on October 8, 2003
Many fans of this movie expressed their concern when it was originally released on DVD as a 'pan-&-scan' only version. After a few years, and lots of complaints, WB finally gives us the widescreen version ...NOT!
This DVD actually contians the 'pan-&-scan' fullscreen version, and it includes a fake 'matted' widescreen version.
Matted-widescreen means they took a 'fullscreen' copy of the movie, and added black bars to the top & bottom of the picture to 'simulate' a widescreen version of the movie. As a result, not only are we missing the left & right side of the picture, now we are missing part of the top & bottom as well. What the hell is wrong with Warner Bros, MGM and Universal?!?
When movie buffs and DVD fans demand a 'widescreen' version of the movie, they are demanding the ORIGINAL WIDESCREEN VERSION of the movie, not some fake matted print that simply simulates the original aspect ratio. We want the entire picture, not a picture that has been SHAPED using black bars to fool the consumer into thinking this is the whole widescreen picture as it was originally shown in theaters.
Basicly, these companies are using a play on words, and instead of spending the time to restore the true 'widescreen' print, they are just slapping some black bars on the fullscreen print that was used to make the pan-&-scan version, so it has the same aspect ratio (shape) as what we asked for.
This is an ignorant business practice, and false advertising. Granted, some movies were released in theaters fullscreen, then matted in the theater to make it widescreen to fit on their screens, but this movie is not one of them. So the matting they did on it is unjustified. They are just lazy, cheap and greedy.
I am returning my copy and I will wait (likely forever) until these companies decide to give us what we actually ask for, not some crappy 'matted' version we have to settle for...
Dont belive me? Watch both version, see how much is missing from the top & bottom of the widescreen side compared to the fullscreen side.
Decision makers at WB should be taken out and shot. Why? Because they act like they rerelease movies such as this one to 'please the customers', but thats not it... its about getting your money, and spending as little effort and resources as possible in doing so.
I was almost finished recording "A Christmas Story" on last Christmas morning. Fifteen minutes before it ended, my father walked in and said that we would get the special edition soon.
That I didn't go postal at losing an hour and a half of my favorite holiday on something that would shortly be redundant shows how much I love "A Christmas Story." This 1983 classic is not just a heartwarming little story about a loving (if bickery) family in the dour America of the late 1940s, but a hysterical comedy about what it's like to be a kid at Christmas.
Ralphie Parker's (Peter Billingsley) Christmas wishes are simple: a official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass and a "thing that tells time." But his mom says he'll shoot his eye out. So Ralphie begins a quiet crusade to get it as a present -- he writes an essay on it and even asks Santa, only to get the same terrible reply: "You'll shoot your eye out."
As the days tick down to Christmas -- with no sign of an air rifle -- Ralphie hits other obstacles when he clashes with bullies, says "the mother of all dirty words," and watches his parents battle it out over a tacky "major award" (leg lamp). But there are surprises in store for the Parker family on Christmas morning -- and some of them involve smelly bloodhounds.
Yes, the plot is pretty simple -- it's the delivery that makes it special. It's narrated by an adult Ralphie who offers his slightly sardonic take on everything ("We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice"), mingled with a hint of nostalgia. And it's completely tuned in to how kids think, and how a toy can seem like the most important thing in the world.
Fortunately the scriptwriters never condescend to the audience by adding some kind of syrupy message about love and family and all that -- after all, real life doesn't work that way. Instead there are all sorts of classic moments -- the leg lamp, Chinese turkey, the terrifying visit to Santa ("HOOOO HOOOO HOOO!"), and Ralphie's fantasies of defending his family with "Ol' Blue" against a bunch of inept, unarmed bandits.
And Jean Shepherd -- the co-writer and narrator of the movie -- deserves especial credit for bringing this movie to life with his slightly stressed-out delivery. He covers the movie with a snowstorm of one-liners and hilarious dialogue: "Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap." "He looks like a pink nightmare!" "Oh FUUUDDDDGGGE!" and others. McGavin gets many of the best ones, though ("FRA-GEE-LAY... that must be Italian!").
Billingsley is a little stiff as Ralphie, but gives the portrayal of this everykid his charming, slightly frenetic best. He's never oversmart or annoying, ever. Melinda Dillon and Darin McGavin are the comic geniuses here, with their slightly kooky but loving parents (one of the highlights is Dillon's "show me how the piggies eat!" scene, and McGavin's revolted response), and there's an array of very convincing bullies and classmates too.
