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Kizo Nagashima, Larry Roemer
Burl Ives, Billie Mae Richards, Larry D. Mann, Paul Soles, Stan Francis, Janet Orenstein, Alfie Scopp, Carl Banas
Writing Credits:
Robert May (story), Romeo Muller

Who's got a nose for Christmas? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! Just in time for the holidays, here comes Rudolph in the most beloved special of all time! Packed with a sleigh full of memorable songs and unforgettable characters, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lights up the hearts of young and old alike.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 52 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 9/14/2004

• Introduction by Producer Arthur Rankin
• Rudolph Trivia Game
• “Fame and Fortune” Song
• Original TV Promo


Single Disc Version

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: Christmas Classics Collection (1964)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2004)

In the world of TV Christmas specials, Rudy is king. Skillions of these programs have come and gone over the years, and very few of them deserve to be called classics. Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch, and A Charlie Brown Christmas would be contenders for the crown as well, but I really think 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer deserves to be seen as the biggest of them all.

Told in flashback by Sam the Snowman (voiced by Burl Ives), Rudolph is set at the North Pole and concentrates on Santa Claus (Stan Francis) and all the crew who work on his operation. The show depicts the birth of the titular reindeer and how his parents see his mutated red nose that occasionally glows. At the insistence of his dad Donner (Paul Kligman), Rudy (Billie Mae Richards) tries to fit in with the other reindeer, but his physical deformity makes him the butt of their abuse and they ostracize him.

Rudy falls in love with cute reindeer Clarice (Janet Orenstein), one of the few who accepts him despite his physical issue. Unfortunately, her pop refuses to allow the two to interact. A heart-broken and bitter Rudolph soon encounters an elf named Hermy (Paul Soles). He’s been ridiculed by his fellow elves because he’d rather be a dentist than a toy-maker.

Hermy and Rudolph decide to flee their oppressive society. They head into the wild despite the threat of the vicious Abominable Snow-monster. They soon encounter flamboyant prospector Yukon Cornelius (Larry Mann), a longtime foe of the Snowmonster. The rest of the show follows their path, the folks they encounter along the way, and their path to acceptance.

Most of us grew up with Rudolph, a fact that limits objectivity. This show was such a cherished part of childhood that all feelings toward it get tied into nostalgia. I looked forward to all the Christmas specials, but Rudolph was always the most beloved of the bunch.

Even without the hazy filter of nostalgia, I think Rudolph works well. Part of the reason it succeeds stems from its underlying current of grumpiness. The show features a lot of aggressive characters such as Donner and the Chief Elf. Mrs. Santa’s something of a shrew. Even Santa isn’t always roly-poly and warm; check out his eye-rolling reaction to “We Are Santa’s Elves”. These semi-hard-edged moments undercut a trend toward sugary attitudes and make the show more likable.

Actually, the program becomes almost a little too mean at times. Boy, do the reindeer come down hard on poor Rudy when they discover his red nose. Even Santa reacts harshly, as he tells Donner he should be ashamed of himself. Geez - I thought Santa was supposed to be warm and accepting!

There’s some real anger to the characters, and while that may sound inappropriate for a Christmas special, it actually benefits the show. It takes place in a fantasy setting, but the resentment makes Hermy and Rudolph much more realistic.

Rudolph also benefits from some fine vocal performances. The show offers likable, charming characters among its leads, and the acting helps. Rudolph and Hermy demonstrate good life in their vocals, and the others seem more three-dimensional than one might expect, even with the cartoonish affectations inherent in the work.

As with most Christmas specials, Rudolph comes with a basic moral, but it doesn’t pound us over the head with it. Instead, it packages its message with a lot of humor and charm. The show definitely merits its status as a Christmas classic.

Note that the DVD includes the uncut version of Rudolph that first aired in 1964. This restores “We Are Santa’s Elves” and “We’re a Couple of Misfits”, two songs cut in later airings.

Because of that, this Rudolph may not be the same as the one you remember from childhood. Apparently “Misfits” got the boot after only one year and was replaced by “Fame and Fortune”. That’s the version of the show I remember; until now, I never saw it with “Misfits” intact. However, “Elves” was a later trim, so I definitely remember it. Anyway, despite these inconsistencies with memories, it’s good to get the original show intact.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio D+/ Bonus D+

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the program’s stature, the messy visuals came as a disappointment.

Sharpness didn’t excel, but it rarely faltered too badly. The show exhibited a decent sense of accuracy and looked reasonably concise. However, Rudolph never really looked crisp or detailed; it wasn’t soft, really, but it just didn’t show great definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed only a little edge enhancement.

As with the sharpness, colors were good but unexceptional. The tones demonstrated adequate distinctiveness and no better. I thought the hues needed a bit more vivacity and life, though they remained perfectly acceptable. Blacks were a little flat and didn’t stand out as particularly deep, while the occasional low-light shots looked fairly clean and visible.

Rudolph lost many of its points due to source flaws. Throughout the show, I noticed lots of defects. The show suffered from specks, grit, scratches, blotches, tears, lines and general debris. Some parts were cleaner than others, but few shots escaped without very obvious damage. Rudolph could look pretty good with a clean up, but now it presented a below-average image.

Similar problems came with the monaural soundtrack of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Speech was consistently thin and could be rather edgy at times. Distortion affected the music, which also sounded compressed and without any range. Effects showed similar harshness and lifelessness. Some hiss and background noise also came up throughout the show. I didn’t expect much from the audio of a 40-year-old TV special, but Rudolph nonetheless offered disappointing sound.

Only a few extras round out the set. We start with a 10-minute and 45-second introduction from producer Arthur Rankin. He talks about the show’s inspirations and the “Animagic” process. He also goes into the program’s themes and messages as well as how they expanded the story from the original song and its characters. Lastly, he chats a little about the others who worked on the piece. It’s a decent overview but not something with much substance.

Next we find a bonus segment with the Fame and Fortune song. A title card tells us that this segment replaced “We’re A Couple of Misfits” in 1965. The tune lasts two minutes and 17 seconds. As I mentioned in the body of my review, I grew up with “Fortune” in the show, so I’m glad they tossed it in as a bonus.

In the Rudolph Trivia Game, we get 12 multiple-choice questions about the show. These are pretty easy if you’ve seen the program, and no real reward accompanies successful completion. Lastly, we see the original TV promo for Rudolph. I’m not sure if it came with the show’s first-ever broadcast, as the announced says that Burl Ives will tell the tale “again”. Nonetheless, it’s a fun archival extra.

Probably the best Christmas special of them all, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer remains a lot of fun. It delivers its message in lively manner, with appropriate anger and a lot of quirky humor. Unfortunately, the DVD is nothing special. Picture and audio show many problems, and only a few extras appear. I like the show enough to recommend it, but the DVD is a disappointment.

Note that you can find Rudolph on DVD in a couple of releases. The one I reviewed comes from a package called The Original Television Christmas Classics. That box packages Rudolph with Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, and The Little Drummer Boy. It also includes a CD called Songs from the Christmas Classics with “new recordings by the Silver and Gold singers”. From what I understand, the single-disc Rudolph is exactly the same as the platter in the Classics set.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5061 Stars Number of Votes: 81
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