. The engine ran out of petrol so the balance went alright. We got out of the coach and then the weight of the gold once we were out pushed it over the edge. Waiting at the bottom of the cliff was the French mafia, and they ran off with it and the sequel was we chaise them through the Riviera.”

Though Caine’s recollection of the original ending and sequel is a little different to Deeley’s, they both do mention that the gang did originally escape the coach and that the mafia end up with the gold. So I think it safe to assume the plot of the sequel did involve the gang stealing the gold back. Also according to producer Michael Deeley:

“I was always very happy with the idea that we would make another film but it just didn’t happen.”

Exactly why a planned, partly written and green-lit sequel never happened, I’m not really sure. Everyone seemingly wanted to do it including the movie studio, producers and the stars. But I do have a possible idea why we never saw The Italian Job 2. You see, Deeley has also spoken of his disappointment of the U.S. poster for the film:

“It showed Michael Caine with a cup of tea because he’s English, which is boring. He had a sub-machinegun, which suggested action but really suggested killing, and the map of the city of Turin on the young lady’s back. It couldn’t be less the movie.”

Oh and yes, that poster really did exist too. And yes, it really was that bad and had nothing to do with the movie itself…

ITALIAN JOB US POSTER

Seriously, do you see the heist flick with one of the greatest car sequences in that poster? Deeley had a point, it was crap. Michael Deeley believes the poor advertising campaign of the film is the reason it did so badly in the U.S., which could be true. All of which got me digging around and as classic as the film is seen as today, it bombed here in the U.K. too when it was originally released and was slammed by critics. Not as bad as in the U.S. no. But still, The Italian Job was not a big hit ,I guess the poor reception the film received on both sides of the pond could go some way as to explain why we never saw that sequel?

The Simpsons (Not) Predictions

Well, 2020 has been a hell of a year eh? Aside from killer viruses, another thing that keeps infecting my news feed are stories of how The Simpsons have predicted numerous huge and small world events, mainly due to some believing the show creator, Matt Groening is a time traveller. There are almost countless articles from sites all over the globe pointing out several ‘predictions’ that have been on the show that have seemingly come true. I read them with interest, only to find that a lot of people don’t know what a prediction is, or think that a prediction and a coincidence are the same thing.

I’ve decided to try and gather as many of those supposed predictions as I can find in an attempt to try to explain why they’re not what they seem. So here it is, my The Simpsons (not) predictions article.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

May as well start with the biggest news story of the year. 2020 saw this whole pandemic shit really hit the fan. But apparently, The Simpsons already predicted it back in 1993. It was season four and the episode, Marge In Chains where this prediction is found and the story is often headed with this image:

SIMPSONS COROAVIRUS

I’ll have more to say about this picture later, but for now, what this episode was about and the prediction. So, the episode Marge in Chains tells the story of Marge who is imprisoned for thirty days after accidently shoplifting some bourbon. However, the episode starts out with Homer buying a ‘juice loosener’ (“It’s whisper quiet”) gadget from a home shopping network on TV. These gadgets are made in Osaka, Japan. On the production line, one of the workers with the flu coughs into the box bound for Homer. So this flu virus makes its way from Japan to America where it infects the residents of Springfield.

So first things first… that image up there ^^^. It’s not even from this 1993 episode, it’s actually taken from the The Fool Monty episode from season twenty-two, 2010. Already we’re hitting a bit of a bump in this prediction. Then, the image has also been edited and someone out there has just lazily plastered the word ‘coronavirus’ over the pic:

SIMPSONS COROAVIRUS 2

Still, idiots on the interwebs don’t bother looking into facts when they have social media telling them what to think. But even so, this coronavirus pandemic originated from China, not Japan. It’s also not a flu virus. Then, coronavirus isn’t exactly new, it was first discovered in animals back in the 1920s, though it wasn’t officially given the name of ‘coronavirus’ until 1968. I really don’t think The Simpsons can predict something that already exists… that’s not a prediction is it? Just as a quick aside, this whole ‘predicting’ something that already exists will be a theme of this article. So what we have here is an episode that showed a flu virus being spread and not coronavirus, and the flu spreading is something that’s been going on for a long while now. Plus the country of origin was wrong, and the infection rates and scale were nothing like coronavirus either. So The Simpsons got absolutely nothing right. That’s really is far from a prediction eh?

Well, from one disgusting and debilitating disease to another.

Donald Trump Elected President

Yes, I can do satire too. Anyway, The Simpsons supposedly predicted that Donald Trump would become President of the United States. This one comes from season eleven, episode seventeen called, Bart to the Future from 2000. In this episode, Bart has his future told to him by a Native American (or as they should be called, Americans). The future shows Bart as a forty year old lay-about, a slacker who’s music career never took off. Often mooching off his friends and family, mainly his now POTUS sister, Lisa. 

LISA PRESIDENT

So Lisa is sitting in the Oval Office and is talking to her staff. This is when she utters the following line:

“We’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.”

So Lisa became President after Donald Trump, and this was said in 2000, while Trump didn’t become POTUS until 2016. Prediction? I really don’t think so. I mean, I could be really picky and point out that The Simpsons never state who this Trump president that preceded Lisa was. They don’t specify it was Donald… but that would be too easy. See, Trump may have announced his intention to run for President in 2015 for 2016… but that wasn’t the first time he mentioned it. In fact, he originally announced a presidential campaign back in 1999. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that 1999 is before the 2000 date the episode in question was aired. Is it not at all possible that the Bart to the Future episode quote was meant as a joke and not a prediction? In fact, Trump had been toying with the idea of running for president as far back as 1989, sometimes in a jokey way, sometimes more serious. Again, couldn’t The Simpsons ‘prediction’ have been nothing more than just a joke. The fact the joke came true is not a prediction, it’s a coincidence. In fact, the creator of the show, Matt Groening said:

“Back in 2000 Trump was, of course, the most absurd placeholder joke name that we could think of at the time and that’s still true.”

There you go, confirmation it was just a joke, Groening himself had stated as much. The name was used as an ‘absurd placeholder joke’ and nothing more and a joke that just became a coincidence. But still on this subject, there’s another famous image from The Simpsons that people also like to use to claim as being a prediction.

SIMPSONS TRUMP

This particular image, that I have not labelled with dates, that’s just how I found it from a Google search. I mean yeah, that’s pretty damn spooky and even cynical me would have to admit that’s impressively accurate… but it’s not strictly true. Yes The Simpsons featured a moment where Donald Trump is riding an escalator and according to (some of) the internet, this was from the year 2000 and the actual event with the real Trump occurred in 2015. But as I said, that’s not strictly true. See, Trumptastic Voyage, which is where the image comes from, wasn’t an actual The Simpsons episode at all and nor was it from 2000 either. It was actually just a short YouTube clip directed by David Silverman, who is a The Simpsons animator and director. The clip was made and released in 2015… the same year as the real event the clip was based on emerged. So not a prediction then? In fact, Trumptastic Voyage was made specifically to poke fun at the real footage when it was later revealed that Trump (or his people) had paid actors to pose for his phot-op. Hence why in The Simpsons clip/image, people are standing there holding placards saying ‘paid’.

So let’s summarise this ‘prediction’ then. Even the creator of the show has said that the Lisa Simpson line in the Bart to the Future from 2000 was nothing more than a joke. A joke that became a coincidence and a coincidence isn’t a prediction… it’s a coincidence. Then the Trump/escalator image has been tampered with to make people think it came from 2000 when it was in fact from a short YouTube clip made specifically to highlight the incredulous real footage. No predictions then.

Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

This was actually the reason why I wanted to write this article to begin with. I found the prediction claim on a site (Looper ,who get more things wrong than they do right) that Lady Gaga’s 2017 Super Bowl show was undeniably similar to an episode of The Simpsons from 2012. So I’ll just quickly summarise for those not in the know. Lady Gaga did a halftime Super Bowl show in 2017 that featured her wearing a typically Gaga-esque outfit. Look, here’s the show so you can see for yourself. And here’s a still from the mentioned The Simpsons episode.

LADY GAGA SIMPSONS

So in the episode, Lisa Goes Gaga, often cited as one of the worst episodes ever, Lady Gaga performs a gig where she flies about on a wire in an outrageous costume. Comparing with the Super Bowl show I linked to… yup, there’s a few strikingly accurate similarities. How about a little comparison pic?