"A Christmas Story" didn't get much notice when it came out in 1983. But now it's one of the quintessential holiday movies, and a must-see at Christmastime. HOOOOO HOOOOO HOOOO...
on April 16, 2011
I finally broke down and ordered this because it hasn't been shown here on TV for years. It's my favourite Christmas movie and has been a tradition in my family to watch it every year, several times if possible. Now we can do that!! This is a wonderful film that catches what it was like to be a child at Christmas in the mid 40's & 50's. Ralphie's plotting and scheming to get what he really wants for Christmas, to me rings so true. One of my favourite scenes is the kid sticking his tongue to the flagpole & having it frozen to the pole. The kids don't know what to do & Ralphie's classic line "I don't know, the bell rang" is just so true, at least for me. When I was a kid, when the bell rang at school, you dropped what you were doing & headed for the door & this scene captures that beautifully.
All in all this is a delightful story of a bygone era, when life was simpler & kids still believed in the magic of Christmas. A big rating of A+ + + + + + + .........
on December 6, 2002
A great film COMPLETELY RUINED by a DVD that does not offer the option of viewing the film in it's original widescreen format.
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and now Warner Bros. has made me not want to buy the DVD because they were too stupid to realize that you see MORE OF THE FILM when viewing it in the original theatrical format---WIDESCREEN, in other words. Technicians have to cut off the sides of the film and enlarge it to give it that square, full-screen format.
on December 26, 2003
I have read one review that was rather scathing of some of the actors.... I don't give a darn about what some of them have done in the past... Here is my review of this Christmas Classic...
Little Ralphie Parker wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and his Mother to the Teacher tell him that he would shoot his eye out... It was funny to hear the kid talk about Grizzley bears and shooting the bad guys in his daydreams...
I thought that it was good to see Peter Billingsly as he is now... Even his fellow actor that dared Flick to stick his tongue to the pole still looked the same too... The one who played Farkus was just having a ball in the interview! I could see that he and his fellow co stars had a great time doing the film...
I even thought that it was great to see how that outrageous "leg lamp was made... and even watching the film about how the BB gun was made.... As to the others that were not there, maybe "Randy" wasn't interested and The old man and the mom could not be added to the DVD to to space... DVDs are always improving... There is always a next time...
I thought that the film looked sharp and crisp.. The commentary was really cool, and I thought that the 20th Anniversery release of this film was better then expected... I hope that some of you will give this new release a chance and Just injoy it... I know I will...
"You'll Shoot your Eye out Kid!"
on December 24, 2003
I won't even bother reviewing the film itself: it's a modern classic & everyone who is reading this has probably seen it a few dozen times.
What I will review are the extras to this 20th anniversary 2-disc special edition.
You'd think after twenty years the producers would have a boat load of extras to offer. If not that then a large assortment of cast & crew members to create a retrospective documentary.
What we get instead is a 20 minute reflection by a few of the cast members (the now grown up actors who portrayed Ralphie, Schwartz, Flick, & Scott Farkus, as well as director Bob "Rhinestone" Clark) called Another Christmas Story. Where's Melinda Dillon? Where's Gavin McGavin? And where's the kid who played Randy (who, might I add, looks NOTHING like he did in 1983. I saw a photo of him somewhere & he looks disheveled & totally washed up).
This "documentary" was probably shot in one afternoon with the five guys rattling off a few generic memories of their experience (They didn't think it was going to be a huge success... who ever does?; The kids played pranks while they stayed in a hotel... Oooh! The insights are killing me). It's so not informative or fun to watch.
I must point out that Scottie Schwartz, porn star extraordinaire, looks creepily the same as he did in 1983. He's just pudgier & has a goatee... as well as a handful of porn title under his belt. And Zack "Scott Farkus" Ward (who you'll recognize from TV's recent Titus) is NOT FUNNY! He's totally lame. Embarrassingly lame.
The rest of this special edition's features are just that: lame. There's the Triple Dog Dare trivia game (which features the above mentioned interview participants reading the questions... clearly taped right after giving the interview); Radio readings by author Jean Sheppard, which are interesting, but a tad on the long [read: tedious] side; a stupid decoder game (does anyone really needs this?); etc. It's your typical DVD special edition filler crap.
The most annoying extra (besides Zack Ward's testimonials) is the featurette on the company that makes the leg lamps. The "correspondent" (I forget his name) gives his worst Daily Show knock-off in what is perhaps the most embarrassing and unfunny segment ever created. This has to be seen to be believed. You'll want to wash your eyeballs & clean out your ears immediately after viewing it.
I still recommend getting this DVD over the other version. The packaging is nice. The film is naturally classic. But the extras are weak... really weak.
on December 24, 2003
Merry freakin' Christmas all you Amazon™ians out there! It would've been a bit merrier for me, had Warner Brothers not gone and re-released 'A Christmas Story' in a special edition set, knowing full well I'd buy it even after I had purchased the original release (the chiselers!). Once again I've been hit by 'The Dreaded DVD Double-Dip Ploy' (see my 'So You'd Like To...' guide on this annoying phenomenon at ). Now I gotta find a way to get rid of this suddenly obsolete regular platter of my all-time fave holiday flick. Anybody out there need a coaster? Or a clay pigeon for target practice?
