A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Still Gallery, Trailer

"A Christmas Story" has become a regular staple not only in Warner's Holiday release lists, but also in our family. It has become almost a tradition to watch the movie in the pre-holiday season and although I must have seen it a million times, the movie still retains its charm upon every single viewing. There is simply something magical about this film that never goes away.

9-year old Ralphie Parker ( Peter Billingsley) has only one wish for Christmas. He wants the the genuine Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle with built-in compass and "the thing that tells time." Knowing only to well that his mother would never approve of such a gift – "You'll shoot your eye out!" she only said flatly when he accidentally blurted out his wish over dinner one night without thinking. Therefore Ralphie has to revert to tactics. He needs a plan. And so, among being bullied on his way to and from school, Ralphie concocts all sorts of scheme to make sure his mother simply could not say "no" to the Christmas gift of his dreams, but every time he tries, he fails. Everything seems hopeless for the little boy from Indiana.

If you're anything like me, you know the story inside-and-out and you can quote liberally from the film verbatim. The early 50s atmosphere of the film, which is highly reminiscent in tone of the classic Norman Rockwell paintings, combined with the sweet story and unforgettable characters, make "A Christmas Story" a film for the ages. Peter Billingsley's performance as Ralphie is so dead-on that it is simply impossible not to fall for his charms. A wink here, a raised eye-brow there, and a puppy-look from those blue eyes and you're a goner for sure, sold onto this movie for the rest of your life.

Warner Home Video is routinely releasing this film on home video for the holiday season. This year around we have it on Blu-Ray Disc for the first time. Offering up a 1080p high definition transfer in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the movie looks wonderful. Although the film has a soft look in many instances, in order to replicate that romanticized Americana 50s look, there are a number of shots where the transfer's high definition makes a dramatic appearance as image details are revealed that were previously lost in standard definition versions. The colors are vibrant and rich, making sure the warm, fuzzy look of the film comes to life in all its exuberance and Christmas lighting. Solid black levels and great contrast make sure the film also renders the scenes in the snow accurately, making this Blu-Ray version a joy to watch.

The film comes with the movie's original mono audio track only. It has to be noted, I believe, that this is not a shortcoming at all, and by design, because it enhances the 50s atmosphere of the movie so dramatically. In fact, most people watching "A Christmas Story" will most likely believe they are actually watching a film that was produced in the 50s, so authentic is the overall presentation and production design of the movie – including the limited mono audio track.

The release comes with a few cool extras, such as a commentary track by actor Peter Billingsley – now as an adult, of course – and director Bob Clark. The track is a great addition and filled with incredible insight into the production, and conception of the film, as well as the impact it has had over the many years as it has turned into a true family classic.

Also included is the 20th Anniversary documentary "Another Christmas Story," which was part of the DVD anniversary Edition in 2003, as well as two additional featurettes called "Daisy Red Rider" and "Get A Leg Up." As you might have suspected, they cover the legendary BB-gun and the infamous leg lamp from the movie in more detail.

The release is rounded out by script pages and the film's trailer.

To me it has become part of the Christmas tradition to watch this movie and I am glad to have it available on Blu-Ray also. This is not a showcase disc, of course, but it is taking the experience a little further than standard definition DVD did by revealing little details in the image that were previously lost. "A Christmas Story" is one of the best holiday movies and there is no excuse why you shouldn't own this on Blu-Ray either.