LADY GAGA SIMPSONS 2

The hair is different, as is the outfit, but that’s still a very close prediction eh? Well no, not at all. First thing’s first, Lady Gaga is known for her costumes, so ‘predicting’ she would wear something like that is not much of a prediction is it? That’s like ‘predicting’ that the glass of water in front of you will feel wet if you poured it over yourself. Less a prediction and more stating the bloody obvious really. But let’s move on to the finer details. I don’t think we can really claim The Simpsons predicted that Gaga would do an elaborate live performance, I mean, that’s what she does. Just as with the outfit, it’s too obvious to call it a prediction. But the flying about on wires?

See, the main thing about this ‘prediction’ is that the episode in which Lady Gaga was in was from 2012, season twenty-three. The Super Bowl halftime show was from 2017. Using my rudimentary knowledge and understanding of time and maths, 2017 is after 2012, by around five years, if I were to hazard a guess. So if The Simpsons episode came first and the carefully designed and choreographed Super Bowl halftime show came later… where’s the prediction? Let me put it another way. I’m pretty sure that Lady Gaga would’ve known about and even saw the episode of The Simpsons in which she was in (call it a hunch). So if she would’ve known about the episode, is it not at all possible that she drew inspiration from said episode for her Super Bowl performance? It’s not a prediction is it, that’s just copying  or being influenced by something that already existed.

Roy Horn Mauling 

So before I get into this one, I guess you may want to know who Roy Horn was? Siegfried & Roy were magicians who were massively popular and known for their performances with white lions and tigers. The Simpsons featured their own in-universe parody of Siegfried & Roy called, Gunter & Ernst. In 1993, the episode called $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) from season five depicted Gunter & Ernst performing at Monty Burns’ casino. During said performance both of the magicians get mauled by Anastasia, their white tiger after it becomes upset for being captured and forced to perform.

GUNTHER AND ERNST

Ten years later in 2003, that mauling became a reality when Roy Horn of the real duo was attacked by their own white tiger, Montecore. Siegfried & Roy were performing at the Mirage casino in Las Vegas when Horn went off script to make the tiger do a trick for the audience. Montecore bit the sleeve of Horn’s costume and would not let go. After which, Roy Horn fell backward and Montecore the tiger stood over him, bit into his neck and dragged him off stage. Horn survived the attack, but was left with lasting injuries before dying in 2020 during the whole coronavirus pandemic (that The Simpsons definitely didn’t predict). 

Yeah, it’s eerie that the show had a small gag where a captured wild white tiger attacked it’s ‘masters’ during a performance in a casino… but is it really a prediction? If you do performances with wild tigers, there is a chance that one of them will snap and attack. The more performances you do, the greater that chance of attack becomes. Plus there was the fact that it has been said that Montecore didn’t actually attack Roy Horn, more so that the tiger was actually trying to protect and even save his life by dragging the magician off stage. Much like how big cats carry their young to protect them.

LION CUB

A sentiment Horn himself said was true as apparently, Roy Horn suffered a stoke during the performance and that was why he fell backward, then Montecore grabbed him (as it would with it’s young) and dragged him to safety. It’s just that there is a difference between a human’s neck and a young tiger’s one that Montecore wouldn’t have been aware of. So no, I don’t see this as a prediction as performing with wild animals is dangerous and an attack could happen any time, it’s called ‘playing the odds’. Plus the fact that it is believed that Montecore was trying to save Roy Horn and not harm him. While in The Simpsons version, it is explicitly spelt out that the tiger attacked out of anger, plus both performers were attacked too… the ‘prediction’ is not at all accurate, and so it’s not a prediction. The only thing that comes close is the fact both incidents occurred during a casino performance… but seeing as Siegfried & Roy were famed for casino performances, it’s not that impressive really.

George Floyd’s Arrest/Death And Kobe Bryant’s Death

So I’ve got a double dose of disrespect coming up now. First, if the whole coronavirus thing has been 2020’s biggest news story, then surely the abhorrent killing of George Floyd is a close second. I really don’t think I need to re-tread this story, everyone is already well versed in what happened by now. Yet did you know that The Simpsons very accurately predicted Floyd’s death before it even happened and in 1996 too?

GEORGE FLOYD

No, of course it didn’t, but that didn’t stop people for making out it did. The above images were circulating on social media for a while after George Floyd died. If it’s shared on social media then it has to be true… at least that’s the mentality of way, way too many idiots. I mean, we even have an episode title and date to back up the claim. Episode 146: The Day Violence Died, which aired March 17, 1996. First, let’s look at that episode. Yup it’s real and yes it did air on March 17, 1996. Season seven for those wondering. However, those images above are not from said episode. In the episode, it’s the 75th anniversary on in-universe cartoon, Itchy & Scratchy. Bart and Lisa discover a homeless man, Chester who claims to be the creator of Itchy from the famed cartoon. The siblings team up to help Chester to claim the royalties he is owed… nothing to do with George Floyd. Even so… 1996? Twenty-four years before anyone knew who George Floyd was? Think about it for a second, that’s not a prediction, that’s outright witchcraft.

The images above were actually drawn by a fan called Yuri Pomo and originally showed up on his Instagram. Yes the images are real too… just not from the episode in question or even official The Simpsons work. Yuri Pomo claims he drew the images as a way to raise awareness of the incident and he never once claimed it was from The Simpsons himself… and he didn’t. It was others who found the images and just attached the claim that they came from the episode, The Day Violence Died. Even more so, whoever started the claim must’ve done some serious homework as they not only got a title of an episode correct, but also the original air date spot on too. So, someone purposely went out of their way to a make this false claim seem genuine… what a prick! Which erroneous information leads me to the second part of this ‘prediction’.

Kobe Bryant was a much loved basketball player in the U.S. Adored and respected by a great many fans. He also died in a tragic helicopter crash in January of 2020. People claimed that The Simpsons also managed to predict this tragedy too back in 2017… no they didn’t. To be honest, I’m not really 100% sure how this one even started. I did manage to find a Twitter user making the claim.

Yes Kobe Bryant did appear on The Simpsons back in 2011 in the episode, The Falcon and the D’ohman. But a helicopter death was never mentioned at all. Again, this one is just some sick prick making up lies to spread over the interwebs. Sadly, just like the George Floyd one, people believed and shared it. Both complete bullshit and have since been proven false many times over… and yet some people are still sharing them as fact. I did think about not including either of these as they are both clearly fake claims and not actual ‘predictions’ made by The Simpsons, but it’s the fact they are still being shared today as being accurate and attributed to The Simpsons is why I chose to include them after all.

Autocorrect And Handheld Devices

So, there are a few technology predictions that people claim The Simpsons made, which have since come true. The first of which I aim to cover is how the show predicted autocorrect and iPads, etc. This is from the episode Lisa on Ice, 1994. The kids are attending a school assembly when prissy boy, Martin Prince makes a comment on how Principle Skinner’s new report card system is a good idea. School bully, Kearney then tells Jimbo to make a note on his Apple Newton to ‘beat up Martin’, which autocorrects to ‘eat up Martha’. 

EAT UP MARTHA

Yes this did happen in an episode… but it wasn’t a prediction of anything. The handheld device featured, the Apple Newton, really did exist at the time, released in 1993. It was an early PDA (personal digital assistant) from Apple and a precursor to the iPad. So they didn’t predict handheld devices, they just made fun of one that already existed. As for the autocorrect claim, that was an actual thing on the Newton. Again, The Simpsons didn’t predict it, it already existed. In fact, the whole joke of the autocorrect not working was also factual as the Newton’s handwriting recognition was terrible. Here’s a newspaper clipping from 1993 (before the episode) pointing out how bad the autocorrect was on the Newton. It’s not a prediction, it was a joke about a bad piece of hard and software that just didn’t work as it was meant to.

