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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Christmas > Children > Toys > A Christmas Story (HD-DVD)

A Christmas Story (HD-DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Just in time for an amusing and loosely related controversy, here comes Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story (1983) on HD-DVD for the 2006 holiday, the first holiday period for the HD formats.  Originally a film that opened Thanksgiving 1983 and not able to do strong follow-up business that Christmas, the film has become the biggest classic of the holiday since films went widescreen and TV arrived in the 1950s.


The controversy at this time is over a remake of director Clark’s 1974 Horror classic Black Christmas (reviewed elsewhere on this site) opening Christmas Day 2006.  Some who are trying to hijack the holiday in the name of “saving” it are complaining and in 99% of these cases do not know it is a remake or that Clark made A Christmas Story.  If they don’t want to see the film, just don’t go, especially when they can see A Christmas Story.


In it, young Ralphie (a young Peter Billingsley in a great performance) is celebrating the holidays with the obsessive desire to get a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun by any means necessary and when his motherly mom (Melinda Dillon in a role that has eclipsed her work in Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind as her most famous work) and wacky father (Darren McGavin of Kolchak: The Night Stalker fame) keep telling him no, Ralphie keeps saying yes!


Long before Home Alone, Ralphie had a wacky Christmas that could take on all the films in that franchise and then some.  The voiceover of Ralphie as adult by author Jean Shepherd is one of the best, most effective cinema voiceovers ever.  Gag after gag works over and over again.  The film is fun and holds up remarkably well, maybe even more so as certain circumstances (we will not go into here) make the idea of true childhood seem to be transmuting for the worse.  Still, many aspects of the story echo children of all ages and that is why A Christmas Story will continue to grown in statue deservedly proving Christmas is for anyone who wants it any way they want it.  The holiday is pointless otherwise.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is lacking, but is a tad better than the standard DVD if not by much.  This does look better than Warner’s HD-DVD of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (reviewed elsewhere on this site) but also not by much.  Still, Clark’s longtime cinematographer Reginald H. Morris (who shot the original Black Christmas) delivers some of the most memorable images of Christmas in cinema history.  By not being phony, that is half the battle won.  The Dolby Digital Plus 1.0 Mono is not bad and a solid approximation of the optical mono theatrical sound in 35mm prints, but why not an upgrade to even simple stereo?  Did composers Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer record the music in mono?  Maybe a later anniversary upgrade could include this as well.


Extras include the original theatrical trailer, original radio readings by author Jean Shepherd (who co-wrote this screenplay based on her solely authored book In God We Trust, All Other Pay Cash) of script pages, feature length audio commentary track by Clark & Billingsley, recent 20th Anniversary documentary Another Christmas Story from 2003, "Get A Leg Up" and "A History of The Daisy Red Ryder" featurettes, interactive trivia, decoder match challenge and even Easter eggs.


Later, a sequel was actually made with Charles Grodin taking McGavin’s role and Kieran Culkin (???) as an older version of Billingsley called My Summer Story aka It Runs In The Family, which was released in 1994.  We actually have a review for it here on the site, which you can access at the following link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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