Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden) is a rich and bitter industrialist. On Christmas Eve his nephew Fred (Ben Gazzara) visits him. Grudge used his influence to stop a cultural exchange program that Fred was promoting with Poland in conjunction with the university he works for. Grudge is an isolationist that is not interested in promoting communication with other cultures. Grudge doesn’t trust other countries and supports the U.S. amassing more nuclear weapons as a deterrent to others starting a war. Fred and Grudge argue about their opposing views. The only thing they agree on is that they loved Grudge’s son Marley who died in 1944 on Christmas Eve during WWII.
After Fred leaves Grudge sees a vision of his son. He then finds himself on the deck of a transport that is filled with the coffins of dead soldiers. A man on the ship tells Grudge that he is the Ghost of Christmas Past (Steve Lawrence), and that the dead are from WWI. They represent all nations that lost men due to war. He then takes Grudge to Hiroshima during WWII after the bomb was exploded. A hospital is filled with children who were exposed to the bomb and have suffered flash burns. The children have no faces.
Grudge is then transported to his own dining room where the Ghost of Christmas Present (Pat Hingle) is dining on a lavish feast while displaced persons all over the world look on in hunger. Grudge is repulsed by the Ghost’s cavalier attitude while those starving look on. The Ghost reminds Grudge that he ignores the hungry in the world himself even though they can’t be seen. Not being able to watch the starving anymore Grudge tries to flee.
Grudge ends up in the future in the ruins of his own town hall. With him is the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Shaw). Grudge watches as a man called Imperial Me (Peter Sellers) lectures what is left of mankind. He sees that the remnants of humanity have devolved into selfish individuals that are willing to kill everyone in order to be the last remaining person on Earth. Whether he sees his own shortcomings mirrored in the faces of these ranting individuals is the question.
“Carol for Another Christmas” was released in 1964 and was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It is an American made for TV fantasy film based on the story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and a screenplay by Rod Serling. Serling basically takes the Christmas story, throws it into the Twilight Zone and adds a cold war twist. The film was part of a series of films sponsored by the Xerox Corporation and shown on ABC television without commercial interruption. The series were an anti-war message to promote the United Nations. After its original broadcast the film wasn’t seen again for 48 years until Turner Classic Movies broadcast it in 2012.
The film may be dated but there are always ways to compare it to the present, whatever present is going on. War never changes and neither does politics. What does change is the intensity and destruction of both.
This was the first time Peter Sellers appeared on film after his near-death heart attack in 1964. Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland, who plays the character referred to as “Mother”, were married at the time of filming. Reportedly Sellers suffered his heart attack in bed on their wedding night, snorting amyl nitrite.