Set in a 1940s-era Midwestern town and told from the viewpoints of a seven-year-old boy, who only wants one thing for Christmas — a Red Ryder BB gun — the episodic tale chronicles not only his schemes to convince his mother and father to buy him one, but also offers a warmly nostalgic look into 1940s middle-class American life. From the stories of, and narrated by, Jean Shepherd.
For thoughts on A Christmas Story, please check out my colleague Shawn Paul Wood’s overview of the film here.
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray of A Christmas Story offers a tremendous uptick in quality over the ruddy old Blu-Ray from a decade ago. While the studio has been tight-lipped about the source of this new master, it appears that this new disc is derived from a 4K scan of the Original Camera Negative due to the improvements in clarity, detail and stability. Even the included Blu-Ray is derived from this new source, and it may be enough of an incentive to upgrade for people who are not 4K capable. Your family (and your own eyeballs) will thank you once you are throwing this on for your yearly viewing.
This natural film grain comes through without issue as it resolves well without being clumpy or swarming. You will thankfully not find much in the way of digital tinkering on this transfer as you avoid unsightly DNR, compression artifacts and other encode issues. The film retains its intentionally hazy aesthetic while providing distinct detail within the frame. The top notch production design is presented with perfect clarity in settings with immense depth. Take a look around the house or Santa’s North Pole display to see a wide array of subtle details that are visible for the first time ever on disc. The costumes and textural output of the scenery will blow minds as everything renders without any issues. Skin tones appear natural with strong bouts of fine detail apparent on faces such as makeup and pores.
Where the 4K presentation really comes alive is in the employment of the color spectrum. Holiday films are ready-made to ooze dynamic colors, and this is no exception. The HDR10 really gets the most out of this festive environment and features it to its full potential. From the red of Santa’s suit to the holiday lights, you will be left in a primary daze. The black levels truly make this presentation sing, staying deep and inky with great detail. The highlights in the film are firmly defined with whites more pure and balanced with no instances of blooming to be found. This more balanced contrast plays well with the filtered look of the film, making it appear more gorgeous than you ever imagined. This is a very faithful, natural looking transfer that offers up a necessary improvement that will improve the experience of all who count this as a favorite.
This 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc comes with the original theatrical DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio split mono track that preserves the creative intent of the picture. The movie focuses pretty heavily on dialogue which always comes through with perfect clarity even in more active moments. The environmental flourishes and sound effects hold up well within its reserved capacity. The score holds up with nice fidelity and never experiences anything in the way of age-related distortion. Warner Bros. provided this relatively reserved film with an audio presentation that allows it to flourish. There are English SDH, French, Spanish and Dutch subtitles provided.
- Audio Commentary: Director Bob Clark and actor Peter Billingsley provide a pretty solid commentary track in which they discuss the vignette nature of adapting the original source material, the search to find the right Ralphie, the practical ways they recreated the 1940s setting, the original choice for the father, how they relied on narration to help shape their stories, memories from all aspects of the production and more. There are a few moments of dead air, but overall this is a good time for fans.
- Christmas In Ohio – A Christmas Story House: A nifty 21-minute featurette is provided here in which Brian Jones, owner of the real-life “Christmas Story House” and actor/tour guide Ian Patrella (“Randy”) discuss the original idea to purchase and un-renovate the house back to its original Christmas Story aesthetic, the fervor people have over visiting the house, details about the history of the film and more. One of the better supplements on this disc.
- Another Christmas Story: An 18-minute featurette in which the cast and creative team discuss the enduring impact A Christmas Story has on their lives, memorable moments from the film, secrets from the production and more.
- Daisy Red Ryder – A History: A five-minute piece which takes a closer look at the iconic item that Ralphie so desires in the film.
- Get A Leg Up: A five-minute look at the real star of the film…the leg lamp! You get some fun interviews with leg lamp manufacturers.
- “Flash Gordon” Deleted Script Pages: A gallery of script pages that were never filmed for the movie.
- The Leg Lamp Spot: A minute-long faux commercial for The Leg Lamp.
- Jean Shepherd Original Radio Reading: Two original radio recordings are provided for “Duel In The Snow, or Red Ryder Nails The Cleveland Street Kid” (38:07) and “Flick’s Tongue” (30:50). Both of these are a lot of fun.
- Theatrical Trailer: The two- minute theatrical trailer is provided here.
A Christmas Story has firmly established itself as a staple of the holiday season on cable, but beyond that it serves as a nostalgic look back at the wonders of being young and the formative experiences you have during childhood. The vignette structure of the storytelling keeps the narrative very animated, and every cast member is given a chance to ground their character’s personality in something honest. The film is immensely funny and quite heartwarming, and it stands tall as one of the great holiday films. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has delivered a terrific new 4K UHD Blu-Ray featuring a fantastic A/V presentation and some fun legacy special features. If you throw this on television every year, you owe it to yourself to upgrade to this new package. Highly Recommended
A Christmas Story is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.