Jack Palance in Ebenezer (1998)

A Cowboy Christmas Carol

It's Christmas eve and land baron Ebenezer Scrooge (Jack Palance) is up to no good as always, cheating young Samuel Benson (Ricky Schroder) out of his money, land and horse when he enters into a card game with the old miser hoping he could win some money so he could marry Erica (Amy Locane) the niece of Ebenezer's departed friend Jacob. After ending up losing it all and being given till Christmas morning to vacate his home and land Samuel heads home whilst Ebenezer heads to his office not before he fires his assistant Bob (Albert Schultz) who discovers Ebenezer's crooked card table. But later that night Ebenezer gets a visit from three ghosts who giving him an alternate view of his life; past, present and yet to come when in the morning he will end up in a stand off with Samuel.

For about the first 15 minutes "Ebenezer" had me, here was an entertaining version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", taking it out to the West and having him a man who became a bitter man through a series of events. The whole opening which sees him as a crooked gambler who cheats a young man out of everything he owns is a nice twist on the original and having Scrooge's nephew being a mail man is also a nice twist. But of course after some unique ideas we then hit the familiar aspect with the three ghosts and truth be told it starts to lose you.

And in truth I am trying to work out what the problem with "Ebenezer" is because in many ways it is good. The look at how Ebenezer became a bitter, greedy man is an entertaining one and switching Bah Humbug for Hogwash is a nice switch up. There are many more changes and switches which help to make this familiar but not just a case of dropping Dickens' story into a western scenario, the whole duel in the street is a nice idea. I think the trouble is that rather than having some grit and drama it is a bit too light and floaty, even being a bit spoof like such as when out of nowhere Scrooge calls someone Pilgrim. Basically at times "Ebenezer" feels too weak and unsure of what sort of movie it wants to be.

What this all boils down to is that "Ebenezer" is a novel idea but it is one where the novelty wears off and after that it struggles to really do anything to make it stand out from the familiarity of the well known storyline. Even the great Jack Palance is unable to make this work and at times seems to struggle with some of the corny dialogue he has to deliver.

Tags: TV Christmas Movies, Christmas Movies, A Christmas Carol