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MPI

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jackie Gleason
Cast:
Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows
Writing Credits:
Walter Stone, Robert Hilliard

Synopsis:
Ralph Kramden finds himself in over his head when he agrees to direct a stage version of A Christmas Carol.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 49 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/2/2021

Bonus:
• “Trixie’s Honeymooner’s Memories” Featurette
• “Women’s Lib” Episode


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Honeymooners: A Christmas Carol (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2021)

Although The Honeymooners officially left the air in 1956, the property didn’t go dormant. The characters popped up sporadically for years, and as part of this expansion, 1977 brought a TV special called A Christmas Carol.

As bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) prepares to take a holiday trip with wife Alice (Audrey Meadows), his boss Mr. Marshall (Gale Gordon) relates that he needs someone to direct a play for his wife’s charity. Because he senses a chance to earn points with Marshall, Ralph lies about his theatrical experience to get the gig.

However, this production will run over the same span he and Alice planned to go to Florida, and she reacts negatively to the development. This means Ralph needs to deal with friction on the home front as he makes his haphazard attempt to stage A Christmas Carol.

Given this DVD’s title, I went into it with the expectation that it would offer an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol that featured the Honeymooners cast. That does occur, but it becomes a fairly minor aspect of the special, as this “stage play” only takes up eight of the show’s 49 minutes.

This leaves most of the program about Ralph and the rest as they work through his scheme. Initially the choice to largely skip a Honeymooners-based take on A Christmas Carol disappointed me, but as I watched the special, I changed my mind about that.

Mainly I altered my view because a little of the Kramden Carol goes a long way. Most of the comedy we find in that brief production stems from goofs and silliness, so a full-length version probably would’ve worn out its welcome pretty quickly.

Mainly, though, I appreciated the choice to essentially make this a Christmas-oriented episode of The Honeymooners because the special proves fairly amusing – though not without problems. In particular, Gleason’s choice to make Carol a filmed stage production in front of a live audience becomes a drawback.

Throughout the show, the crowd claps and cheers for a variety of reasons, and these damage the special’s pacing, especially in terms of comedic timing. In addition, the format forces the actors to play their roles big.

Of course, plenty of TV sitcoms shoot in front of studio audiences, but Carol doesn’t work in the standard way. Instead, it truly offers a “stage play” version of Honeymooners that just happens to be filmed as well.

This just doesn’t work for me. It probably was a lot of fun in person, but the aforementioned issues that stem from the format make it less appealing than it would’ve been if shot in a more standard manner.

One should also expect a fair number of jokes that haven’t aged well. If you didn’t live through 1977, you seem unlikely to get cracks about Anita Bryant, Billy Carter and others.

Nonetheless, Carol manages decent entertainment, mainly due to the charms of the cast. It remains unclear why Jane Kean substitutes for prior Trixie Norton Joyce Randolph – who is still alive in 2021 as I write! – but she proves an underwhelming replacement.

At least Kean doesn’t get much to do, as the focus remains on Ralph, Ed and Alice. Gleason and Meadows do fine, but Carney knocks it out of the park.

Even when fed some fairly lame jokes, Carney produces laughs. He takes mediocre material and makes it good.

Outside of Carney, I find The Honeymooners Specials: A Christmas Carol to feel moderately entertaining and not much more. It’s fun to see these legends together years after their heyday, but the program doesn’t quite connect on a consistent basis.


The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C/ Bonus C

The Honeymooners Specials: A Christmas Carol appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the source, the show seemed watchable but it remained somewhat ugly.

Like everything else, sharpness seemed erratic. Some shots looked fairly concise, while others could be vague and soft. In general, the image showed acceptable definition but no better than that.

Sporadic examples of shimmering and jaggies occurred. No source flaws occurred, but the special could seem blocky.

Colors tended to be average, as the shows featured fairly mediocre hues. They weren’t dull but they didn’t offer much pep.

Blacks demonstrated decent depth, while shadows offered acceptable smoothness. For a show shot nearly 45 years ago, Honeymooners looked acceptable but maintained the limitations of the sources.

Don’t expect much from the bland monaural soundtrack of Honeymooners, as the audio lacked much range and seemed flat. Music sounded thin and wan, while effects worked about the same way, so they could be a bit distorted and display little punch.

Speech was reasonably natural most of the time. The lines showed a little dullness on occasion, but these elements remained adequate. Nothing here came across as bad for its age and roots, but the audio remained pretty lifeless.

Two bonus programs appear here, and Trixie’s Honeymooners Memories runs 23 minutes, four seconds. In this program, actor Jane Kean discusses her life and career, with some emphasis on her connection to Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners. Kean offers a decent collection of memories.

The Honeymooners: Women’s Lib spans 24 minutes 51 seconds and brings a skit from 1973. This one depicts Ralph’s negative reactions to Alice’s attempts to become more independent.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of this material dates poorly, but it seems fun to see as an archival piece. Note that Kean works as Trixie but Sheila MacRae plays Alice.

Despite the title, The Honeymooners Specials: A Christmas Carol only briefly touches on the Charles Dickens’ classic. More an extended episode of Honeymooners, the show offers some amusement but never excels. The DVD brings dated but adequate picture and audio along with a smattering of bonus materials. While the program feels erratic, Honeymooners fans should like it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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