Seriously though, I think I'll get down to the review proper. Since I've already covered my thoughts on the movie itself in my review of the regular DVD (way back on Sept. 3, 2000, in case you feel like trackin' it down), I'm gonna dedicate this piece to the new platter's special features...
I found the second disc's special features to not be all that special, with a few exceptions. Starting off the list of almost-goodies is a twenty-minute retrospective on the movie and Christmas in general with director Bob Clark, Peter Billingsley (Ralphie), Sccott Schwartz (Flick), R.D. Robb (Schwartz), and Zack Ward (Scut Farkus). With the exception of Scott Schwartz, the principals' don't look all that different today than they did when filming this flick! And it's almost scary how much Zack Ward reminds me of Danny Bonaduce! Anyhoo--while this featurette had some cute moments as the kids and the director remember their fondest and not-so-fondest memories of the Yuletide, it's not something I'd watch more than once every couple years. Y'know, just to remind me that it's still there...
Also on the second disc are the "Triple Dog Dare" and "Decoder" trivia games. The latter game isn't too hard to figure out if you're familiar with the flick. Just match the quote to the scene, and you'll be directed to more retrospective bits with the folks featured in the mini-doc. As for the former... let's just say you hafta be an uber-geekin' fan of this flick to get a perfect score!
On 'page two' of the second platter is a short doc on the history of Daisy, and the Red Ryder line of air guns they produced back in the day. Apparently, the model that Ralphie desired throughout the flick didn't actually exist (and apparently author/co-writer/narrator Jean Shepherd's memories weren't quite as up to snuff as people thought they were), and had to be custom-built for the movie. Also thrown in is "Get a Leg Up", a dumb interview with the head of the company that produces the infamous leg lamp. I felt really embarrassed for the guy as the interviewer threw these ludicrous questions and statements at the guy, followed by stretches of uncomfortable silence as the interviewee tries to come up with funny replies. Needless to say, most of it falls flat... kinda like what happened to the old man's precious prize. And speakin' of the leg lamp: one of the "Easter Eggs"-- or, in this instance, "Christmas Presents"-- is a satire commercial for the kitsch classic, which is almost as dumb as the aforementioned "Get a Leg Up" doc.
Winding things up on Disc 2 is the Story-Time Radio feature, which is a radio template you can "tune in" to listen to two of movie narrator/co-writer Jean Shepherds' stories from "In God We Trust... All Others Pay Cash", the novel that parts of the movie were based on. Both the 'Tongue Stuck to the Flagpole' and 'The Saga of the Red Ryder air rifle' memories are told by the author in such detail, and with so many sidebars, that I was amazed they were able to pare them down to several minutes' screen time in the movie and still capture the stories' spirit and sense of fun. Unfortunately, this particular feature has a few downsides, including the inability to pause or fast-forward/rewind these lengthy bits of audio. So needless to say, if you're interested in takin' a listen, make sure you've got enough spare time set aside, and have a reasonably strong bladder. Well, actually you can scratch the latter part if you've got one o' those headphones with the fifteen-foot-long cord, and the can's fourteen feet away from ya...
Disc 1 also sports a couple mediocre goodies, including the obligatory theatrical trailer and another "Christmas Present": a segment of the screenplay for the "Flash Gordon fantasy" scene that apparently was filmed (according to the director's and star's recollections on the feature-length commentary track), but was eventually cut outta the film. Which is something I don't really get. I mean, why not show the actual deleted scene, rather than the script to it? It could be that it was lost, or MGM (the movie's backers) wasn't able to line up the rights with the Flash Gordon people. In any case, I find it a bit of a drag to not be able to see the filmed scene...
Finally, there's the commentary track featuring director Bob Clark and star Peter "Ralphie" Billingsley. As you might expect, both go over their fond and not-so-fond memories regarding the filming and technical aspects of the various scenes. And of course there's the pontification by both men regarding the movie's universal appeal and how just about everyone can relate some parts of 'A Christmas Story' to their own childhood memories. Oh yeah, they also have a few brief bits where they state how difficult Jean Shepherd (who was usually somewhere on the set during filming) could be. They also sorta briefly mention co-star Scott "Flick" Schwartz's eventual turn as a blue movie star, without actually directly referring to him having been a blue movie star...
