This was the perfect opportunity to REALLY do it right. One of the most beloved holiday movies of all-time was having its 30th anniversary, and there's a huge fanbase waiting and willing to pay for the ultimate in a quality remastering of both the video and audio of A Christmas Story. So what do we get? Some modest tweaks to the mono audio and no video improvements at all. It's such a cynical ploy to re-sell the same movie while making the most minimal effort possible to improve it, that it feels like Scut Farkus just took my money.
While I appreciate the added featurette, this 30th Anniversary Edition could have been and should have been SO much better than this. Obviously, this is a five-star+ movie, but I'm being generous in giving this Anniversary edition three stars for the effort in creating it. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you find it helpful in making a buying decision.
on November 5, 2013
I received this yesterday and did a spot check today. The new BD looks to be the same visually as the earlier BD issue. The DTS sound was clean enough, but as the original mono soundtrack isn't exactly a barn burner, there's no great improvement.
Extras: Being able to access an HD digital version is a plus, and the BD includes a new featurette entitled "Christmas in Ohio: A Christmas Story House," which runs 21:19 and features an all-growed-up Ian Petrella (aka Randy) and Brian Jones, founder of the "A Christmas Story House" in Cleveland. Also, the original recordings by Jean Shepherd that appeared on the 20th-anniversary DVD edition but were missing on the earlier BD have returned. What's still missing are the 20th-anniversary trivia & decoder ring extras from the DVD, which were sort of lame anyway. Watching some of the extras as the participants keep referring to the 20th anniversary of the film (the edition for which the extras were originally filmed) emphasizes how little updating was done for this 30th Anniversary BD Edition.
This 2-disc set includes a DVD as well - it includes both widescreen and full screen versions of the film. The BD contains only the widescreen version. Packaging is a steel book.
Love the movie - I bought this latest issue in the anticipation that I'll be giving my single-BD set away to friends this year (which I did).
If you already own this on BD, you need not double dip.
on December 2, 2003
Released this fall, the "Christmas Story" collector's edition is really a 20th anniversary version of the classic. First, let me say I can't believe it's been out for 20 years. I thought 12, at the most 15. Wow.
Briefly, for readers who may not be intimately acquainted with the film, I strongly encourage you to purchase "A Christmas Story" and make it a regular part of your holiday routine. It will grow on you with each viewing and you'll soon find its one-liners making their way into your everyday vernacular. Which version should you get? That's why you're reading this review.
The original DVD release of "A Christmas Story" had no extra features. Nothing. No commentaries, no interviews, no documentaries. Just the movie. This was greatly disappointing, since I'm a big fan and was interested in the making of the film, what the actors are doing now, etc. So naturally I was looking forward to this special edition.
Well, I can't say I'm too satisfied with the reissue.
1. The documentary is very uninformative. The one positive aspect of it is the simple fun of seeing the actors all grown up. Ralphie is 30 now, but looks about the same. Flick has changed more in his appearance and his career choices. (Career choices? You'll have to look that up yourself. It's not on the DVD and I'm not about to ruin Christmas for you.) There just isn't that much to glean about the movie from the special features. If you would like to know what Ralphie wanted for Christmas when he was 10, or what the worst Christmas present Schwartz ever got was, then you'll likely be absorbed. I wasn't. What could've been an in-depth look at the making of this low-budget masterpiece, intermingled with musings from the actors turned into a Nickelodeon-style "what's your favorite color" type of Q&A session. What was particularly annoying was the graphics and sound effects that the editors added (e.g., if Ralphie says "my mom put her foot down," there's a big crashing sound with a monolithic stone foot superimposed over him. Just stupid). Bottom line, it's good for the serious fan who wants a peek at the grown up kids, but beyond that it's useless.
2. The other "special features" are even more lame. There's a trivia challenge (yawn), a decoder game where you match the dialogue from the scene, a history of the daisy rider BB gun, and the original radio readings from Jean Shepherd (the narrator). You might do these once, but it's nothing worth buying the DVD for.
3. The one bright spot is the commentary, and if there's a reason to buy the special edition, it's this. The director (Bob Clark) and Ralphie (Peter Billingsly) do provide some more insight into the making of the film, and if you're the type that enjoys commentaries, you'll find it's worth it.