Smartwatches And FaceTime

Another tech prediction is smartwatches, this is from the 1995, Lisa’s Wedding episode. Like the previously mentioned Bart to the Future one, this episode is also a vision of the future and tells the story of a grown up Lisa meeting a man called Hugh Parkfield. The two fall in love and arrange to be married. In fact, Hugh’s proposal to Lisa is where the smartwatch prediction comes from. Hugh has an elaborate fireworks display set-up to ask Lisa to marry him, it goes wrong, so he has to call in plan b… which is just a cow with a ‘marry me’ message stuck to it, being pushed into Lisa’s view. But to call plan b into action, Hugh uses his watch and talks into it.

SIMPSONS SMARTWATCH

So a pretty accurate prediction? I mean, smartwatches didn’t exist until 2014, so The Simpsons were well ahead of the curve there. Of course not. Movies and T.V. shows have been using a similar communication devices for years, decades before The Simpsons did it or even existed. Just off the top of my head, this guy used to talk to his car via his watch…

KNIGHT RIDER

The Jetsons, Dick Tracy, Inspector Gadget, Star Trek… I could go on. All of them used watches as communication devices and more, and all of them years before the Lisa’s Wedding episode of The Simpsons too. Even The Flintstones featured a smartwatch… and they were from the stone-age! Cant get much older than that can you?

FLINTSTONES

Also from the same episode, we have a FaceTime prediction. This shows up when Lisa calls Marge to tell her about her getting engaged to Hugh. Mother and daughter talk on a phone with a screen so they can see each other… which is what we now call FaceTime. I grabbed the following image form an IGN article outright claiming The Simpsons invented FaceTime.

SIMPSONS FACETIME

See, the claim is right there in the pic, along with the IGN watermark. IGN state The Simpsons invented FaceTime. No they didn’t. Just as with the whole smartwatches thing, movies and T.V. shows have used screens as communication for decades, particularly with the sci-fi genre. Does no one remember the 2015 scenes from Back to the Future II when Marty is fired for pulling of a scam with Needles? He has two conversations via a screen in a few minutes… and that was back in 1989. But you can go even further back than that. If anyone ever claims The Simpsons predicted or invented some kind of tech we use today, always do a quick check with Star Trek first, cos they pretty much nailed all of it back in the 60s… including FaceTime. Even so, video calls, or ‘videotelephony’ as it was called, dates back even before Star Trek. Again, that’s not a prediction, that’s referencing something that already existed. Oh, and I think the word videotelephony needs to come back into popular usage instead of FaceTime.

Disney Buy Fox

In the 1998 episode, When You Dish Upon a Star, Homer becomes an assistant to Hollywood couple Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. While working for the stars, they are visited by famed director, Ron Howard. Homer takes the opportunity to pitch his movie idea to the director. As Homer himself describes it, it’s a film about a “killer robot driving instructor that travels back in time for some reason”, oh and it also features a talking pie. To be honest, that sounds better than most films Hollywood churn out these days. Anyway, things don’t work out between Homer and his new showbiz pals and the episode ends with Ron Howard pitching new movie ideas to Brian Grazer of 20th Century Fox. Outside of the studio, we see the following image.

DISNEY BUY FOX

A poster claiming that 20th Century Fox is a division of Disney, and this was back in 1998. Then in 2019… Disney actually did buy 20th Century Fox. So The Simpsons predicated that Disney would buy out Fox over two decades before it really happened. But here’s the thing, Disney had already gotten their wallet out before this episode existed. Back in 1995, they acquired Capital Cities/ABC media for $19 billion. There had been murmurs of Disney wanting to snap up other studios at the time too, including Fox. That is exactly what the joke was in reference too, the fact Disney were trying to buy out other companies. Of course, Disney would go on to buy other big names like Marvel and Lucasarts before they purchased Fox in 2019.  Even The Simpsons writer and producer, Al Jean said this about the Fox acquisition:

“I predict people will make far too much of this mere coincidence.”

There’s that keyword in that quote… coincidence. That’s all it is, it was a quick throwaway joke about how Disney were snapping up companies at the time. I mean, you could probably make a random guess at Disney buying up some other big name right now, give it a decade or so and it’ll probably come true. Not because you ‘predicated’ it, but because the changes are very high. 

HOMER MICKY MOUSE

Censorship of Michelangelo’s David

Back in 2016, those crazy Ruskies attempted to censor one of the world’s most famous pieces of art, Michelangelo’s David. Here’s an archived story from the BBC on that very topic. The short version is that a replica of the famed statue was to be put on show in St Petersburg, however, quite a few people became a tad upset over the fact the statue displays his wing-dang-doodle. The main outrage came from the fact that where the statue was being placed was near a church and a school. So residents were concerned that children could see the stone nudity.

THINK OF CHILDREN

So in order to protect sweet and innocent eyes, a campaign was launched to ‘dress David’… seriously. But here’s the thing, The Simpsons already covered (no pun) this issue back in 1990. It was the Itchy and Scratchy and Marge episode. In it, Marge launches a censorship campaign against the popular in-universe cartoon due to it’s violence. Later, Marge realises how wrong censorship is when Michelangelo’s David is brought to Springfield museum and residents (spurred on by Marge’s censorship campaign) protest about the statue’s nudity. The episode even used the following image to show the ridiculousness of the issue.

DAVID

There’s no arguing the similarities of this prediction, but the big problem is that censoring of David is not a new thing, not in 2016 when the statue upset the Russians and certainly not when The Simpsons ‘predicted’ as much in the episode either. The truth is that David (and other art) had been the subject of censorship for years, decades, centuries even. I mean, just off the top of my head, here in the U.K. in the sixties, seventies and eighties, we had the ultimate snowflake/Karen. Yes, decades before the world was ruined by the rise of the snowflakes, we had Mary Whitehouse the Queen of snowflakes. Whitehouse went on a decades long campaign to censor T.V. and movies… often very successful too. One joke from Monty Python’s Flying Circus showed one of their famed animations trying to remove a censoring fig leaf from the statue.

MONY PYTHON STATUE

Then, when the fig leaf is wrestled away, it reveals Mary Whitehouse complaining about the smut on the screen, you can see the animation right here. The fact that The Simpsons creator and staff are self-confessed fans of Python leads me to believe that their take was simply a Python reference more so than a ‘prediction’. But if that’s still not good enough for you, I mentioned earlier how art (and Michelangelo’s David) had been subjected to censorship for centuries and they were, as this archived article proves. Not long after it was first sculpted, David was censored in 1504… which was a couple of years (give or take) before both Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Simpsons even existed. The Victoria and Albert Museum even have/had a specially made fig leaf that was used to cover David’s naughty bits to protect the eyes of Queen Victoria in 1857. The truth is that Michelangelo’s David has been the subject of censorship for a long, long, long time and many, many times too. So it’s not so much that The Simpsons predicted it, more like a case of life imitating art, imitating life.

Phil Hartman’s Murder

This one is quite a big and rather macabre prediction to cover, it’s also one that is extremely personal to The Simpsons creators and staff. Phil Hartman was one of the most beloved and respected voice actors on the show. Everyone who worked on The Simpsons loved him and always spoke very highly of Phil Hartman as a performer and a friend. He was responsible for voicing some of the most popular characters on the show too. Hartman lent his vocals for several one-time characters like Lyle Lanley, the con man who sold Springfield a monorail, one of the better and classic episodes. He also voiced Moses, God… and Charlton Heston. But perhaps his most famous characters were Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure.

TROY AND LIONEL

Luckless lawyer Lionel Hutz was clueless and desperate for cases, most of which he lost. Still, he had a long ‘professional’ relationship with the Simpsons family and always (badly) represented them… when he wasn’t busy repairing shoes. Then there was Troy McClure, you may remember him from such medical films as, Alice Doesn’t Live Anymore and Mommy, What’s Wrong With That Man’s Face? He was a down on his luck actor, a Hollywood has-been desperate to make it big again, now reduced to small side projects just to put food on the table.

As long as The Simpsons has been going, both Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure are two fan favourite characters, despite not being in the show since 1998. This was due to Phil Hartman’s characters being retired after he was murdered. It was on the 28th of May, 1998 when Phil Hartman’s wife, Brynn Omdahl shot and killed Hartman while he slept in his bed. After confessing to the murder to a friend, she locked herself away in a bathroom of their home, then turned the gun on herself and committed suicide. Not wanting to dwell on married couple’s strained relationship, the news was a huge shock, not least for those working on The Simpsons at the time. Yet some people believe that they show predicted Phil Hartman’s murder in the end credits of an episode.

