Bad Santa appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the original 2004 release looked quite good, I felt the 2006 “Director’s Cut” demonstrated more than a few problems.
Sharpness presented one area of concern. Most of the film offered reasonably good delineation and clarity, but more than a few exceptions occurred. I thought quite a few shots seemed a bit soft and ill-defined, partially thanks to some edge haloes. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems, but source flaws were a bigger distraction. Occasional bouts of specks made the “Director’s Cut” transfer messier than its predecessor.
Despite the dark humor of the flick, Bad Santa featured a palette that reflected its Christmas theme, and the DVD replicated those tones well for the most part. The hues always remained vibrant and lively, but I noticed some smearing at times and the colors weren’t always as tight as I’d like. Black levels looked deep and rich, but shadows tended to be a little thick. Low-light shots demonstrated more opacity than I’d expect. The transfer had some very nice spots and was always watchable, but it suffered from more concerns than we normally get from a modern movie.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bad Santa provided a serviceable but unspectacular presentation. It seemed to strongly echo what I heard from the prior DVD. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained heavily oriented toward the front channels. The surrounds rarely added much, as the audio stayed largely anchored in the front. Music displayed good stereo presence, and effects spread well across the front. The surrounds added moderate reinforcement but that was it, as they didn’t contribute much to the mix.
Sound quality appeared acceptable. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music seemed nicely bright and vibrant and also demonstrated decent bass response. Overall, the audio worked fine for the movie, but due to its lack of atmospheric ambition, I felt it merited only a “B-”.
This “Director’s Cut” of Bad Santa mostly duplicates the extras from the prior release, but we do get a new audio commentary. This offers remarks from director Terry Zwigoff and editor Robert Hoffman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss changes made for the “Director’s Cut”, cast and performances, editing, music and sound design, sets and locations, the involvement of the Coen brothers, changes from the original script, and various scene specifics.
Despite a little dead air at times, this usually proves to be an interesting chat. We get a good number of insights into the production and learn a fair amount about the various choices. The commentary never quite threatens to become great, but it adds to our appreciation of the film.
Four deleted and alternate scenes lasted between 99 seconds and 218 seconds for a total of eight minutes, 48 seconds of footage. “Santa Trainer” features a cameo from Sarah Silverman and gives us a look at Willie and others in Santa class; it would have followed the end of the opening credits. “Willie Leaves Department Store” shows alternate versions of the confrontation between Willie and the security at the movie’s first location.
“Florida Robbery” is the longest as it shows a caper Willie executes. Finally, “Screaming Baby” cuts from a scene of violence to more of Willie on the job. Some outtakes and additional versions of the same sequences also appear. All seem reasonably entertaining but none offer anything crucial.
All except for “Robbery” already appeared in the Badder Santa’s collection of deleted/alternate scenes. “Robbery” looks awfully familiar, so I believe it was integrated into the longer unrated cut. Conversely, “Baby” now appears as part of the Director’s Cut, so its presence as a deleted scene makes it redundant.
Next we find a Behind the Scenes Special. This runs nine minutes, 29 seconds and includes the usual assortment of movie clips, shots from the set, and sound bites. We hear from Zwigoff, producers Sarah Aubrey and John Cameron, and actors Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly and Bernie Mac. We learn about the film’s origins and path to the screen, problems getting a studio to touch the material, finding a director and cast, and some memories of John Ritter. The program mostly feels promotional, as the show only gives us a rudimentary look at some basics. A few of the behind the scenes bits seem interesting - such as Thornton working with Kelly - but overall, it’s a pretty lackluster show.
A collection of Outtakes appears next. This runs four minutes, one second as it presents the standard assortments of goofs and wackiness. Note that this set drops the “Badder Santa Gag Reel” found on the unrated DVD from 2004. That’s the only omission in terms of extras.
No trailer for Bad Santa itself shows up on the DVD, but in the at the start of the disc, we discover a few ads. We see clips for Keeping Up with the Steins, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Lost Season Two, and Kinky Boots. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Grey’s Anatomy Season Two, Scrubs Season Four, and Desperate Housewives Season Two.
Destined to become a Christmas classic for folks who hate Christmas, Bad Santa doesn’t consistently fire on all cylinders. Nonetheless, the dark and profane comedy boasts some good performances and lots of winningly crude humor to work well overall. The DVD presents fairly average picture and audio along with a few supplements highlighted by an interesting audio commentary.
I like Bad Santa and recommend it to viewers, but the question becomes which version to get. Although the prior Badder Santa offered superior picture quality, this one gives us the movie as intended by the director, and that’s important to me. It also throws in a pretty good commentary, so I think it’s the one to have. It may not be worth the “double dip” for folks who already own an earlier Santa DVD, though.
To rate this film visit the original review of BAD SANTA: UNRATED