on December 21, 2003
Jean Shepherd's classic A Christmas Story was not a big hit when it was released to theatres in 1983 (in fact, I don't remember any advertisement of it that Christmas). However, thanks to Jean Shepherd's narration and story telling and Peter Billingsley's performance of the shy and scheming Ralphie, who wants a Red Ryder BB gun more than anything else in the world. When my father 1st saw it on video, he was amazed at how much the father (sometimes flamboyant, but always respected- or else) reminded him of himself (what real life father couldn't relate to a man whose obscenities flew over Lake Erie for years?). The mother is a lot like my own, except for the "Pretend you're a piggie and this is your trough!" scene which my mother certainly wouldn't have tolerated! Ralphie, of course, reminds me of myself. Although I never asked for a Red Ryder, there were plenty of other presents Santa had to bring or it just wasn't Christmas! Scut Farkus is pretty real, too, as the menacing bully, as well as the no-nonsense teacher ("Those of you who put Flick up to this know who you are and I'm sure you feel terrible!") and the Bumpus neighbors' annoying dogs (one gets their tail caught in the door but they get their revenge!). Ralphie's kid brother is realistically whiney: "I can't move!" Then there's Ralphie's buddies, the conniving Schwartz and the hapless Flick, whose double dog dare acceptance gets him in big trouble! The fantasy sequences are quite amusing! Which brings me back to the BB gun- Ralphie makes his request known to his mother and his teacher ("You'll shoot your eye out!") and finally hopes Santa can bail him out, despite an attitude bigger than his belly and 2 ornery elves helping not so jolly Santa at Higbee's department store!
on December 20, 2003
This Hoilday Christmas classic will never get old. Every Christmas this film always played non-stop on the TNT network that should probably will ruin its welcome. But it doesn't. I just gave it four stars because I don't this isn't all perfect. But Jean Shepard delightfully narrates the story during the 40's and it's about a boy named Ralphie(Peter Billingsley) who desperatly wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Chaos ensues for poor Ralphie because everyone bawks and says "You'll shoot your eye out!." I like the characters very much including Ralphie's dad who loves his prize from a radio contest: a sexy leg lamp. One of my favorite scenes is during Ralphie and his brother visit a department store Santa and bawks the same mantra: "You'll shoot your eye out" and hits Ralphie's head and says, "Ho, Ho, Ho." But there's one scene that everyone remembers when Ralphie's friend is "double-dogged dared" to stick his tongue to a frozen pole at school. He does and it's hilarious! This film is sweet in alot of ways, it gives us a sense of realiom as well as warm humanity. Billingsley is great by the way who presents us with fun skill. So everyone drink egg nog, open your presents and watch this hoilday classic with your family on Christmas day.
on December 19, 2003
This poignant yet non-saccachrine story is one tradition shared by at least 1/6th of all Americans, which is apparently how many tuned in to see this movie being played 24 hours a day on cable channel TNT last Christmas.
It is hard to believe that, like "It's a Wonderful Life," this film didn't automatically hit a home run at the box office, but after twenty years, it's met the test of time, picking up new fans each generation. So many of the actors turn in understated, wry performances, including the children, who don't resort to "the cutesys" in order to keep audience interest high, and come off as true to life, rather than "movie" kids. While everyone who ever dreamt of a special toy for Christmas can relate to Ralphie, adults will love Ralphie's parents, played by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGann, and to a lesser extent, the teacher. Along with Ralphie's fun fantasies and excitement over his decoder ring, there's magic in small moments - the mother tastes Lifebuoy, the father flipping a forlorn piece of turkey, and of course, the moment when the grownups have their "battle on Cleveland Street". The overall message is one of gruff love and wonder in the face of life's little disappointments.
As for the two DVDs and the special features, this is one set that was made primarily for a family audience, and may disappoint more seasoned DVD viewers. One of the disc easter eggs is a tacky and unfunny advertisement for a Leg Lamp as seen in the picture - ironically, considering the Little Orphan Annie/Ovaltine decoder ring incident in this film. The commentary track is in a polite, measured tone by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) and director Bob Clark, who delicately refers to Jean Shepherd's difficult reputation, mentioning that Steven Spielberg asked him, "How did you deal with him?" after meeting Shepherd. Clark also notes that he asked Shepherd to leave the set after a few weeks, but never bad-mouths him, instead reminiscing about the first time he heard Shepherd on the radio, driving to a date in Florida, and deciding at once that he would make a film of Shepherd's stories.
Jean Shepherd's original radio monologues are on here, but the interface, shaped like a classic radio, is a little confusing. Using the left/right keys will switch between the two stories on the radio, but using the up key is the only way to exit; my DVD player did not allow me to redirect to the main or sub-menu.
While the Double Dog Dare trivia challenge is cute, the featurette, interviewing most of the child actors and Clark, is broken up by several script pages filled with silly rhymes. One of these "pages" would have been enough. "Scut Farkus" actually steals the show here, upbeat, energetic and mock-hostile, telling the tale of a Christmas bulb he'd prefer to forget. Fortunately, "Flick" does not detail some of the poor choices he recently made employment-wise.