It was season nine and the All Singing, All Dancing from 1998 episode where said prediction lies. The baisc premise for this episode is basically a clip show, but one featuring many of the various songs from previous episodes, all wrapped up in a story about the family watching Paint Your Wagon. At one point in the episode, Snake holds the Simpson family hostage at gunpoint because he hates musicals and threatens to kill them.

SNAKE SIMPSONS

Of course, it all works out in the end and Snake leaves the family alone and the credits roll. But as the credits do roll, Snake fires his gun to shut off the music that is playing. The sound of the gunshots from Snake sound off at the exact point when Phil Hartman’s name appears in the credits. And so, this is why some people believe that the show predicated Hartman’s murder, which tragic event occurred just a few months after this episode originally aired in 1998. Just to show how stupid this theory is, I really need to go back to that whole Matt Groening being a time traveller thing. So let me see if I have this right… Matt Groening, who was a close and personal friend of Phil Hartman, knew his friend was going to be murdered and did nothing about it, except for sneaking in a sound effect during the credits of an episode? Time travel theory aside, does that sound like the kind of thing a friend would do?

This is one of those coincidence things I’ve mentioned several times already. Yeah it’s spooky and yeah it makes for an interesting tit-bit… but it’s no prediction. Of all of the ‘predictions’ the show has supposedly made over the years, this is perhaps the only one that (if true), they could’ve directly stopped from happening, but didn’t?


There are more ‘predictions’ I may call out as being utter bullshit some other time. Seriously, there’s dozens of them. But for me, I just don’t buy any of these ‘predictions’ at all. Most of them were not even predictions to begin with, some had to be edited by fans to make them seem more accurate, others were just mild coincidences and nothing more, most of them were jokes regarding events and things already well known about at the time. None of them specify a time and date, which is really what makes a prediction accurate and noteworthy. See, a prediction is a very specific thing. Let’s say I pick the lottery numbers and win the jackpot, that’s not a prediction, that’s an extremely lucky coincidence. But let’s say not only did I pick the winning lottery numbers, I tell people what order they would come out of the machine correctly too, that would be a prediction. Point being that a coincidence and a prediction are not the same thing, and that is what most of these The Simpsons things really are, a coincidence. 

The Simpsons has been going for thirty-one years, it has (as of writing) just shy of seven-hundred episodes. When you have that much content, that many jokes and references… some of them are bound to come true just based on the laws of averages alone. Have you ever noticed how no one ever writes articles on the ‘predictions’ The Simpsons haven’t got right and only concentrate on the very small % of ‘predictions’ that have? Because they’re not predictions.

If you want to see two Northern men get drunk and discus this very same issue, then please give this YouTube video a view.

Anyway, that’s it for me this year. See you in 2021.

 

My Favourite Die Hard Scene

Yippee ki yay mother cluckers! It’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting here partaking in my annual, thirty-plus year tradition of watching Die Hard. I’m not going to enter the never ending debate of whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not, all I’ll say is that a Christmas movie is one you enjoy watching over the festive season, regardless of setting or story. Anyway, I’m around fifteen minutes or so away from the end credits rolling and waiting for Vaughn Monroe to belt out Let it Snow. As I sit here readying myself for Hans Gruber to fall from Nakatomi Plaza… again. I thought I’d write about my favourite scene in the movie.

GRUBER FALL

Now, Die Hard is an all action flick with bullets flying, explosions destroying “a shit-load of screen doors” and attack helicopters… “Just like fucking Saigon, eh Slick?”. So the obvious pick for my favourite scene would be an action one… but it’s not. My pick is something far removed from action, it’s a scene where two people just talk. Yup, forget the mounting bodies of terrorists, the fiery destruction and pithy one liners. For me, it’s all about two guys talking. 

I guess the obvious choice would be the brilliant scene where McClane and Gruber meet face to face. The whole Hans Gruber trying to pass himself off as a worker at Nakatomi Plaza. It’s a very Alfred Hitchcock-esque bomb scene. I’ll let the man himself explain:

“There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and ‘surprise’, and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean.

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, ‘Boom!’ There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the décor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!”

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

It is that suspense of the McClane and Gruber meeting that makes that scene work. We the audience know ‘Bill Clay’ is Gruber, and we would like to warn the hero. But there’s the added twist of the fact that we don’t know if McClane knows who ‘Bill Clay’ really is or not. The suspense is so thick you could cut it. The fact it’s brilliantly acted helps too. Yet as great as that simple scene of two people talking is amazing, it’s still not my favourite. My choice actually comes not too long after that meeting of McClane and Gruber.

MCCLANE AND GRUBER

So ‘Bill Clay’ reveals himself to be Hans Gruber and in turn, John McClane reveals himself not to be as stupid as Gruber hoped, what with giving him an empty gun and all. Anyway, Gruber’s men turn up and a mass shoot out begins. McClane runs for his life and is cornered, in an office with glass panels everywhere. There’s a fire escape near by, but one major problem. Hans Gruber orders Karl to “schieß dem fenster”… shoot the glass! Tit-bit time: ‘schieß dem fenster’ actually translates to ‘shoot the windows’. This could explain why Karl looks at Hans with a puzzled look on his face, as shooting out the windows makes no sense. So Hans repeats, in English and this time says to “shoot the glass” (panels) in the office instead of the windows. 

So the shards of glass fly and McClane has to make a run for it… barefoot. We then cut to McClane dragging himself across the floor into a bathroom, beaten and bloodied, complete with shards of glass in his feet. He pulls out his walkie-talkie and begins a conversation with Sgt. Al Powell, McClane’s only confidant who is outside with the rest of the police and gathering press. They engage in a bit of light-hearted banter, taking bets on McClane making out alive and all. There are a couple of laughs as the pair chat. But there’s something niggling away at the back of John McClane’s head, he begins to believe he won’t actually make it out alive. Up to this point in the flick, he’s already been through hell. Fist fights, shot at (many, many times), stuck in vents, he’s exhausted and pissed off that the police are doing such a terrible job outside. Plus, he now has a load of broken glass stuck in his bare feet.

MCCLANE BAREFOOT

“The man is hurting! He is alone, tired, and he hasn’t seen diddly-squat from anybody down here. Now you’re gonna stand there and tell me that he’s gonna give a damn about what you do to him, IF he makes it out of there alive?”

– Sgt. Al Powell

John McClane is only human and he’s been pushed about as far as any man can be pushed, he’s been stretched to breaking point already and he knows it. He’s pretty much about to give up, or die trying. That’s when he opens up to Powell and the conversation changes from the light-hearted banter to something more macabre. McClane asks Powell for a very specific favour. He asks Powell to find his wife and give her a message:

“Tell her it took me a while to figure out, uh, what a jerk I’ve been, but um, that, uh, when things started to pan out for her, I should’ve been more supportive and, uh, I just should have been behind her more. Tell her, that, uh, that she is the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She’s heard me say ‘I love you’ a thousand times, she never heard me say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I want you to tell her that, Al. I want you to tell her that, uh John said he’s sorry.”

– John McClane

This is the hero trying to get a final massage to his wife because he knows his time is all but up. You have to remember that at the time, Bruce Willis was not a huge star. Aside from being on the T.V. show Moonlighting (great show I highly recommend), he just wasn’t that well known back then. That coupled with John McClane trying to get a final message to his wife kind of convinced the audience that the hero could very well die in this film.

Willis’ acting in that one scene and the moment when McClane passes the message onto Powell is brilliant. He really manages to convey a sense of fear and loss of drive to continue. I think the way it was written and delivered with the pauses and the ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ that make the speech sound genuine and real, not ‘movie-like’. Plus there’s a subtle and fantastic bit of direction from ‎John McTiernan that a lot of people miss. When McClane is on on the walkie-talkie, he’s on the left side of the screen, when the shot cuts to Powell, he’s on the right side of the screen. It’s a really clever bit of direction that tries to put the two characters in the same space even though they are in completely different locales. As the camera cuts from one to the other (left, right, left, right), it looks like they are talking to and even looking at each other directly.

