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White Christmas – Diamond Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

White-Christmas-Diamond-EditionIn 1954, Irving Berlin followed up his film Holiday Inn with White Christmas.  The film brought one of the songs from Holiday Inn front and center and in the title.  It was supposed to also reunite him with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, but Astaire wound up backing out and balking at the project.  In his place Crosby was paired with Danny Kaye.  The film was wildly successful and the highest grossing film of 1954.  It made a whopping 12 million dollars, which was big time money back then in the movie industry.  The film has had a strong legacy, being one that people, families and friends gather every year to sit around and watch to celebrate the holidays just like It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, Christmas Vacation or The Santa Clause.  Okay, so nobody watches the last one.  Just checking your attention.  This is Paramount’s second crack at this one on Blu-ray and this thing is absolutely LOADED with extras.  Let’s dig in!

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Film 

Two military friends come home from World War II and start their own song and dance act.  They receive a note from an old war pal to talent scout his two sisters.  The quartet hit it off and the boys follow them to their next gig in Vermont at an Inn for the holidays.  Said Inn ends up being owned by their former and favorite general in the army.  His Inn is on the verge of going broke amid a snow-less winter, so the team take it upon themselves to throw a huge production there to hopefully bring in patrons and honor his time in service.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a film very much of a time long passed, but still able to work well enough to be effective today.  The film features some wonderful seasonal music and a few dance numbers that are still enjoyable and impressive.  Maybe its draped in a lot of nostalgia, but there’s a warmth in going back to the film and seeing its charm play out.  If you’re someone into classic musicals or that era in film history, this one is a pretty easy sell if you’ve not seen it.

The film is very much paced like films of its time.  There was no need to tighten a film like this back in the 1950s.  It was an event, an experience.  You were going to just see and hang with these performers and see what they were up to.  It may plod a little bit to today’s viewer and the humor may be too sweet or dated, but I think it hits its numbers at just the right times to bring one back in.  Plus, with this Blu-ray its quite pleasant on the eyes just to marvel at all the constructed sets for the film.

A timeless tradition, the music, dance and charm of White Christmas wins people year in and year out.  The film’s finale, no matter how overly wholesome, is a moment well earned and incredibly moving.  And every time Bing Crosby belts out the tune, you just get chills hearing it.  The performer doing that song is just that iconic.  While the main goals and plot of the film relatively uses Christmas as a backdrop, the film still carries a lot of the spirit and heartwarming qualities of the holiday with it anyway.  It represents a simpler time at the movies, but also a charming one.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  This was Paramount’s very first film shot on VistaVision, which was just a higher quality take on 35mm (just to be brief about it).  The film looks gorgeous and perfect here on Blu-ray.  Outfits and costumes feature a high level of detail on their textures and shortcomings.  The military outfits look especially good and the opening in the war torn area the soldiers are occupying is ripe with detail.  Bullet holes, cracks and rough surfaces all show through as good as any modern film.  There’s been an outstanding job done on this restoration and transfer and it shows in every frame.

Depth:  There is some freakishly good depth for as old as this film is.  Some sequences even have your brain wandering into thinking it would work as a 3-D film.  There’s no need for an example, the whole film is quite outstanding with its foreground and background detail.

Black Levels:  Blacks are inky and rich.  Detail is not hidden by it, and they only help add to the definition of objects and characters.

Color Reproduction:  Colors feature a nice palette and pop all over the place.  Every outfit and set look gorgeous on this transfer.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are consistent and full of crazy great detail.  You can see every scar, pore, stubble or imperfection on everyone’s face.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some light grain and maybe I saw a spec or two.  This one has really been cleaned up quite nicely.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Restored Mono DTS-HD MA, French Mono, Spanish Mono, Portuguese Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics:  I want to point out that on this edition, Paramount has included the original mono track in lossless form (previously it was the compressed Dolby Digital mon0).  This is the original intended track for the film and it sounds quite lovely and pure.  The 5.1 is nice, but your expectations must be real going into this.  It wasn’t crafted in a time for 5.1 audio.  But for what they’ve done, its a pretty nice track and gets the job done.  However, there’s something “genuine” about preferring the mono track for this one, though.

Low Frequency Extension:  Not really much at all to speak of.  Maybe something in the orchestral sounds here and there, but the subwoofer got the day off with this one.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There’s some nice work with movement in the front channels.  The back speakers are rendered pretty lifeless and as expected are really on full of scoring.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear.  When singing occurs though, the voices are much louder in the mix than they are with talking.

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Extras 

White Christmas comes with a DVD copy of the film, a DVD of the special features and a CD featuring the music from the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Rosemary Clooney

White Christmas Sing-Along – Available to just watch the whole movie with or choose a song.

Classic Holiday Moments – Some classic (and 1 modern) television performances of Christmas songs from Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

  • “White Christmas” By Bing Crosby – December 1, 1976 (HD, 2:18)
  • “White Christmas” By Bing Crosby featuring Michael Buble – December 10, 2012 (HD, 4:11)
  • “Silent Night” By Bing Crosby – December 12, 1948 (HD, 2:37)
  • “Jingle Bells” By Danny Kaye & Nat King Cole – December 25, 1963 (HD, 3:39)
  • Danny Kaye Reads From A Christmas Carol – December 22, 1965 (HD, 7:23)

Assignment Children with Introduction By Michael Buble (HD, 18:36) – A short film with Danny Kaye promoting UNICEF.  You also have the option to watch without the introduction (17:11).

Backstage Stories From White Christmas (HD, 11:57) – Critics and film historians give an account of the making of and production on White Christmas.  Some interesting behind the scenes stuff on the casting and such are pretty interesting.

Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner (HD, 14:17) – Authors, family and people close to Crosby talk about the singer/actor’s association with the holiday and how his worked inspired every artist to record a Christmas album.  There’s also plenty about his growing up and general history on his fame.

Danny Kaye: Joy To The World (HD, 13:12) – This one is pretty much the Danny Kaye-centric version of the previous featurette.  This one does have Robert Wagner discussing him.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (HD, 7:25) – Critics, film historians, professors, family and friends discuss the creation of the song and its legacy.

Rosemary’s Old Kentucky Home (HD, 13:28) – A focus on the home and town Rosemary Clooney escaped to when she was between projects.  Family, friends and locals discuss her attachment to Kentucky and her life and favorite things to do there.

White Christmas: From Page To Stage (HD, 4:23) – Focuses on translating the film from cinema to a stage production.

White Christmas: A Look Back With Rosemary Clooney (HD, 16:46) – This is a vintage featurette that has an interview with Rosemary Clooney recalling the production in detail.  Its set up with a narrator in a sort of documentary, Biography type delivery.

Photo Galleries – All the images feature descriptive captions.

  • Rehearsals – 11 images
  • Behind The Scenes – 15 images
  • Filming – 19 images
  • Publicity Shots – 9 images

Theatrical Trailers

  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:26)
  • Theatrical Re-Release Trailer (HD, 2:11)

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Summary 

When it comes to the holidays, this is one of those films that is in rotation for many people.  Its never really been in my rotation, but this gorgeous Blu-ray now makes a case for it.  It comes with an outstanding list of extras that provide the perfect extended experience of the film.  The presentation of the video is tremendous.  The 5.1 track is not too shabby, but I’m really taken to the newly restored mono track.  And you get the soundtrack with it to boot.  Paramount has really put in the work here on this second release of the film, and it definitely becomes one of the MUST OWN titles in your holiday collection!

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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