When Scenes Have Gone

muppet-christmas-carol-posters

The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of those perfect holiday films that ranks alongside classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, Scrooged and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Year after year I have continued to be entertained by the film’s wit and charm but one thing has bugged me ever since I first bought the DVD; there is a scene missing. Before we all jump on our high horses and bemoan the butchery of our film heritage there is one thing to add – the scene in question was never included in the theatrical release.

The story goes like this. The bitter sweet ballad When Love Has Gone was written for the film by composer Paul Williams, performed by an orchestra, recorded by the actors, filmed and then edited into the film. However shortly before the film’s theatrical premiere the decision was made to cut the scene for timing reasons. Nobody  ever saw this musical number as part of the film during the official release but when it came time to offer The Muppet Christmas Carol for sale via VHS the decision was made to reinstate this footage. Having never seen The Muppet Christmas Carol at the cinema this home video version was the version of the film I, and a great many others, grew up with at home and whenever I see the theatrical cut now on DVD or television it always feels as though a chunk of the film’s soul has been removed.

In the sense that it was felt that the film was running too long for theatrical exhibition it is easy to see why this particular scene was cut.  For about three and a half minutes the film asks the audience to do without the beloved Muppet characters and enjoy a ‘straight’ song – there is nothing festive or jolly about When Love Has Gone. But in removing this scene the filmmakers stripped The Muppet Christmas Carol of one of its most moving and essential moments.

The film, as per Charles Dickens’ classic novella, tells the story of Scrooge’s rebirth as a caring compassionate human but this over night change is so sudden that the filmmakers have to take care not to make the character’s motives seem selfish. In The Muppet Christmas Carol adaptation of this story there are four key events that help turn scrooge around; hearing how is viewed by his own relatives, seeing the day his lost love Belle left him, learning of the fate of his employee’s son Tiny Tim and discovering his ultimate fate. Of these four reasons three, on the surface, seem self motivated. Scrooge’s change can be seen to be a cynical attempt to stay alive for as long as possible, he is threatened rather than truly rehabilitated. In the extended Muppet Christmas Carol there is a key difference that makes confirms his change of heart as a moral rehabilitation.

In the theatrical cut of  of The Muppet Christmas Carol the elderly Scrooge is taken back in time to the moment Belle left him. He sees his younger self being emotionally cold and when she tells him that their love has diminished over time she leaves leaving both incarnations of the Scrooge behind. The elderly man cries for what he has lost, accusing the Spirit of Christmas Past of torturing him.

The extended version of this scene makes a big difference as can be viewed below.

Not only is this a beautiful little song but also the positioning of the characters affects our perception of Scrooge’s motivation. In this version of the scene Belle is left behind when her emotionally cruel and distant lover leaves during her song. Scrooge is allowed the chance to see how is actions affected her and cries not only for what he has lost but also for the grief and sorrow he has caused another human being. It is a key turning point in his journey to salvation and serves to alter our impression of Scrooges disappointment with how his nephew has come to see him.

It should also be noted that the brief moment in which Michael Caine as Scrooge duets with Meredith Brown as Belle is one of the most perfectly played pieces in the film. Their shot together is intensely intimate and tender despite the fact that they can not interact.

If you’d like to see this scene as part of the film the only option is to purchase the Kermit’s 50th Anniversary Edition DVD from America. The theatrical cut is presented in widescreen while a secondary pan and scan, cropped version of the film retains this song. It’s a shame that the scene has never been released in Widescreen but one can hope that with an inevitable Blue Ray edition on the way that a decent presentation of the extended film will emerge.

Thanks for sticking with this extended ramble!

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5 Responses to “When Scenes Have Gone”

  1. Apart from the odd typo, the occassional absent comma and the missing apostrophe that is like a dagger to my heart, this is a very well written article.

    The VHS version of this film is also the one that I grew up with and the absence of When Love Has Gone has me not only shocked but disillusioned.

    The Muppet Christmas Carol is fantastic and Michael Caine is a great Scrooge. He’s not my favourite Scrooge (because Patrick Stewart is my favourite Scrooge) but better than Kelsey Grammer and ANYONE is better than skanky Ross Kemp (I don’t know how I managed to watch Kemp’s version all the way through). The Muppets’ adaptation has always been my favourite. Even if it did cunningly trick me into believing there were always two Marleys.

    “We’re Marley and Marley, WHOOOOOOOOAAA!”

    • illegibleme Says:

      I read that first sentence and thought to myself, “Who does that git think he is?”

      Then I bothered to check the name at the top and realised, “Ah, that’s who that git thinks he is.”

  2. Simon Collins Says:

    Hello there, if you wish to see the “When love is gone” scene in widescreen then find someone with a laserdisc player because the laserdisc version of the film has that complete scene as above. A copy of the disc is available at LDDB (LaserDisc Data Base)

    All the best,

    Simon

  3. I miss that song and scene and bemoan it’s absence every time I watch the film. However it will always remain a film I love and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it (we always have it on when decorating the Christmas tree) My daughter (now 21) grew up with this film and it provided me with one of those priceless moments when at around the age of 7 she rushed home from school and informed me that they had watched A Christmas Carol at school but that there were no Muppet’s in it. She was bitterly disappointed and when I stopped laughing I did have a bit of explaining to do but her face was priceless and it is a memory that always makes me smile. So thank you Jim Henson and of course the Muppets.

  4. Adam Zanzie Says:

    ““When Love is Gone” was not in the theatrical release, and is presently missing, which is a real shame. It was on the video release,” and has explained that the reason the song has not been put back into future releases of the film is because “I just remastered the film. I remastered it a couple of years ago, and Disney has lost the film… I think they will find it because I keep reminding them, “You’ve got to go find it.””

    -Brian Henson

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