Release Date(s)1954 (November 2, 2010)
The third time’s the charm when it comes to the home video presentation of White Christmas, the 1954 Paramount release that stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. While the story’s a little thin and not all the Irving Berlin songs memorable, the whole is better than the sum of the parts. It’s just a joyful piece of entertaining musical fluff that gives some superb performers lots of opportunity to show what they’re capable of, and as a piece of Christmas cheer, it more than merits its adoration by so many people. Bing of course sings “White Christmas” and Danny Kaye shows his many and varied talents for singing, dancing, and all-round mugging. Rosemary Clooney is solid with her singing, but it’s Vera-Ellen who really shines. Her reputation as one of the best dancers in Hollywood is nicely validated by her efforts here.
The film was released on DVD almost 10 years ago and for its time, sported a pretty nice image backed up by a new 5.1 audio mix. We even got an audio commentary from Rosemary Clooney – a bit hit and miss in terms of continuous commentary, but a welcome addition to the release at a time when Paramount releases generally suffered from a lack of supplements. Paramount revisited the title in 2009 with a 55th anniversary release that sported the same transfer, but did add quite a few production featurettes.
Now comes the Blu-ray release which allows the 1.78:1 VistaVision presentation to really shine. The image is very sharp and beautifully detailed in both fore and background areas. The most impressive aspect is the colour – superbly lush and accurate throughout. Flesh-tones, given some of the makeup choices, are well conveyed too. There is the odd soft shot or brief sequence, but all are attributable to the source material. The image also sports a modest level of grain that gives the release a lovely film-like look. Very high marks to Paramount for the effort here. Both the original mono and a DTS-HD 5.1 track are provided. Like the earlier DVD’s 5.1 Dolby track, the new lossless one gives the musical numbers more heft and softens the harshness of the mono track somewhat. There’s little use of the surrounds but the front soundstage is nicely opened up.
The supplements are the same fine set of 7 featurettes and 2 trailers provided on the 2009 DVD, except that all but one of them are now presented in HD. Highly recommended.
- Barrie Maxwell