4. Lastly, I don't think the film was restored in any way. We're talking 20 years here. The film was pretty marked up and I was disappointed they didn't go to any effort to fix it in the 20th anniversary edition. For those of you that don't know (and don't worry, I'll spare you the 1000 word treatise on the mechanics of film that another reviewer felt the need to share), artists go into the original film and frame by frame they remove specks of dust and dirt, and in some cases they even add paint to touch up obvious artifacts. This apparently didn't occur in "A Christmas Story" and it badly needed it. This would've gone a long way to help the value of this DVD set.
So what's the bottom line? If you intensely love this movie and have for years, then buy the DVD. It will be worth it. But if you're on the fence, maybe you've already got the first issue of the DVD, maybe you throw it in during the holidays, then save your money. And if you're just getting into the movie and don't yet own a copy, well, you should probably get the reissue since we're only talking about a few dollars in price difference.
This review applies mostly to readers who already have the first release and are considering getting the new version. If the features I mentioned appeal to you, then go for it. Otherwise, you might be better off just sticking with the original release and using your 20 bucks to get the "Christmas Vacation" reissue, which actually is worth it.
on September 2, 2000
This is a must-see, completely charming, wonderfully acted (and I usually don't like child actors), heart-warming without being too mushy, Holiday Season story.
But they made the DVD in Pan&Scan (except the opening credits, which are in widescreen). SHAME ON THE DVD PRODUCER!
The whole idea of DVDs was that there's ample space for both widescreen and pan&scan versions. P&S (now called "Full Screen Format" -- to make you think it's a good thing) makes movies look like made-for-tv shows, with no vistas and too many closeups.
How about an un-modified version of this terrific movie?
on July 16, 2008
Amazon has combined the reviews for the Blu-ray and standard DVD versions of this set, which aren't exactly the same in their features. This review is for the Blu-ray version. My review of the standard DVD version is here too, so be sure you're reading the one you're interested in.
The movie is excellent, a Christmas classic (see below). Should you upgrade to the new Ultimate edition if you already have the 2006 Blu-ray edition? That depends on how much you like memorabilia. The new edition is a repackaging of the 2006 edition, with a couple new non-DVD extras:
-- a collectible retro Christmas cookie tin (the container for the set)
-- a strand of leg-lamp Christmas lights (Blu-ray exclusive)
Those look like fun, if you're into that kind of stuff. Amazon has a photo of the tin and a second photo that shows the tin and the leg-lamp lights. (The announcement for this set said that the items from the standard DVD set (here) would be included in this one, but that isn't correct.)
The Blu-ray DVD won't be remastered from the previous one. The video quality of the 2006 release was only fair for hi-def, soft with fairly good color, with fair mono sound.
The 2006 Blu-ray didn't include everything that was on the HD or the 2-disc SD set. Here's what's actually included:
-- audio commentary by director/co-writer Bob Clark and star Peter Billingsley (Ralphie)
-- Another Christmas Story featurette, includes interviews with Clark and a few members of the cast
-- Get a Leg Up featurette, about the making and ongoing sale of the (in)famous leg lamp
-- A History of the Daisy Red Ryder featurette, on the object of great desire's actual history
-- original theatrical trailer
The features from earlier editions that aren't included are trivia and decoder games, readings (audio only) from Jean Shepherd, and an ad for the real leg lamp.
Now, about the really good stuff, the movie. A Christmas Story is that odd film that appeals to a cross-section of viewers who often can't agree on what to watch. Fans of sweet Christmas cheer are happily joined by people with a more jaundiced eye to the holiday. To be sure, the movie leans more to the sweet than the sour, but it has enough edge and good-natured twistedness to please some of our darker Christmas angels too. It conveys a genuinely warm nostalgia and some sharp, sometimes pretense-deflating observations about human nature.
The story is set at some indefinite time around 1940 in an Indiana town approaching the holidays. Young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants only one thing for Christmas, the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Lightning Loader Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock. (That is, a BB gun, a very particular one.) He plans carefully well in advance how to lay the groundwork for this while avoiding the dreaded rebuff, but almost everyone says it anyway: "You'll put your eye out!" The relentless struggle for the one true gift develops alongside several other small stories and amusing details, a tongue-on-frozen-pole triple-dog dare, facing the local bully, the notorious leg lamp, the Santa slide, Peking Duck for Christmas, and several others, each memorable in itself.
