A Christmas Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a pretty mediocre presentation.
For the most part, sharpness appeared satisfactory. The film came across as somewhat fuzzy and ill defined on occasion, though. While most of the flick was reasonably accurate and concise, it seemed a little tentative at times. Was this an intentional artifact of gauzy “period” photography? Possibly, but the result remained somewhat fuzzy.
I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement failed to appear. Print flaws caused mild problems, as the image came with a smattering of specks and marks; these didn’t dominate but they were more noticeable than I’d expect.
Colors varied. Exteriors mostly looked pretty accurate and well defined, but the tones often came across as somewhat flat and lackluster. Some of that seemed to result from the film’s intentional subdued palette, but since the intensity of the hues varied for no apparent thematic reasons, I couldn’t chalk up the occasionally drab colors for stylistic reasons. (Undoubtedly, the film stocks of the era contributed as well.)
Black levels tended to be reasonably dense but slightly on the inky side, and shadows were a bit thick and dull. The image of A Christmas Story didn’t do much that seemed particularly wrong, but it also rarely presented a picture that stood out as very positive.
Similar sentiments greeted the Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack of A Christmas Story. Speech was intelligible but fairly flat, as the lines lacked much of a natural feel. Some poor looping/lip-synch didn’t help matters. Effects demonstrated a little distortion at times, particularly during the fantasy sequence with Ralph’s BB gun. Otherwise those elements seemed lackluster but acceptably accurate and clean.
Music didn’t present much range, though some decent dynamics occasionally appeared. Still, the score failed to present any real problems, and it sounded fairly clear and bright. Ultimately, the audio of A Christmas Story seemed average for its era.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD? Audio was virtually identical – the Blu-ray failed to bring us a lossless option – but visuals showed improvements. While the Blu-ray’s image wasn’t impressive, it still gave us a mild step up compared to the DVD.
Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we locate an audio commentary from director/co-writer Bob Clark and actor Peter Billingsley. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. While the pair offer some nice remembrances, this ultimately becomes a pretty average track.
Clark and Billingsley touch on a decent variety of topics. We learn about the different sources of the story and how Clark brought it to the screen. They discuss locations and production challenges as well as the prickliness of author Jean Shepherd. We also get a nice mix of interesting anecdotes from the set plus some discussion of the film’s initial reception and subsequent life.
Clark seems really bitter about the many criticisms leveled at Porky’s over the years and appears happy to point out that Story might not exist without his earlier success with the sex comedy. We even find out which major actor almost got cast as the Old Man.
Unfortunately, the guys often do little more than just talk about what they like, and more than a few empty spots appear. I learned some intriguing bits from this track – who knew Clark shot a sequel? – but it’s a spotty commentary as a whole.
Next comes Another Christmas Story, an 18-minute and 18-second retrospective. It mixes movie snippets and interviews with director Bob Clark plus actors Peter Billingsley, R.D. Robb, Scott Schwartz, and Zack Ward. They tell us continued reactions from the public toward the film, their own Christmas memories, and a number of anecdotes from the shoot. The program doesn’t remotely attempt to present a full examination of the film’s creation, but it includes some good notes and seems generally interesting.
The next featurette looks at the gun that remains the movie’s prized possession. Daisy Red Ryder: A History runs five minutes, 18 seconds. It launches with quick comments from Bob Clark and actors Schwartz, Robb, and Billingsley, but then we head to the Daisy factory to hear from co-curator of the Rogers Daisy Airgun Museum John Ford, customer service manager Orin Ribar, public relations manager Susan Gardner, and advertising manager Steven Ribar.
We get notes about the history of the airgun, modifications made for the model used in the movie, and airgun safety issues. We also find out a little about the use of the gun on the set. No one ever does tell us if you can actually shoot out your eye with an airgun, but this is a reasonably efficient and interesting look at the subject.
Get a Leg Up finishes the disc with an examination of the movie’s other most coveted item, the leg lamp. In this four-minute and 35-second featurette, we see DVD producer JM Kenny chat with lamp creator Joe Egeberg and tour the latter’s plant. We also hear from leg lamp manufacturer Dave Smith. I could live without Kenny’s snarky attitude, but it’s still kind of cool to learn that you can actually buy these things.
Under Script Pages, we get a text extra. It shows the screenplay excerpt for another scene in which Ralph fantasizes about how fabulous life would be if he got a BB gun. It’s a fun bonus.
Two ads finish the set. We find the movie’s trailer and a promo for the Leg Lamp.
While A Christmas Story made little box office impact in 1983, it found a huge audience via home video and cable broadcasts. The film deserves its positive reception, as it presents one of the better holiday flicks. The Blu-ray offers mediocre picture and audio along with a few decent bonus materials. This becomes the best version of the film on the market, though I can’t say it represents an enormous improvement when compared to the 2003 DVD.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of A CHRISTMAS STORY