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You’ll shoot your eye out!

There are some movies featuring kids that annoyingly saccharine that I am forced to tune them out in thirty seconds. Then, there are other movies featuring kids that are totally charming and oftentimes hilarious. A CHRISTMAS STORY ($29) is a truly delightful movie that falls into the later category. In the twenty-five-plus years since the film has been released, it has gone from a very funny movie, to an annual yuletide favorite, and finally, a recognized holiday classic. For those unfamiliar with the origins of A CHRISTMAS STORY, this holiday charmer has been adapted from the works of Jean Shepherd, which ably strings together a series of his vignettes (primarily from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash) into a cohesive storyline.

Set in the 1940’s the plot of A CHRISTMAS STORY focuses on a young boy named Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), who has become obsessed with getting the perfect Christmas gift- a Red Ryder Carbine Action, 200 Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. Of course, the second Ralphie mentions his gift of choice to his Mother (Melinda Dillon)- she responds in typical motherly fashion by stating "you’ll shoot your eye out!" Undeterred, Ralphie continues his quest throughout the rest of the movie, but not before a series of hilarious occurrences, including a tire changing incident that leaves a bad taste in Ralphie’s mouth, an encounter with a bully and the repercussions of his Father (Darren McGavin) winning a rather unusual lighting fixture. The cast of A CHRISTMAS STORY also features Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Tedde Moore, Yano Anaya, Zack Ward and the voice of Jean Shepherd himself serving as the film’s narrator.

Warner Home Video has made A CHRISTMAS STORY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is really very nice, but no one will ever look upon A CHRISTMAS STORY as a demonstration title for the virtues of high definition. Considering that the filmmakers made a period film on a relatively tiny budget, A CHRISTMAS STORY looks as well as it possibly can on Blu-ray. Image sharpness, detail, depth and clarity are all improved over standard definition, but anyone looking for a miraculous holiday revelation from this Blu-ray release, may come away feeling as though Santa left a lump of coal in their stockings. Overall, I was very pleased A CHRISTMAS STORY on Blu-ray because it serves as an accurate reflection of what the film genuinely looks like. Daylight sequences look the best because the film stocks utilized for principal photography are able to resolve a whole lot more detail when light is in abundance. Interiors and darker sequences do show some of the limitations of said film stocks and detail is less evident. Colors are rendered at a fairly natural level of saturation, plus the flesh tones are usually true to life. Black are pretty accurate and the white are stable. Contrast and shadow detail hold their own, but are not exemplary. The film elements do show some sign of age, but not to any excessive degree. Grain is present at varying levels, but it helps maintain the film like quantity of the presentation.

A CHRISTMAS STORY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel Dolby Digital monaural 192kbps soundtrack. Most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the movie with a generally smooth and reasonably pleasant sound. Fidelity has the expected limitation for a modestly budgeted, monaural film of this vintage, but the sound is pleasant enough. Sound effects and the music are a bit thin, but not bad. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. A French language track has also been encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplemental materials, which have been ported over from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Bob Clark and actor Peter Billingsley. This is an enjoyable talk, as both men share their remembrances of making this movie, although their comments do get a bit sparse in places. Another Christmas Story is an eighteen-minute program with Bob Clark, Peter Billingsley, R.D. Robb, Scott Schwartz, and Zack Ward, all of whom share their memories of the movie, as well as the effect that it has had on their lives and careers. Other Featurettes include: Daisy Red Rider: A History and Get A Leg Up. Daisy Red Rider: A History is a five minute look at the company that manufactured the coveted gun depicted in the film, while Get A Leg Up is a humorous four minute take on that all American icon- the leg lamp. Script Pages and a Theatrical Trailer close out the supplements.

A CHRISTMAS STORY is a true holiday delight that has made its way to high definition. Sure its not a demo disc, but if you are a fan and have a Blu-ray player then you’ll want to check it out. Recommended.



A Christmas Story [Blu-ray] (1983)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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