The actors aren't very well known, but they're all just right. There is narration throughout, representing an older Ralphie, done by the originator of the story, Jean Shepard, also just right.
This movie, made in 1983, has gradually become a favorite Christmas classic, now shown in an annual 24-hour Christmas marathon on cable, which attracts a huge number of viewers. If you've never seen it, give it a try, even if you have a little Scrooge in you, and you'll probably enjoy it.
on November 7, 2008
Revised 12/09: The 2003 "Anniversay" edition of the DVD is now out of print, making this the only deluxe version of the movie available at the current time. A year ago, there were two identical Christmas Story DVD sets on the market at the same time, and this was the more expensive of the two. Seeing as how this is no longer and issue, I'm upping the score for this item from three stars to five.
Don't get me wrong - I love "A Christmas Story," and I would give the film a 5-star review. The issue here is that the 2008 DVD release is EXACTLY the same as the 2003 version (aside from some slightly different artwork on the slipcover and case). There are no new special features, and the print quality is the same as before. There is absolutely no need for the studio to release this needless double dip DVD. If you don't already own the 2003 version, then this is a must have DVD; if you do, there's no need to buy the new version, unless you go for the Ultimate Collector's Edition, which has some neat extras (which admittedly aren't worth the price if you already own the film on DVD). Check out the Blue-ray version if you're looking for slightly improved picture quality.
on November 7, 2013
According to my receiver this newest released version (Nov 5, 2013) of "A Christmas Story" on Blu-ray's audio is in one channel DTS Master HD. I do notice an improvement in the sound vs. the 2008 "A Christmas Story" on Blu-ray, however it IS still showing only in mono like it did in 2008 (rats). I enjoyed the added extra feature showcasing the house in Cleveland, OH and gift shop and museum! Go see this house in Cleveland, OH - you'll love it if you love the movie! I couldn't believe how the street today looks like it does in the movie, with the exception of the neighboring house missing now (burned down, they say) and some minor painting and minor landscaping changes on other neighboring houses! Kudos to those involved in refurbishing that house! - This is being posted on Nov. 7, 2013.
How do movies become classics? I am clueless to answer. I do not remember seeing "A Christmas Story" advertised in 1983. This movie did very poorly in theaters. Perhaps this low-budget film suffered from lack of support. The movie does not compare with typical Christmas movie releases that emphasize mega-budgets and big-name stars. Maybe we were all looking in the wrong place for entertainment.
The movie is based on the late Jean Shepherd's book, "In God We Trust, All Other's Pay Cash." Jean Shepherd also narrates this marvelous movie, as well as appearing in the film. Jean's narration is wonderful and really helps to make this movie successful. The story is inspired by real life events (even if they did not happen to Jean, they happened to others - trust me on this). Jean managed to capture the feel of Christmas in the Midwest in the post-World War II era. Actually, the Midwest had this feel into the 1950's and 1960's. I recall myself asking for a BB gun in the 1960's and the answer was - yep, you guessed it - you'll shoot your eye out!
The Midwest has always been a peculiar place when compared with the coasts. While the Midwest is just as advanced as either coast, it somehow feels more nostalgic and archaic. In some small towns, like the fictional Hohman, Indiana, entering town feels like stepping back several decades. The display windows of stores were a big deal in past decades, from coast to coast. Toy trains were often a feature of window displays. The display in Higbee's (which was a real chain of stores in Ohio) was a classic store display. I admit that I fail to recall the kind of store Santa that Higbee's had. The Santa's that I visited in the past had fancy chairs, but they were on the ground.
The bully was nicely played in this movie. As Jean Shepherd noted after the incident between Ralphie and Farkus, once you stood up to the bullies they often stopped bothering you. I guess it was only fun being a bully when the smaller kids ran away.
Ralphie and the broken glasses is also classic. Glasses were expensive and parent continually advised their children to take care of them. Ralphie had to think fast after accidentally crunching his glasses. If Ralphie had revealed that he stepped on his glasses after they fell off because of a ricocheting BB, his parents would like have confiscated his BB gun until he turned 50, or maybe older.
The list of events in this movie that defines an era is lengthy. As I noted before, while the specific incidents may not have been true, they were inspired by actual events. Jean Shepherd did a phenomenal job of capturing the essence of a region and an era. Jean clearly loved his childhood in the Midwest, his parents and had a strong nostalgia for an era that is rapidly fading into the distant past.
