March of the Wooden Soldiers [Blu-ray]
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Imagine an enchanted fantasy world of timeless characters and magical moments where nothing goes right for toy makers, Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee. Based on the original Babes in Toyland, this movie is a dazzling spectacle of 6-foot wooden soldiers, Mother Goose characters and the beloved team of Laurel and Hardy. This holiday classic is perfect for the Christmas season. In color and expertly restored, this film will surely become a part of your family holiday tradition.
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As for the two different titles, back in 1934 when "Babes in Toyland" was released, in 1948 for its re-released by Lippert Pictures, the film was edited down to 73-minutes and for years, many people have watched this version of the film. For this re-released version, the version included on Blu-ray is a 77-minute version but instead of using "Babes in Toyland", Legend Films has opted to use "March of the Wooden Soldiers".
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is based on the libretto by Glen MacDonough and for the film adaptation directed by Gus Meins and Charley Rogers and a screenplay adaptation by Frank Butler and Nick Grinde, the film takes place in Toyland where many fairy tale characters live.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is presented in 1080p (1:33:1) and is the first Blu-ray release from Legend Films. Bare in mind that this film is available in public domain but this is probably the best version of the film to own at this time. I have seen others who have said the MGM Holiday boxset with the film on DVD is much better but seriously, with the Blu-ray release having a much higher bitrate, the Blu-ray version is the better looking of the two.
I've heard people complain that there are no blacks and only grays. I saw blacks but is the contrast perfect... No. Is it fantastic as other bigger companies or the Criterion Collection have invested in their classic films? No, but the fact that Legend Films is getting involved in the Blu-ray scene, with their first release, this is where they get to learn what people want to see on Blu-ray, especially since they have done several classics as I would love to see them bring out "My Man Godfrey" on Blu-ray.
As for the colorization of the film, if there is one thing that Legend Films excels at and that is their colorization process. I tend to dislike black and white films being colorized especially the way Turner did their colorization back in the early '90s but Legend Films uses better technology and so far, watching "My Man Godfrey" on DVD and now watching "March of the Wooden Soldiers" on Blu-ray, I'm quite content with their colorization. They do a fantastic job! Now whether or not the clothing and hair is accurate, I don't know. But I know for "My Man Godfrey", they did the research of what colors the costumes were and I would assume they would have done the same type of research on this release.
With that being said, I still prefer the black and white version of the film.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is presented in Dolby Digital Mono but seeing they put 2.0 mono, I'm assuming that they meant stereo or putting two mono tracks to the left and right speaker. Nevertheless, dialogue and music is clear and heard no major pops or hissing during the film.
You will hear some degradation with some of the classic shorts in the special features.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" features the following special features:
* Origintal Theatrical Trailer - Featuring the B&W and color trailers for "March of the Wooden Soldiers" plus trailers for "A Christmas Wish", "Beyond Christmas" and "The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection".
* Christmas Trailer Gallery
* Bonus Animated Movie: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - (8:28) A classic Rudolph Technicolor animated short.
* Rare Laurel & Hardy Short Film - (4:45) A Department of Agriculture Laurel & Hardy environmental colored short from the '50s.
* Christmas Toyshop - (9:18) A B&W Christmas short from the '30s or '40s (part live/part animated). Two kids who are excited about Christmas wakeup to find Santa Claus in their living room.
* Howdy Doody's Christmas Special - (7:18) Howdy Doody and friends in a Christmas short.
* Christmas '45 Theater Greeting - (:50) Christmas 1945 theater greeting.
* A Message from Santa - (:36) A quick message from Santa.
* `Twas the Night Before Christmas - (8:05) A Castle Films B&W short featuring Santa delivering his toys on Christmas.
* Merry Christmas - (8:49) A Castle Films B&W short about Santa Claus and the elves working at Santa's toy workshop.
* Jingle Bells - (2:08) A color classic sing-along .
* Classic Toy Commercials - (8:53) Classic toy commercials that are an interesting but enjoyable addition to this Blu-ray release.
* The Little Rascals Happy New Year Greeting - (:28) Featuring a greeting from the Little Rascals singing "Happy New Year to you".