MCCLANE BATHROOM

Die Hard is a action film that still holds up well today… yet my favourite bit has nothing to do with action and all about character. And yes… it is a Christmas film. Anyway, it’s coming up to midnight and I have to go to sleep or Santa won’t leave me any Christmas  presents.

Come In, And Know Me Better Man: Big And Small Screen Adaptations Of A Christmas Carol

As the great Noddy Holder once famously proclaimed in December of 1973:

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!”

NODDY

I love Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. To give it its full title), not only is it a great story, it’s become one of the best and most adapted novellas ever. In fact, I believe it is the most TV and film adapted story ever made. Current count, there have been over ninety… yes nine-zero versions of the original story on TV and film since Scrooge (Marley’s Ghost) from 1901 to 2019. That’s a lot of different versions to cover and a list that would take me way too long to go through… and that’s exactly why I’m just going to pluck some of the many, many versions and take a look at them right here in this article.

When Mr Dickens first published A Christmas Carol back in 1843 (that’s a hundred and seventy-seven years ago for those counting), I don’t think even he knew it would be such an everlasting tale. One that has put in place many of the Christmas staples that we still hold dear today. In fact, up on its original publication, Charles Dickens had more than his fair share of critics. While A Christmas Carol was mostly enjoyed by many, some called the story out for its nonsense and as being rather hackneyed. Plus there was the high cost of the novella itself, being sold at five shillings in 1843, that’s around £25 ($33) in today’s money. The high cost of the book really came down to Charles Dickens’ insistence that it be printed on the highest possible quality paper and in hardback/leather covers too… for a small novella. Just to put it into perspective, A Christmas Carol has a wordcount of 30,953. Let’s get into the Christmas spirit and round that up to 31,000 words. Dickens’ previous publication, Martin Chuzzlewit, had a collective wordcount of a little over 375,000. £25 for a novella with only 31,000 words? But then again, when first editions of the book go for several thousand today, £25 doesn’t seem that expensive I guess.

SCROOGE AND MARLEY

Did you know the first public reading of the novella was carried out by Charles Dickens himself? On the 27th of December, 1853, Dickens read A Christmas Carol in the Birmingham Town Hall, England (my hometown). It was a reading to a selection of literary art types, before a repeat performance a few days later for the ‘working classes’. Also, Charles Dickens read A Christmas Carol to the public at many events right up to his death in 1870. A Christmas Carol is simply the greatest Christmas story ever told and did you know that since its original publication in 1843 right up to today, it has never once been out of print? That’s pretty impressive.

Anyway, I’m here to yak on about and pick some notable adaptions of the story, and not bore you with pointless trivia on the novella itself. So here we go, my favourite adaptions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. I’ve provided links to trailers of my choices, just click the titles for a peek.

Scrooge (1901)

SCROOGE (1901)

I guess the first place to start is with the first believed to be filmed adaption, Scrooge (or Marley’s Ghost) from 1901. Now, it can not be confirmed that this was the first ever filmed adaption, but this is the earliest one known to have been filmed and the only one that  still exists today. Its a silent film and only a little over three and a half minutes long too as not all of the footage is available anymore (sources claim it was either originally nine or eleven minutes long), unfortunately lost to the ravages of time. Still, for the era it was made, it really is quite impressive how they got the main thrust of the story across with no dialogue. The ghost effects work and are quite damn good to be honest, for a film that is almost a hundred and twenty years old anyway. Directed by Walter R. Booth, who was a British magician and a pioneer of early filmmaking.  Short and basic, but very ambitious and the beginning of a very, very long celebration of the famed Charles Dickens yarn.

Scrooge (1951)

SCROOGE (1951)

Jumping forward a few decades or so and I believe that this is the first movie version of the story that I ever saw. Retitled A Christmas Carol in the U.S., this one stars the legend that was Alastair Sim as the titular Scrooge and directed by Brian Desmond Hurst. It’s a rather gloomy and grim film, but that definitely works in the movie’s favour and really capturers the tone of the original novella well. Originally shot in black & white… which really does look beautiful in a darkly-gothic way, even today. There is a colourised version too, and it’s terrible, avoid! Alastair Sim really is just sublime as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. A wonderful performance and easily up there as one of the finest to take the role on. Not the first live action film adaption, but the one that set a very high bar that very few could match.

Scrooge (1970)

SCROOGE (1970)

‘What the Dickens have they done to Scrooge?’, the trailer asks. Well, they’ve gone and turned it into an all signing, all dancing musical. That’s what I love about A Christmas Carol adaptions, they come in all shapes, sizes and variations, all adding their own unique flavour to the tale. Albert Finney takes on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and was only thirty-three when he played the old and miserly Scrooge, using make-up to age the young actor. Scrooge was nominated for various awards, including four Oscars, plus Finney won a Golden Globe for best actor. Some wonderful set design and memorable songs, even if the ‘ghosts’ are a tad unimpressive if I’m being honest. This is a very good and solid version.

Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)

Christmas Carol The Movie (2001)

An animated (one of many) take on the classic tale from 2001. This one actually strays quite a fair bit form the source material, while the basic story is the same, changes have been made to allow for some alternate storytelling. Scrooge, voiced by Simon Callow, is far younger than usually depicted. This lends way to rekindle his relationship with his old flame, Belle, played by Kate Winslet. There are a handful of new characters not found in the original novella. The art style and animation is really quite bleak and foreboding, and all works really well for the story. Oh yeah, Nicolas Cage voices Marley’s ghost, which is reason enough to watch. Scrooge in this version is particularly nasty and is even indirectly responsible for killing Tiny Tim. Certainly more embellished over other versions, but the changes are (mostly) well implemented. Not a brilliant take, but one that does a few new things that I feel are worth a watch… plus Nicolas Cage.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

If you’re looking for a way to introduce the young ‘uns to Charles Dicken’s timeless Christmas narrative, then this is definitely the best place to start. First, it has a relatively short runtime of around twenty-five minutes. Second, it features pretty much every well known Disney character to boot. Of course Ebenezer Scrooge in this version is played by Scrooge McDuck… for blindingly obvious reasons. While Micky Mouse is the long suffering Bob Cratchit. The likes of Goofy, Jiminy Cricket, Donald and Daisy Duck, and Minnie Mouse fill out most of the rest of the roles too. Not as dark and gloomy as other adaptions… cos it is a Disney cartoon, but it really does act as the perfect way to get kids interested in the tale. I put it on for my three year old and she watched the whole thing. Plus, Pixar supremo, John Lasseter, was one of the animators on this one too… before he was ‘let go’ at Disney for wanting to explore computer animation. Yeah, as if that would lead anywhere.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

So, this one is directed by Clive Donner, who was actually the editor on the Alastair Sim starring 1951 Scrooge. This version was a made for T.V. movie, which usually are notably terrible, this one manages to turn out pretty damn good though. With the awesome George C. Scott as Scrooge, and a fantastic take on the character too. Scott just has one of those on-screen presences that works, plus his gravely voice is perfect for the role. One of my favourite depictions of the character ever. In fact, there’s actually a pretty impressive cast throughout, David Warner, Susannah York, Angela (daughter of Donald) Pleasence and Edward Woodward as one of the best versions of the ghost of Christmas present. Definitely one of the better takes on A Christmas Carol and one any fan should seek out.

A Flintstone’s Christmas Carol (1994)

A Flintstone's Christmas Carol (1994)

WILMA!!! I used to love watching The Flintstones as a kid, a true Hanna-Barbera classic. It was basically a precursor to The Simpsons and the two shows share a lot of similarities too. The story in this one doesn’t follow the Dicken’s tale as closely as others. In fact, the plot features the residents of Bedrock putting on an amateur production of A Christmas Carol with Fred playing Scrooge in a play… which doesn’t make sense seeing as The Flintstones is set in the stone-age and the story didn’t exist then. Still, historical inaccuracy aside (as if The Flintstones was ever accurate), the writers of this one have put together a very clever and surprising take on the tale. There’s some great humour with clever meta references and jokes. If you want a family fun and very different take on Charles Dickens’ Christmas yarn, then you can’t really go wrong with this one. I really was genuinely surprised at how good this one is.

