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Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Teddy Eccles, Jose Ferrer, Paul Frees
Writing Credits:
Romeo Muller

An orphan drummer boy who hated humanity finds his life changed forever when he meets three wise men on route to Bethlehem.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 25 min.
Price: $29.93
Available As Part of “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collection”
Release Date: 9/8/2015

• None


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
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The Little Drummer Boy [Blu-Ray] (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2021)

1968’s The Little Drummer Boy remains moderately well known, but it doesn’t merit consideration as an acknowledged “Christmas classic”. While it continues to get holiday exposure, it lacks the consistent popularity and cultural relevance of efforts such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This shouldn’t diminish the quality of Little Drummer Boy, though, as it offers an interesting effort. After desert bandits kill the family of a youngster named Aaron (voiced by Teddy Eccles), he turns his back on humanity.

Bitter and angry, Aaron befriends various animals but remains negative toward all people. We follow his story and his eventual redemption upon the birth of Christ.

Boy could have been very good, largely due to its surprisingly dark tone. Aaron is an intensely angry character who watches the murder of his parents and gets sold into slavery.

The show mostly follows a dramatic line, but it doesn’t fully embrace that spirit. It engages in too much slapstick and goofiness, as though the Rankin/Bass folks aren’t confident enough to make it totally dramatic.

This feels like a mistake. Perhaps the show’s creators thought they needed to tone down the drama due to its family audience, but I disagree. Kids can handle dark tales, and the seriousness of Boy acts as a strength.

Even without the dramatic consistency I’d prefer, Boy provides a reasonably good story. At the very least, it contrasts with most of its peers.

The Disc Grades: Picture D/ Audio B-/ Bonus F

The Little Drummer Boy appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The show offered a weak transfer.

Sharpness appeared mediocre at best. Close-ups demonstrated passable clarity but anything wider seemed soft and fuzzy. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge haloes appeared.

Colors flopped. Granted, the desert setting didn’t boast lots of vivid hues, but the tones of Boy appeared terribly drab and flat nonetheless. Blacks were inky and mushy, while shadows were bland.

Print flaws seemed minor, as I detected a few specks and lines but nothing serious. I couldn’t help but wonder if the image came from a 12th generation transfer or from a pre-existing DVD. Whatever the source, this was an unappealing and disappointing presentation.

On the other hand, the show’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack seemed surprisingly good. The stereo soundscape remained essentially monaural, though – and by “essentially”, I mean “entirely, as far as I could tell”. Any use of the side speakers was minor at most.

Given the show’s origins, though, that was fine, and the track sounded quite good. Speech was fairly warm and natural, which just a bit of edginess. Effects could be slightly rough, but not terribly so, and they usually demonstrated pretty nice range.

Music satisfied most of all. The songs and score demonstrated pleasing tones, as they showed good clarity and depth. Unfortunately, the performance of the title song heard during the show’s climax came from an iffy source and could sound a bit wobbly.

A mild hum could be heard at times, but it didn’t become a notable distraction. Overall, this seemed like a mostly positive soundtrack.

How did this 2019 Blu-ray compare to the prior BD? Both seemed very similar – and probably identical. I find myself hard-pressed to identify differences between picture and audio of the two.

Boy comes with no extras.

An unusually dark holiday special, The Little Drummer Boy lacks consistency. I like its dramatic tone but it spoils the atmosphere with too many self-consciously light moments. The Blu-ray offers good audio but suffers from terrible visual quality and lacks supplements. Boy has its ups and downs but it remains a mostly enjoyable show – too bad this Blu-ray looks so awful.

This release of Little Drummer Boy can be purchased on its own or as part of a set called “The Original Christmas Specials”. Along with Drummer, it includes Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and The Cricket on the Hearth.

To rate this film visit the prior review of LITTLE DRUMMER BOY

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