Does the movie have a "message," which one reviewer suggested the movie does not? This movie has lots of messages. Note Ralphies' reaction to his Little Orphan Annie decoder; Message: It's a crummy commercial. Ralphies' first experience with his Red Ryder BB gun; Message: Your parent's may actually know what they are talking about and you should take greater care in following their advice. Ralphie and the bullies; Message: Sometimes you need to stop letting bullies push you around. Okay, enough messages. This movie is filled with messages. If you failed to find one, you were looking somewhere else - like your navel, or a picture book.
Though there is minimal significance to awards for a movie like this, this movie obtained nominations for thirteen awards of various types, and it won two. Good job!
"A Christmas Story" may only be a great family Christmas movie for a while. That "while" may only be as long as there are enough of us that remember the 1940's, the 1950's and the early 1960's. Until then, I plan to watch this movie again and again.
I was almost finished recording "A Christmas Story" on last Christmas morning. Fifteen minutes before it ended, my father walked in and said that we would get the special edition.
That I didn't go postal at losing an hour and a half on something that would shortly be redundant shows how much I love "A Christmas Story." This 1983 classic is not just a heartwarming little story about a loving (if bickery) family in the dour America of the late 1940s, but a hysterical comedy about what it's like to be a kid at Christmas.
Ralphie Parker's (Peter Billingsley) Christmas wishes are simple: a official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass and a "thing that tells time." But his mom says he'll shoot his eye out. So Ralphie begins a quiet crusade to get it as a present -- he writes an essay on it and even asks Santa, only to get the same terrible reply: "You'll shoot your eye out."
As the days tick down to Christmas -- with no sign of an air rifle -- Ralphie hits other obstacles when he clashes with bullies, says "the mother of all dirty words," and watches his parents battle it out over a tacky "major award" (leg lamp). But there are surprises in store for the Parker family on Christmas morning -- and some of them involve smelly bloodhounds.
Yes, the plot is pretty simple -- it's the delivery that makes it special. It's narrated by an adult Ralphie who offers his slightly sardonic take on everything ("We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice"), mingled with a hint of nostalgia. And it's completely tuned in to how kids think, and how a toy can seem like the most important thing in the world.
Fortunately the scriptwriters never condescend to the audience by adding some kind of syrupy message -- after all, real life doesn't work that way. Instead there are all sorts of classic moments -- the leg lamp, Chinese turkey, the terrifying visit to Santa ("HOOOO HOOOO HOOO!"), and Ralphie's fantasies of defending his family with "Ol' Blue" against a bunch of inept, unarmed bandits.
And Jean Shepherd -- the co-writer and narrator of the movie -- deserves especial credit for bringing this movie to life. He covers the movie with a snowstorm of one-liners and hilarious dialogue: "Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap." "He looks like a pink nightmare!" "Oh FUUUDDDDGGGE!" and others.
Billingsley is a little stiff as Ralphie, but gives the portrayal of this everykid his charming, slightly frenetic best. Melinda Dillon and Darin McGavin are the comic geniuses here, with their slightly kooky but loving parents (one of the highlights is Dillon's "show me how the piggies eat!" scene, and McGavin's revolted response), and there's an array of very convincing bullies and classmates too.
"A Christmas Story" didn't get much notice when it came out in 1983. But now it's one of the quintessential holiday movies, and a must-see at Christmastime. HOOOOO HOOOOO HOOOO...
on December 16, 2002
As many other reviewers have queried: Why isn't this movie in widescreen format? And couldn't the producers come up with any extra features? The DVD itself gets 3 stars, but the movie deserves 5.
These gripes notwithstanding, this movie is a modern-day Christmas classic. It captures the joy and fear and exhilaration and disillusionment of what it was like growing up in an America of a by-gone era. The late Jean Shepherd is from my parents' generation, but I can still relate completely to Ralphie, Randy and all their friends -- bullies at school -- Not getting what you really want for Christmas -- having your mouth washed out with soap and fantasizing about the day when they'd all be sorry... It's all there!
Darren McGavin is great as the blustery but sentimental dad and Melinda Dillon as the mom who is wiser than her kids give her credit for. The movie is touching and hilarious at the same time. It's so hard being a kid sometimes!
This is one of the few movies I can watch over and over again and still laugh.