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)

Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)

Blackadder is one of the greatest comedies ever created. One that is set in different time periods per series, but all connected via the central characters. This Christmas special is set between Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth. Of course, Rowan Atkinson plays Ebenezer Blackadder with Tony Robinson as the ever loyal Baldrick. In fact, pretty much every Blackadder actor is back in one form or another playing ancestors of their characters from previous series of the show. This version really turns the whole story on its head, I don’t want to spoil any surprises here, but I will say that this is not quite as ‘traditional’ as other takes on the tale are. Also, try to seek out the uncut version as a funny but disturbing joke was edited out after its original airing. Blackadder + Dickens = brilliant.

A Christmas Carol (1971)

A Christmas Carol (1971)

I couldn’t find a trailer for this one… sorry. But we are back in animated film territory again and one produced by animated legend, Chuck Jones. It even won the Oscar for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ too. Beautiful hand-drawn animation that really helps to bring the characters to life. In fact, the art style is inspired by the original illustrations found in Dickens’s novella. Only a short twenty-five minutes runtime, yet it captures everything the novella offered really damn well. Plus, Alastair Sim voices Scrooge, playing the character for the second time… and doing it really well too. It really is a beautifully striking piece of animation that often gets a bit dark, scary and surreal, almost Pink Floyd’s The Wall surreal animation at times. In fact, I’d probably say that this is the most authentic and accurate version when compared to the original story. You know how I said I couldn’t find a trailer? Well I couldn’t, but I did find the whole film on YouTube instead. Highly recommended.

A Christmas Carol (2009)

A Christmas Carol (2009)

This is a version I have a very deep rooted love/hate relationship with. I mean, it’s  written and directed by one of my favourites, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump). It stars Jim Carrey, who can either be amazing or just plain annoying. And it really is a visual treat too. But it just feels a bit flat to me, all show and no substance. Carrey plays multiple roles in this one, not just Scrooge, but also the three ghosts that come to visit Scrooge to show him the error of his ways. It’s too much Jim Carrey for me and his performances soon began to grate my nerves. There’s a really good cast here too, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth… but they get pushed to the back burner to make way, for what becomes, the Jim Carrey show. As I said, visually, this is sublime. The CGI work and motion capture is amazing and it’s a great way to see just how far we have come since the 1901 version. I bet this was a blast seeing in 3D on the big screen. But as a telling of the classic tale, there are far better versions out there.

A Christmas Carol (1999)

A Christmas Carol (1999)

Another made for T.V. special, though it was later released on DVD. The mighty Patrick Stewart play Ebenezer Scrooge, and a damn fine job he does too. The idea to make this version came after Stewart performed one man versions of A Christmas Carol on stage on Broadway and London. A much more serious and sombre take and it handles the darker tones of the story really well too. The ghosts are genuinely creepy and effective too. But overall, this one is a little off target and doesn’t really hit the spot. A very average version, but still worth checking out even if only for Patrick Stewart.


Okay, so as I’ve been compiling this list, I’ve not put them in any particular order. They are just versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that I feel are worth looking into. Some great, some okay-ish ones. Some older classics, some more modern takes and even fun cartoons that really play around with the story. But now, I am going to put my final two picks into an order, my top two versions of A Christmas Carol. You can most probably guess which are my top two anyway…

Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged (1988)

We’ve already had a good mix of different takes on the story, but most of them tend to stick to a traditional and obviously Dickensian feel and tone, Victorian England setting and all that… except for The Flintstones which broke quite a few expectations. Very, very few adaptions try to break tradition and go for a more contemporary setting. Then you have Scrooged. Directed by Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon, The Goonies, Superman: The Movie, The Omen) and starring Bill Murray. This one is very different to other adaptions before or even since, like The Flintstones version, Charles Dickens’ novella actually exists in the universe the film is set in. In fact, Bill Murray doesn’t even play Ebenezer Scrooge. Murray is Frank Cross, a slimy and hard nosed T.V. network president looking for ideas to gets viewers to tune into the network he works for over Christmas. So far, so very not A Christmas Carol at all.

Cross comes up with the idea to broadcast an overtly extravagant and live production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve on his network. This means staff are forced to work over the festivities instead of being with their families. Frank Cross fires anyone who doesn’t like his idea or if they refuse to work, he’s particularly mean to his brother and all that stuff. Yes, Frank Cross is essentially Ebenezer Scrooge. So while the set up and modern setting is very different to the original tale, its basics are the same as Cross is visited by the ghost of his old mentor, who tells him that he will be visited by three ghosts. So the standard Scrooge character learns to be a better man and everything ends up working out for the better as the end credits roll and Bill Murray gets the audience to join in with a sing-a-long to Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Scrooged (1988) 2

For me, its really Bill Murray who sells this one. He’s just great at playing those loveable arsehole types. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, Phil Connors from Groundhog Day. Speaking of Ghostbusters, this was the first major starring film Murray did after taking a long break after filming the 1984 spooky, comedy classic. He even thought about quitting from acting all together before signing on for this flick. Reports on set state that Bill Murray and director, Richard Donner didn’t get on at all, with both of them agreeing that making Scrooged was one of the worst experiences of their respective careers. There were disagreements on the direction the film should go, arguments over Murray’s famed ad-libbing, fights about the story and more. Yet despite all of the behind the scenes shenanigans, the end result is surprisingly great. The chemistry between Bill Murray and his love interest, Karen Allen is fantastic and the film features one of my favourite depictions of the ghost of Christmas future in any A Christmas Carol adaption. A nice and refreshing take on an age old story that has been done so many times the same way before.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Not only my absolute favourite version of A Christmas Carol, but also my all time favourite Christmas film ever (sorry Die Hard). I grew up watching The Muppets, Mom tells me that I was always transfixed to the T.V. whenever they were on. I’m now in my mid-forties and I still love The Muppets. It’s the anarchic and zany comedy, the weird and wonderful creatures (what is a Gonzo?), the amazing music and songs. The Muppets creator, Jim Henson was a legend and for me, this was his greatest achievement with the characters. Yes, yes, I know that Jim died in 1990 before this film (directed by his son Brian) was made. But if it wasn’t for everything he did before his death, to take The Muppets from unwanted pilot T.V. show (it was originally turned down by every major network in the U.S.) to worldwide phenomenon that is still going  today, then The Muppet Christmas Carol would never had existed.

Anyway this version is strangely, a much more traditional adaption of Dickens’ story. As ‘traditional’ as you can be with The Muppets anyway. Back to the Victorian England setting and that very Dickensian tone…. but with The Muppets, and yet it works perfectly. Pretty much all of the cherished Muppets are here, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Fozzie Bear as Mr. Fozziwig (Fezziwig), Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchit and more. With Gonzo the Great (whatever he is) playing Charles Dickens himself. This is actually one thing that (I don’t think) any other adaption has ever done, use Dickens as the narrator, cos he narrates the original novella. In fact, The Muppet Christmas Carol takes several direct quote from Dickens’ and delivers them through Gonzo… seriously, what is he? And then you have the mighty Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. What I love about this particular performance is just how straight Caine plays it. He’s performing with the most (in)famously anarchic, ragtag and unruly ‘actors’ on the planet… they are The Muppets. Yet Michael Caine is 100% straight with them, as if he’s treading the boards at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with Sir Lawrence Olivier. It’s utterly brilliant, a lesser actor would play up to The Muppets, gurn to the camera (see the newer films) and try to fit their humour. Caine doesn’t, he treats this role as if he was acting with real performers in a straight take on the tale… and I love it.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) 2

The Muppet Christmas Carol is wonderfully chaotic and yet, beautifully grounded. The acting is brilliant, from both Michael Caine and The Muppets. The sets are gorgeous and cleverly designed, what with all the puppet work going on. The songs are amazing and still stick in my head all these years later…

“There goes Mr. Outrage.
There goes Mr. Sneer.
He has no time for friends or fun.
His anger makes that clear.
Don’t ask him for a favour.
‘Cause his nastiness increases.
No crust of bread for those in need.
No cheeses for us meeses.”

It’s stupid and zany, yet the source martial and story are still treated with deep respect too. A wonderful cocktail of various messed up ingredients that work perfectly together. My all time favourite Christmas film and one that I always watch on the big day.


