Well, I watched Carol for Another Christmas
today. Not one of Serling's better works. I guess the 1964 date should've been a warning sign -- that's about the time of The Twilight Zone
's final season, and Serling had really overextended himself by that point from writing the vast majority of its scripts. A lot of the TZ episodes he wrote around this time were just as stilted, verbose, and heavy-handedly preachy as this. I certainly agree with the message Serling was trying to get across, but the strident way he went about it probably didn't do much to lend it credibility.
Although at least they didn't make the Archie Bunker mistake. Archie represented all the values that the makers of All in the Family
wanted to critique and deconstruct, but they cast an actor so talented and likeable that he came off as more persuasive than the characters arguing for the writers' own values. Here, though, the Scrooge character, the anti-UN conservative who favors isolationism and a strong defense over engagement and global cooperation, was played rather dully and unsympathetically by Sterling Hayden. Although the main proponent of the pro-engagement, pro-UN position was played even more stridently and abrasively by Ben Gazzara, and written that way by Serling. Even after he tries to end his argument with his uncle and make peace, he renews the argument two sentences later, and never resists an opening to score a point in the moral debate. The Ghosts of Christmas (and any connection to Christmas is incidental here) are somewhat better played -- respectively by Steve Lawrence, Pat Hingle, and Robert Shaw -- but a lot of their material is just as strident. And ultimately it didn't seem to do much good; rather than the wholesale transformation Scrooge had, this guy just ended up being a little bit more open-minded about his nephew's point of view without actually doing anything about it, and was a tiny bit nicer to his (black) servants while still expecting them to serve him (on Christmas day!). So really, what was the point?
I did like the production values, though. There was some nice directing and cinematography, and a nice use of editing, camerawork, and lighting to make supernatural scene transitions in a low-tech but effective way. A good score by Henry Mancini as well.
And it's sad that half a century later, the arguments in the movie are still so topical, that we haven't moved beyond the core debates here about haves and have-nots and whether working together with other nations in the UN represents a sacrifice of national sovereignty and self-interest. Given that, it's particularly sad that the arguments are not more skillfully made. There's stuff here that's worth saying; it just needed to be said better. Which, given what a great wordsmith Serling was at his best, is also rather sad.