Scrooged: 35th Anniversary (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Dec 22, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Scrooged: 35th Anniversary (4K UHD Review)


Richard Donner

Release Date(s)

1988 (November 7, 2023)


Mirage Productions/Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B-

Scrooged (4K UHD)



Bill Murray’s star status was firmly established with the release of Ghostbusters in 1984. He appeared in Little Shop of Horrors in 1986 and in a cameo in She’s Having a Baby earlier in 1988, but later in the year was when he was to make his big return in Richard Donner’s modernized, darkly comic re-telling of the Charles Dickens classic Scrooge, titled Scrooged. Conflicts on the set between Murray and Donner, as well as the unhappiness of the film’s scribes, Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue, led to many walking away from the project feeling that it could have been much better than it was. However, it was still a modest box office success, despite mixed reviews from critics, and has been a holiday staple ever since. Along with films like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Bad Santa, many contend that it’s one of the better Christmas movies due to its edgier material and lack of forced sentimentality.

Frank Cross (Murray) is the president in charge of programming at the IBC TV network. A hopelessly abusive and unhappy person, it’s his job to put on an evening of Christmas programming that will drive ratings through the roof, running over his subordinates, including fellow executive Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) and his personal secretary Grace (Alfre Woodard), along the way. Feeling pressure from his boss (Robert Mitchum) and a hired consultant (John Glover), Frank grows increasingly agitated, neglecting his brother James (John Murray) and his former girlfriend Claire (Karen Allen). Frank is soon visited by the ghost of his former boss and mentor, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who warns Frank of his evil ways, promising him that he’ll be visited by three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), and the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Hammond). As the three spirits descend upon him one by one, Frank slowly begins to understand what the true meaning of Christmas really is.

The largest criticism laid against Scrooged is its tone, which is in part due to Bill Murray’s sometimes larger-than-life performance. He’s admitted in retrospect that making the film was a miserable experience and that Richard Donner instructed him to do bigger and louder takes, but he’s also partly responsible for some of the film’s less-comedic content. Not unlike Groundhog Day, he would often push for more dramatic material and more subtlety in his performance. As such, he and Donner often butted heads on the set. What doesn’t work in the film are many of those moments when Murray goes way over the top, often screaming his way through his dialogue. It’s the understated material that lands best, not to mention Murray’s soul-stirring speech about Christmas during the film’s finale, much of which was ad-libbed in the moment. What also works is the set design, including the interiors and exteriors of the IBC building, the various environments in the past, present, and future that Frank finds himself in, and the standing sets used for IBC’s live broadcast of A Christmas Carol.

Admittedly, I hadn’t seen Scrooged in quite some time. It’s one of those films that was on constant rotation when I was young, especially around Christmas, but it had been quite a while since I had revisited it. Coming back to it later in life after being away from it for so long certainly makes one more critical of it, but one can’t deny the nostalgia for it either. Flaws tend to be more easily forgiven because what’s present in the film that works is excellent. In other words, Scrooged is an off-kilter holiday movie for those who don’t really like holiday movies, but at the same time, it also works well for those who do.

Scrooged was shot by cinematographer Michael Chapman on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras and Panavision Primo lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Paramount Pictures brings the film to Ultra HD for the first time with what’s assumed to be a 4K scan of the original camera negative, and graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). Paramount’s UHD debut features a very fine layer of grain throughout with high levels of detail and a crispness that aids many of the film’s shadowy and textured moments. The bitrate could be a bit higher than it is, hardly ever making it above 70Mbps, but the picture never truly suffers for it. The color palette isn’t all that robust, but the HDR grades certainly enrich the detail found within the various hues, though blacks do occasionally appear crushed in some of the darkest environments. Otherwise, everything appears clean and true to its celluloid source. It’s not necessarily a major upgrade over its Blu-ray predecessor, but it still offers a sharper, clearer image that doesn’t take any liberties with the material as we’ve known it for decades.

The main audio option is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Though having the original Dolby Stereo theatrical audio as an option would have been preferable, the 5.1 certainly offers a fine sonic experience in its own right, with good separation and plenty for the surrounding speakers to do. Danny Elfman’s score is given a vast amount of space while ambient moments offer some nice aural textures. Dialogue exchanges are central to the track, while the various other elements are well-supported. Many might decry the lack of an Atmos remix, but this 5.1 track spreads out nicely and is more than satisfying. Other audio options included German, Spanish, French, and Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital, as well as Spanish mono Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, German, Finnish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), and Swedish.

Scrooged on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a Digital Code on a paper insert. The slipcover features the original theatrical artwork, whereas the insert features the previous, and much lesser, Blu-ray artwork. The following extras are included on the disc:

  • Audio Commentary with Richard Donner
  • Scrooged: A Christmas to Remember (14:04)
  • Updating Ebenezer (13:34)
  • Bringing the Ghosts to Life (9:53)
  • The Look of Scrooged (6:22)
  • On the Set with Bill Murray:
    • The Making of a Scene: Brother’s Apartment (3:22)
    • The Making of a Scene: Frisbee the Dog (3:41)
  • Showest Clips with Bill Murray:
    • The Best Money Can Buy (1:15)
    • Now Everybody Get Up! (:59)

Ages ago, a special edition DVD release entitled the Yule Love It! edition was to be released in 2006. That never materialized, for whatever reasons, and now 17 years later, the bonus materials created for that release have at long last been included for this one. The audio commentary has Richard Donner flying solo, which was a mistake as he falls into the trap of watching his own film, going quiet often. He frequently cracks jokes, so he’s in good spirits, and he occasionally offers some insight into what it was like to work with Bill Murray. He also hints at some of the deleted scenes, which he says they couldn’t find at the time. It’s nice to have him on the record now that he’s gone, but this could have been a much better track if he’d had someone to bounce off of.

All of the featurettes offer vintage behind-the-scenes footage and photos, make-up tests, and even glimpses of deleted and alternate scenes (for those paying close attention). Participants include Richard Donner, actors Bill Murray, Carol Kane, Alfre Woodward, screenwriter Mitch Glazer, producer Art Linson, special effects make-up artists Tom and Bari Burman, production designer J. Michael Riva, and special effects coordinator Allen Hall. In A Christmas to Remember, the cast and crew reflect upon the film these many years later. Updating Ebenezer talks about bringing the story into the modern world. Bringing the Ghosts to Life details the special effects and make-up design. The Look of Scrooged talks about the conceptual design of the production. On the Set with Bill Murray showcases the process of how two scenes in the film were executed while the Showest Clips feature Bill Murray humorously speaking to theater owners about exhibiting the film. Missing from the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases is the theatrical trailer. It would also have been nice to see the film’s marketing campaign, including TV spots, as well as some deleted and alternate scenes (if they still exist), but having the previously-announced and then dropped altogether extras is a major step up.

Scrooged is certainly not a title I would have expected to hit 4K so soon, especially including those missing bonus materials. It’s a bucket list title for many in that regard, but there’s no overlooking the quality of the presentation itself. This is definitely a title one will want to spin for many Christmases to come. Highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

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