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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

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 52 min.
Price: $29.93
Available As Part of “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collection”
Release Date: 9/8/2015

• Pop-Up Book
• Two Sing-Alongs
• “Learn to Draw” Featurettes
• “Rudolph Unwrapped” Featurette


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1964)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 30, 2015)

In the world of 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 should 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 his crew. 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 freakish schnozz. Unfortunately, her pop refuses to allow the two to interact.

A heart-broken and bitter Rudolph soon encounters an elf named Hermey (Paul Soles). He’s been ridiculed by his fellow elves because he’d rather be a dentist than a toy-maker.

Hermey 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 Snow Monster. The rest of the show follows their adventure, 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. As a kid, 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 the trend toward sugary attitudes found in most Christmas shows and make Rudolph 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 Hermey and Rudolph much more realistic.

Rudolph also gets a boost from some fine vocal performances. The show offers likable, charming characters among its leads, and the acting helps. Rudolph and Hermey 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 Blu-ray 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 Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C-/ Bonus C-

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it showed its age, the show offered pretty good visuals.

Sharpness didn’t excel, but it rarely faltered. The show exhibited a decent sense of accuracy and looked reasonably concise. Nothing appeared razor-sharp, but nothing looked fuzzy, either. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes.

As with the sharpness, colors were good but unexceptional. The tones demonstrated reasonable distinctiveness and became satisfactory. Blacks were acceptably deep, while the occasional low-light shots looked fairly clean and visible.

Print flaws didn’t become a distraction. Occasional examples of marks and spots showed up, but these were minor, and I believe they came from the source. I suspect the “flaws” stemmed from lackluster clean-up of the original product, so the transfer appeared to eliminate actual print damage. In the end, this wasn’t an impressive presentation, but it became a satisfactory reproduction of the program.

Though Rudolph came with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix, the results appeared to be extremely limited in scope. Honestly, the audio was “broad mono” at best. Elements spread in a loose manner to the side speakers but I noticed no stereo music or unique information in those channels.

In addition, the surrounds seemed to be passive. Any material that cropped up from the rear speakers was negligible at best. I don’t know why the disc’s producers bothered to create a 5.1 track for a monaural special from 1964, and the soundscape came with little to justify that remix.

Audio quality showed its age. Speech was consistently thin and could be somewhat edgy at times. Music lacked range and seemed tinny and harsh.

Effects showed similar tones, with mediocre clarity at best; distortion occasionally crept into the audio as well. A little background noise came through, but not much. I didn’t expect much from the audio of a 50-year-old TV special, but Rudolph nonetheless offered lackluster sound.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD from 2004? Audio showed minor improvements. I thought the lossless DTS-HD MA mix was a wee bit clearer, but not much. Both DVD and BD sounded thin and harsh, and the so-called 5.1 reworking was pointless.

The image offered more obvious improvements. The Blu-ray offered better definition, stronger colors and a cleaner image. Even with the limitations I saw, the Blu-ray became the superior presentation.

The Blu-ray opts for different extras than those found on the 2004 DVD. Rudolph Pop-Up Book runs two minutes, 48 seconds and offers a brief recap of the special’s story in a format that resembles a pop-up book. It’s painless but unnecessary.

Next we find Sing-Alongs for two songs: “Holly Jolly” (1:22) and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (0:53). These mix shots from the show with the songs and lyrics. They seem semi-pointless – can’t we already sing along with the songs during the special?

After a one-minute, 14-second intro, Learn to Draw breaks into three tutorials: “Rudolph” (11:14), “Hermey” (11:32) and “Abominable Snow Monster” (9:25). In these, DreamWorks Animation Head of Character Animation Dave Burgess teaches us how to sketch those personalities. This becomes a fun little enterprise.

Finally, Rudolph Unwrapped lasts 16 minutes, 42 seconds and gives us 50 factoids about the special. These offer interesting little tidbits.

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. The Blu-ray brings us generally positive picture along with lackluster audio and minor supplements. While I can’t say the Blu-ray impresses me, it’s the best version of the special to date, and I like Rudolph too much not to recommend it.

Note that you can find Rudolph on Blu-ray in a couple of releases. The one I reviewed comes from a package called The Original Television Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition. That box packages Rudolph with Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, The Cricket on the Hearth, and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. With a list price under $30, it’s a good deal.

To rate this film, visit the DVD edition of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

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