So there you have it, my picks of A Christmas Carol adaptions that I feel are worth looking at. An eclectic mix of straight and traditional versions, to more absurd and comical takes. Live action, animation and even The Muppets. I think the reason my last two top picks are both comical is because the original tale is so dark that the juxtaposition of seriousness against comedy somehow works.

Still, whatever version of this tale you personally enjoy, I hope you have a good Christmas and all that stuff. I have one more article to end this year with, as I look at one of the biggest entertainment stories of 2020… and try to point out how much bullshit it all is… coming soon.

My Personal History Of Horror: How I Became A Horror Fan

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and I always enjoy doing my Halloween specials every year. I really do love horror films and the horror genre as a whole, yet I’ve never really put much thought into how I became a fan of horror films… until recently. I’ve been reminiscing the last week or so on the movies I grew up watching and the flicks that scared me when I was younger. Right here, I’m going to try to create a history in words and pictures form, looking back at just how I became a horror fan. A little journey through my own personal history of watching horror films.

WATCHIG HORROR FILMS

Now, I can’t be 100% sure of the first horror film I ever saw, but I do have vivid memories of moments of my life that are related to horror films and TV. Growing up, we didn’t get a VHS player until the late eighties. So if I did see any horror films before then, it would’ve been on a TV broadcast or at someone else’s house. One memory that instantly comes to mind as I write this, is staying with my grandparents at their house, I was maybe about five or six years-old. Nan would often let me stay up late-ish and watch some TV before bed (don’t tell Mom). I remember one Saturday night when the Spielberg classic, Jaws was on TV. Nan and Granddad must’ve let me stay up late to watch the whole film and I remember Nan going into the kitchen to make a bit of supper, she came back with strawberry jam sandwiches. It was the finale of the film when the shark was attacking the boat, and Robert Shaw’s Quint slid down the deck of the Orca into the shark’s mouth. The great white slammed shut it’s jaws, chomping down on Quint, a small geyser of blood spurts from his mouth as he gets eaten alive. It terrified me… until I looked away from the TV and over to Nan, with strawberry jam purposely dripping from her mouth, making me laugh to help take my mind of the horror I just saw.

I was around the same age when I first saw a scene in a film that both scared and mesmerised me. It was a sleep over at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, me, my two brothers and our two cousins. My Aunt and Uncle had a VHS player and would often rent out tapes from a local shop down the road, that’s how I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. As terrifying as the Nazi face-melting finale is in that film, it’s not the one that I’m talking about now. I’m talking about a dog’s head being split open.

THE THING POSTER

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favourite horror films. There’s this one particular scene from that film is one that is burnt into my memory forever. That cute Vancouver Island wolf-Alaskan Malamute cross breed, played by Jed (he even has his own Wikipedia page) was adorable. Unbeknown to us viewers and the characters in the film at the time, that cute dog had been assimilated by an alien. Soon after finding refuge with the humans, that little doggie turns inside out. It’s an amazing piece of special effects work that I feel still holds up today. Yeah, it scared me as a kid, but I also found it strangely beautiful to watch too. It’s that moment before the dog becomes the full on The Thing, as it is transforming and the head splits open like a peeled banana that has really stuck with me all these years. That one specific shot only takes up a few seconds of a much bigger scene, but those few seconds are firmly ingrained into my mind. I have been fascinated with practical effects work in horror films ever since. That one scene and only few seconds of that one scene are the reason I’m so in awe of artists like Tom Savini, Rick Baker and Stan Winston. With Winston being the man created the dog scene in The Thing. Now, before horror fans start screaming at the screen that it was Rob Bottin who did the effects work on The Thing (he did), Bottin became overwhelmed with all the work and ended up in hospital with exhaustion, so help was brought in. That help was Stan Winston, who brought in his team to do the whole dog scene.

THE THING DOG

Poltergeist, that was another film I saw for the first time at my Aunt’s house on VHS. Aside from remembering my cousin, Sam, hiding behind a cushion for pretty much the entire film, there’s the face peeling scene which definitely had an impact on me. Still, as gruesome as that scene is, it’s nothing compared to that fucking clown doll. I was a kid when I saw this, the fact it happens in a kid’s (Robbie) room full of toys (some I had), helped put me in the shoes of Robbie. For weeks after, whenever I went to bed back then, I would check underneath just in case there were any killer clown dolls were lurking. Still, I blame the parents, why kind of mother and father buys something that looks that terrifying as a gift for their son?

POLTERGIEST CLOWN

I was still a young kid when I first saw one of the most iconic scenes in horror film history, from the man who directed a bread commercial in 1973. Just a few years after that simple ad, Ridley Scott would go on to direct one of the most seminal and ground-breaking horror films ever, Alien. I remember the first time I ever saw the infamous chest-buster scene in Alien. It was very late at night, probably early hours of the morning when I think about it. Everyone in our house was asleep… everyone except me. I had noted that Alien was being sown on TV and set the alarm on my wrist-watch to wake me up, I snuck downstairs, doing my best to avoid the creaky step, not wanting to wake Mom up. I slowly opened the living room door and flicked the TV on. The film had already started, I missed the first ten minutes or so. I needed a little company… just in case I got too scared, so I carefully tiptoed to the kitchen and opened the door so our dog, Ben could join me on the sofa. Me and Ben sat there watching Alien. I had manged to watch the face-hugger jump scare as it latched onto John Hurt’s face, that didn’t scare me… much. So I was pretty sure I could take anything this film threw at me. Then the dinner scene happened. 

ALIEN CHESTBURSTER

It’s the family atmosphere thing that really sells this particular scene. Everyone sitting around and enjoying a meal. They’re laughing and joking, John Hurt starts chowing down on some (I think) noodles. He coughs, splutters and starts to choke, Yaphet Kotto makes that quip about the food not being that bad, still maintaining a sense of humour. Then, it just all flips on its head. That jovial atmosphere suddenly ends as John Hurt lies on the table, there’s that first burst of blood followed by silence… just for a few moments. Then utter chaos, the blood sprays everywhere as the alien is ‘birthed’. To be honest, I didn’t even make it to the end of the scene. It was the early hours of the morning, pitch black dark and I was eight, maybe nine years-old with only the family dog to keep me company. I turned the TV off before the alien fully emerged, put the dog back in the kitchen and went back to bed, too scared to sleep. So anyway, Mom when you read this. I snuck downstairs to watch Alien on TV about 1984-85-ish.

As I said before, I can’t actually remember the first horror film I ever saw, or at least I can’t be 100% sure of what it was. I do have two very clear memories that I think could’ve been the first though. I don’t have many memories of my dad, long story short, he walked out when I was very young. But I do remember he used to have one of the old reel-to-reel projector things, before VHS became popular. I remember dad coming home one day with some film reels to watch, he said he had a film with Sylvester Stallone in it, my child brain then just heard the word Sylvester and I instantly thought of this guy…

SYLVESTER CAT

The Sylvester film wasn’t a cartoon with a cat though, it was First Blood. Yes I know that First Blood isn’t a horror film. Still, I do remember dad setting up the projector, getting a white bedsheet and hanging it up on the wall as a makeshift screen and we watched First Blood. As I said, he had other films too and after First Blood, we watched another film, Carrie (at least I’ve managed to make my articles link this year!). I don’t actually remember watching the film if I’m honest, but I know I was definitely there while it was on. There’s this one moment that is practically fresh in my mind, it’s after the whole school prom and pigs blood thing. Carrie is already in the midst of her revenge as the school burns, she in on the street walking home when the school bullies Billy and Chris try to run her down in the car. Carrie does some of her telekinesis stuff and causes the car to crash. It was that moment when I remember my dad exclaiming: “Go on Carrie!”, cheering her along. That one line from my dad is one of the very few memories of him that I have, and it’s connected to a horror film.

