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Q: Many years ago, I saw "A Christmas Carol" on TV, starring Henry Winkler. It was the best rendition I have ever seen. Is it available on DVD or VHS?

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Author: 
Adam Thomlison / TV Media

Perhaps it's the magic of Christmas, or at least the popularity of Christmas TV, but either way, the film you're talking about, a 33-year-old, made-for-TV movie, is available on DVD, VHS and Blu-Ray -- and the disc releases came out just last month.

Debuting on ABC on Dec. 16, 1979, "An American Christmas Carol" transplanted the Charles Dickens classic out of Industrial Revolution-era London and in to Depression-era New Hampshire.

It also changed the very Britishly named Ebenezer Scrooge into Benedict Slade, played by Henry Winkler. At the time, Winkler was still starring in the American-as-apple-pie sitcom "Happy Days" (also on ABC, which, incidentally, stands for American Broadcasting Corporation).

In case you missed it, this movie was about America. (Ironically, it was filmed in Canada.)

Besides the setting change, this story sticks pretty closely to the original. Slade is a miserly businessman who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve who convince him to change his ways.

The question then becomes -- as it does with the many other actors in "Christmas Carol" adaptations -- how does Winkler do in the lead role? By most accounts, he does well.

"Henry Winkler is perhaps the film's greatest asset," says Martin Liebman, reviewing the film for the video sales site Blu-Ray.com.

Other reviewers more or less agree, but DVDVerdict.com reviewer Erich Asperschlager pointed out one interesting flaw.

"Whatever Winkler's acting chops, though, it's hard to get past the two pounds of makeup it takes to make a 34-year-old look 80."

Indeed, Winkler was playing the elderly Slade at a time when he was not only 34 in real life, but supposedly playing a teenager on "Happy Days."

But Winkler likely got a kick out of not playing The Fonz for a change. Around the same time, he reprised his Arthur (The Fonz) Fonzarelli role on four different "Happy Days" spinoffs -- "Mork & Mindy," "Laverne & Shirley," "Joanie Loves Chachi," and the little-known cartoon series "The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang."

 

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