When it comes to Laurel & Hardy, fans have felt that Americans have gotten the shaft when other countries especially the UK have received wonderful Laurel & Hardy DVD releases (especially the wonderful Universal Laurel & Hardy DVD box set). Sure we have had the lost Laurel & Hardy DVD set (which came out and then made out of print) and there are a few movies released on DVD.
But when it comes to Blu-ray releases, it's one thing to get Chaplin or Keaton on Blu-ray but for Laurel & Hardy, no one ever knows if any of Hal Roach-related releases such as Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase or Little Rascals releases will ever be released on Blu-ray, so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised and also a bit giddy that there was a Laurel and Hardy film set for release on Blu-ray courtesy of Legend Films. One, we are getting a popular Christmas classic in black and white and color but also, Legend Films are now taking their first step in High Definition.
And I was very surprised to find out that this Blu-ray release was going for less than $10. It's important to note that Legend Films are nowhere near Criterion Collection or KINO status but they do have the potential to become fan favorites for classic movie and TV show fans because of the titles they have released on DVD thus far. In fact, "March of the Wooden Soldiers" is a pretty solid release for its price. Not only do you get a pretty good B&W release, you also get a colorized version and when it comes to colorization, Legend Films excels at it.
Sure, the company has taken on many titles that were released on public domain but compared to other companies that also take on PD titles, Legend Films has a solid track record for releasing solid black and white and solid colorization of restored films. And the fact that they are releasing on Blu-ray does make me happy.
I know that a few people have said that they did not see and blacks and their blacks were grays. In my experience, that was not the case, so I'm guessing depending on your setup, it's all subjective. But compare to the MGM release years ago (from the MGM Holiday Classics DVD box set), I still feel this Blu-ray release tops it in picture quality.
Also, I was surprised to see so many classic Christmas special features added to this release as well and although many have nothing to do with Laurel & Hardy, they do take place around the same time period that the duo were still performing onscreen. Personally, I thought it was cool to see the Little Rascals singing a Christmas message, especially singing the classic Holiday shorts.
Overall, "March of the Wooden Soldiers" was a pleasant surprise as I was not expecting Legend Films to release on Blu-ray but I'm glad they have. Laurel & Hardy's "Babes in Toyland" (March of the Wooden Soldiers) is ingrained in the heads of many generations of viewers as a Christmas classic that it was perfect timing for this Blu-ray release and also to add, a pleasant surprise as I purchased this Blu-ray for under $10.
If you enjoyed this classic, it's definitely recommended on Blu-ray especially at the very low price you can find it for. And I hope that this is a signal that more Legend Films releases will be on Blu-ray in the near future. Laurel & Hardy fans, this release is recommended!
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is a re-issue of the 1934 film "Babes in Toyland." You'll need to search on the later title to find it on IMDB.
Blu-ray Stats: 1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 48khz, 192kbps, AVC (except Vintage Toy Commercials), 12 Mbps average.
Menu Choices: Play Movie In Color (01:17:30), Play Movie in B&W (01:17:31), Scene Selection (12), Special Features (12).
Cartoon (Max Fleischer)(Technicolor)(08:28): Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer.
Theatrical Trailers(5): March Of The Wooden Soldiers in Color (02:08), March Of The Wooden Soldiers in B&W (03:27), A Christmas Wish (02:31), Beyond Christmas (01:48), The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection (03:19).
Laurel & Hardy Short (color)(Department of Agriculture, Forest Service)(4:45): The Tree In A Test Tube.
Vintage Toy Commercials (MPEG-2)(B&W)(08:53): Poor quality, but interesting.
Christmas Toy Shop (B&W)(09:18): Poor quality, low contrast.
Howdy Doody's Christmas Special (B&W)(07:18): Poor quality but better than the commercials.
Christmas '45 Theater Greeting (B&W)(00:53): Poor quality.
A Message From Santa (B&W)(00:36): Poor quality, low contrast.
Merry Christmas (1950)(B&W)(08:49): Poor quality, low contrast.
Jingle Bells (Color)(02:10): Poor quality, follow the bouncing ball and sing-a-long.
'Twas The Night Before Christmas (B&W)(08:05): Poor quality, low contrast.
The Little Rascals Happy New Year Greeting (B&W)(00:28): Poor quality, low contrast.
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