1983 (November 1, 2022)
MGM/UA Entertainment (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/program grade: A
- Video quality: A-
- Audio quality: B
- extra class: B
Based on the 1966 semi-fictional novel by Jean Shepherd In God we trust: Everyone else pays in cashBob Clarks a Christmas Story follows young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), a middle-class boy in Hammond, Indiana, as he navigates the many social and family difficulties of Christmas 1940. Asked by Santa at the local Higbee department store what he wants for Christmas, a panicked Ralphie manages to blurt out “a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Round Range Model Airgun”! at the last minute, only to be told he might shoot his eye out. Undaunted, Ralphie embarks on an elaborate campaign to convince his parents (Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin) that a reliable airgun is just what every little boy needs, even if he and his best friends Flick and Schwartz are routinely run by the local thug Scut Farkus tormented his toad Grover Dill.
as one might expect a Christmas Story draws heavily on the nostalgia most of us feel for the holiday experiences we enjoyed as children. But nostalgia alone is not enough to make it a classic. That magic comes from the script’s quirky humor and relatable vignettes, not to mention two great performances from Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kindas Ralphie’s loving mother) and McGavin (Kolchak: The Nightstalker, as Ralphie’s grumpy but sweet, wacky but warm-hearted “old man”). McGavin, who sadly passed away in 2006, will forever be remembered for his role in this film, in which he aims his metaphorical spear at a faulty furnace (“It’s a Climmer!”), the dogs of the hillbilly neighbors (“Sons of Bitches! Bumpuses!”) and a somewhat awkward “great award” (“Fra-Well-lay! Must be Italian!”). It also helps that Bob Clark’s direction – particularly his work with the youngest actors here – is superb, although it’s fair to say so on his previous resume (which included the following). Black Christmas, piggyand episodes of TVs The Dukes of Hazzard) hinted that he was about to make an absolute holiday classic. But this is exactly What a Christmas Story became.
a Christmas Story was shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Reginald H. Morris (Murder by Decree, Turk 182) using Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses, and it was photochemically finished with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For the Ultra HD release (in anticipation of the film’s 40th anniversary in 2023), Warner recreated a 4K scan of the original camera negative to create a new Digital Intermediate, complete with grading for High Dynamic Range ( HDR10 alone is available). this disc). The result is modestly impressive, given the unique limitations of this particular title. Filters and diffusion were often used in shooting (especially indoors) to give a Christmas Story the romantic visual quality of the idyllic memory (the film is narrated by an adult Ralphie, voiced by Shepherd). So the image has a slightly soft, almost glowing appearance. As a result, the shadows in indoor shots are a bit gray and therefore poor in detail. But the exterior is gorgeous, and this film has never looked as delicately textured and refined as it does here in 4K – every tiny detail in the negative appears on screen, and that’s certainly an improvement over the 2008 Blu-ray release. Likewise the appearance of film grain, which is lighter and more even here than on the Blu-ray. The colors are warmly stylized, but rarely really bold (apart from the film’s opening titles), but they are richer and more nuanced than before. While this isn’t a 4K image that’s truly dazzling, especially in terms of HDR, it does impress with its subtleties. And the longer you look at the 4K disc, the more you’ll appreciate the difference.
Audio on the 4K disc is lossless English 2.0 mono in DTS-HD Master Audio format (the previous Blu-ray was lossy Dolby Digital). The film’s audio was always in mono, giving the experience a deliberate vintage quality, so it’s the way it should be. The dialogue is clean and recognizable, and the score’s occasional musical cues are well balanced in the mix. Additional audio options include French and Spanish 1.0 Mono in Dolby Digital, while subtitle options include English (for the deaf and hard of hearing), French, Dutch and Spanish.
Warner’s Ultra HD bundle includes the 4K UHD remastered film and a re-authored Blu-ray featuring the 1080p HD remastered film. Both discs contain:
- Audio commentary by Peter Billingsley and Bob Clark
In addition, the Blu-ray adds the following new and older special features:
- Christmas in Ohio: A Christmas Story House (HD – 21:15)
- Another Christmas story (SD – 18:18)
- Daisy Red Ryder: A History (SD-5:18)
- Get a leg up (SD-4:38)
- “Flash Gordon” deleted script pages (HD Text Feature – 3:11)
- Leg Lamp Spot (SD – :49)
- Original radio recordings by Jean Shepherd
- Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder nails the Cleveland Street Kid (38:07)
- Flick’s tongue (30:50)
- Cinema Trailer (SD – 2:10)
The audio commentary with Billingsley and Clark is nostalgic and certainly informative, if a little reserved. Another Christmas story is a fun little retrospective that – along with the other vintage featurettes – was produced for the by our old friend JM Kenny Special edition for the 20th anniversary DVD in 2003. It includes interviews with Billingsley and Clark, as well as RD Robb (Schwartz), Scott Schwartz (Flick) and Zack Ward (Scut Farcus). A surprise here is that there is a new feature for this 4K version, Christmas in Ohio, starring actor Ian Petrella (Randy) and developer Brian Jones, who in 2004 bought and renovated the Cleveland home where the film’s exterior was shot and now runs it as a museum. That script pages and Leg Lamp Spot were included as easter eggs on the DVD so it’s good to see they’re being carried over. Another nice surprise is that the original Jean Shepherd radio show readings from the DVD – which were omitted from the 2008 Blu-ray – have been restored here. So all that’s missing from the DVD are two interactive games (one with trivia and the other with a secret decoder challenge). Of course, you also get the usual Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
a Christmas Story is another modern holiday classic that’s always entertaining, a film loved by both Gen-Xers and Boomers alike, but with plenty of charm and humor to offer to younger viewers as well. With a solid 4K presentation and a remastered Blu-ray, not to mention a new special feature and a more complete archive of classic extras, Warner’s Ultra HD package represents great value for fans of the film. If you count yourself among them, the title is certainly worth recommending.
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