I did say that I have two horror film memories connected to my dad, Carrie was one, the other? Some low budget horror flick called The Evil Dead. Now, being from England, The Evil Dead was a bit of a hot topic in the early eighties. I mean, it was part of the whole video nasties thing. Basically, there were a load of old geezers in charge of the ratings at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) who brought in a law (Video Recordings Act 1984) which saw a lot of films either heavily censored or just outright banned. Mostly, the films caught up in this new law were horror films and one of those flicks was The Evil Dead. While never outright banned (it was censored), The Evil Dead was put under section 2 by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). This meant that while the film was not banned, anyone selling or distributing it could be liable to prosecution. Look, there a fantastic article that goes into great detail over the whole The Evil Dead video nasty thing right here. Point is that the film was incredibly hard to come by in the UK… but my dad got a copy, I don’t know how he got it or where from, but he did. I clearly remember the card guessing scene, “queen of spades, two spades, jack of diamonds, jack of clubs…” then possessed Cheryl turns around… scared the crap out of me to the point where no matter how long it’s been, if The Evil Dead is ever mentioned by anyone, then that is the one scene that instantly springs to mind.

Looking back on my childhood, and I used to watch some pretty messed up stuff. I mean, I’m still only around six or eight years-old when I would’ve seen these films, even younger in some instances. I’m not even in double digits yet and I’ve already seen some of the most famous and infamous horror films made. Hammer Horror films were another mainstay of my growing up. I used to love being terrified by the Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Hammer produced some of the finest horror films of fifties, sixties and seventies. They really treated the classic monsters with respect (mostly), and gave new life to a dying genre. Plus, they gave the world the most terrifying version of Dracula ever.

CHRISTOHPER LEE DRACULA

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were like family friends to me… really scary family friends. But it wasn’t just movies, Hammer House of Horror was an anthology horror TV show (obviously) from Hammer. Thirteen hour long episodes were made and all of them are worth watching, very dated and a little cheesy now yes, but still worth a view. But there is one episode that is lodged in my mind, The House that Bled to Death. A tale about a young family who move into a house where a murder took place some time before. It’s all a bit The Amityville Horror (another flick I saw as a kid) but with that very distinct British, Hammer Horror style. The house does its best to scare its new owners, which all leads to a child’s birthday party and one of the bloodiest scenes over on TV. Oh, and an ending that satirises the whole The Amityville Horror thing too. All you have to do is say Hammer House of Horror to British people of a certain age and they’ll know…

HAMMER HOUSE BLED TO DEATH

Amicus were another British production studio famed for their horror flicks. They were ever rivals to Hammer Horror for a while. They had a similar style, used a lot of the same actors and so on. But it was their portmanteau horror films where they really excelled. In fact, I did an article a few years back about those very films, looking at every story of every Amicus anthology film. Please excuse the poor formatting and overall presentation in that one, I was still finding my feet as a writer and all that back then. Anyway, those Amicus films were amazing. Particularly the original Tales from the Crypt, before it became a TV show, but after the EC Comics. This was a film I remember watching more than a few times as a kid. All of the stories are great, Poetic Justice being my favourite with the brilliant Peter Cushing in one of his finest roles.

POETIC JUSTICE

When we did finally get our own VHS player, late eighties-ish, that was when a whole new world of horror opened up for me. My older brother would often rent out tapes and they’d always be a horror film or two in them. Plus, I didn’t have to stay up late or sneak down to watch horror films on TV anymore, cos we could just record them off the TV instead. I heard about Freddy Krueger long before I ever saw him, kids at school would talk about this guy who came after you in your dreams. It was the late eighties, the fourth film had already been released and Freddy had already become a pop culture icon by then. I wanted to know who this Freddy guy was that kids at school were talking about, so I asked my older bother to get a ‘Freddy film’ next time he went to the video rental store. He came back with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, the scariest Freddy has ever been. I didn’t see the original film for a few years later, but that is what got me into slasher films. Shockingly enough, I hadn’t seen Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc up to that point, but now we had our own VHS player, I could and I did. Whether they were recorded (and heavily censored) from the TV or my brother rented them out, I got to catch up all those horror film I had previously missed. The late eighties and early nineties were when I went on a horror film marathon. Hellraiser, The Shinning, Return of the Living Dead, Phantasm, The Fly and so many more. I was soaking horror of films up like a sponge through the nineties.

THE FLY

Unfortunately for us here in Blighty, we still had old stick-in-the-muds running the BBFC and the whole video nasty thing was still very much going on. The shocking and brutal murder of James Bulger didn’t help either. Horror films were used as the scapegoat, particularly Child’s Play 3 and horror films were still being banned and censored all over. Then in 1998, James Ferman the director of the BBFC retired and so did his archaic rules. By 1999, many previously banned and censored films were being released fully uncut. It was twenty-four years since it was first released, but I finally got to see The Exorcist, fully uncut for the first time ever. I knew of the film’s infamy, I had seen images and a few small clips from the flick too, but I never actually got to see the film until 1999. I loved it and still think it’s the greatest horror film ever made. All the hype, all the stories surrounding The Exorcist helped build my anticipation for it and I was not disappointed one bit. Plus, I was twenty-three in 1999, which meant I could watch anything I liked without restrictions and I was old enough to go buy my own films too…and I bought a lot of horror films.

THE EXORCIST

The new rules at the BBFC blew open the doors for so much more horror for me. Films I had previously seen that were heavily edited were now being released uncut. Infamous films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Cannibal Holocaust, The Driller Killer, The Last House on the Left and so many more began to fill my VHS collection. The first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I remember being a bit bored. I knew of the film, I knew of its infamy and reputation… yet I thought it was crap as I say there staring at the TV, it was more annoying than scary, especially with that Franklin character. Then it got to the dinner scene and fuck me. One of the most unsettling and disturbing scenes in a horror film ever.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

I would sit there, night after night, just watching all these horror flicks that I had not been able to watch before. That era of the late nineties and early two-thousands was a horror haven for me. When I got my first DVD player, the first DVD I ever bought was The Evil Dead Trilogy, all films fully uncut for the first time.

But strangely enough, as much as I loved that period of discovering all these classic horror flicks, it was also when I began to fall out of love with the horror genre. Well, to be more specific, I fell out of love with modern horror. I remember watching Scream in 1997 and loving the whole meta-storytelling thing. Very clever and it did something pretty unique. Final Destination was another one that brought some new ideas to the genre… but then it all got a bit ‘meh’. I’m not saying there haven’t been any good horror films since, the first Saw was brilliant. But soon, everything was turned into a franchise and just became tired, the horror genre was dying. There was no originality in horror anymore, it got to a point where even if a film was new, I had already seen it before watching a single frame of film. I still loved the classics, I got more and more into sixties, seventies and eighties horror flicks, my collection grew and grew as I sought out more previously banned or unseen films. I got to re-watch those films that scared me as a kid and found a new appreciation for them, Jaws, Alien, The Thing and more. Watching them as an adult over a kid made me want to look into how the films were made. I grew a deep interest in all the behind the scenes stuff and that is when I really became a horror fan.

I recall staying up late one night and watching a horror film festival on Channel 4 here in the UK. The festival had been running for a week and they were showing classics and foreign horror flicks. Ringu came on, my introduction to Japanese horror. A much slower and tense style of storytelling and a sub-genre which had past me by. The slower pace of Ringu enthralled me and it was doing things in the horror genre I thought were unique. The ending with Sadako coming out if the TV genuinely scared me when I first saw it, the first time I’d been scared by a horror film since I was a kid. Even The Exorcist (as much as I loved it) didn’t scare me.

RINGU

From then, I went on a bit of a Japanese horror crusade. I discovered Ju-On: The Grudge, Dark Water, Audition and Battle Royale. Yeah I know, that last one isn’t really considered a horror film, but for me it is. That whole set up of school kids being forced to kill each other to survive is pretty horrific.

Generally though, the modern horror films bored me, but those classics? I couldn’t get enough of them, the advent of DVDs and the extras, makings of, DVD commentary, behind the scenes documentaries and so on, really hooked me. I’d watch a classic like The Thing, then instantly re-watch it with the commentary on to hear the behind the scenes stories. I’d watch every single extra on the disc over and over. I grew this passion for how/why the films were made and that interested me more than the actual films themselves… and I adored the films.

Even now, my main attraction is horror films from sixties though to the eighties. There’s just something about that era that has never been bettered. Those three decades are where horror film was at its finest. If I ever fancy watching a horror film now, rarely will it be anything from  the last two decades as they just don’t hold my interest. But I never tire of the classics, those flicks from my childhood that shaped me to be the horror fan I am now. I just watch, reminisce and smile.

NORMAN BATES