A Christmas Story (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

In the 1940s, a young boy named Ralphie Parker attempts to convince his parents, teacher, and Santa Claus that a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift.

November 18, 2022 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“You’ll shoot your eye out!”

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been twenty years since “A Christmas Story” was originally released in theaters. I remember seeing it for the first time and it’s not often that a movie gains such status as to be declared an “Instant Classic”. This is the case, though, and a movie that really lives up to the expectations that everyone has of it. Odds are that you’ve seen the movie a few hundred times. TBS, or some other cable station, has taken to running the movie non-stop on Christmas Day. So whenever you’re in the mood, on that particular day, if you can’t find this movie then something is drastically wrong! What makes the movie so loved by all, though? In the days of shopping online and fighting the crowds at the mall, we’re reminded that there was a time (not so long ago) that Christmas was truly a family affair and see the joy and magic that kids did (and still do) look forward to Christmas. It’s about making lists, being good and hoping that Santa won’t forget you on this one day of the year. There are only a handful of so-called “Christmas” movies that are considered “good” and this is one of them (It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street would be two others). We have to wonder, though, did they know what they were making at the time? Did they know how well-received the movie would be and how it would gain popularity over time? Doubtful.

The story follows Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and it’s through his eyes that the story unfolds. All he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun, but keeps getting a certain response when he talks about it (that phrase is located at the top of this review). It seems that no matter how hard he tries, what papers he writes and who he asks; the answer is still the same. His younger brother, Randy (Ian Petrella), is too young to understand the sheer importance of the holiday, but offers up plenty of comic relief nonetheless. And this brings us to Ralphie’s parents (Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon). “The Old Man” is what Ralphie calls him (actually, the narrator who is supposed to be Ralphie) and though gruff on the outside, we see that he’s actually a decent man at heart. Ralphie’s mother is the one who constantly re-assures him and is everything a mother is supposed to be, especially one of the 1940’s. Throughout the movie, we follow Ralphie and his friends as they go to school, get ready for the Holidays and such. The film is more of a snapshot of what life used to be like as opposed to a mere “Holiday” movie. As to why it strikes a chord with audiences worldwide, it has the simple values that are apparent in most any family film.

Through images, dreams, visions and harsh reality we see Ralphie and his series of adventures (saying the “F” word in front of dad, beating up the neighborhood bully and standing in line to tell Santa what he wants) and become involved with him along the way. While calling “A Christmas Story” a classic is now somewhat of a cliche, it’s true. We all have aunts that have knitted us strange clothes (in Ralphie’s case it’s a big pink bunny suit), gotten Christmas presents that we really wanted and had friends who were like Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb). I suppose it would be correct to say that the film is about growing up more than anything. And maybe that’s why it appeals to such a vast number of people. Truly this is one of those movies that they don’t really make much anymore. Warner has done this edition right this time (it’s been released twice before as a full-frame only edition) and with newly re-mastered audio and video, it looks and sounds better than ever before. So aside from wishing for that Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle, tell Santa you want the new two-disc version of “A Christmas Story”.

Video: How does it look?

Having seen this on every home video format imaginable, there was a basis of comparison with this new 4K edition. As with most films that make their debut on 4K, I found colors strong at most points during the film. The muted brown and yellowish hue of the inside of the house seems to have a new life The 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image excels in other areas as well with increased detail as well as the addition of HDR. The transfer looks a bit different than most films shot at the time, granted this movie was meant to look like a movie in the 1940’s so we can’t expect a glossy image that seems to jump off the screen like we’ve become so used to. Bottom line, it looks as good as it has on any home video format.

Audio: How does it sound?

This contains the same DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 track which does sound a bit cleaner and a bit more centered. The movie is almost entirely dialogue-driven and it’s good to have a disc that so faithfully represents the original track. Like the video, it’s nice to have it sound good but audio quality is about the last thing people will have in mind when they put this disc in.

Supplements: What are the extras?

We’ve had several versions of this movie on various other formats, so what’s included here is more of a “greatest hits” of those supplements from over the years. Nothing new is here, but what’s included gets the job done.

Disc One (4K)

  • Audio Commentary – We start off with the original theatrical trailer and a commentary by Billingsley and Director, Bob Clark. The commentary is fairly fun to listen to and though there are several spots where they don’t say a word, it’s still pretty entertaining. They do shed some light on some tricks of the movie, too (ever wonder how Flick’s tongue got “stuck” to the pole)? A great track, but they seem to be fans of the movie too and I think they got a little involved in the movie themselves.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary – We start off with the original theatrical trailer and a commentary by Billingsley and Director, Bob Clark. The commentary is fairly fun to listen to and though there are several spots where they don’t say a word, it’s still pretty entertaining. They do shed some light on some tricks of the movie, too (ever wonder how Flick’s tongue got “stuck” to the pole)? A great track, but they seem to be fans of the movie too and I think they got a little involved in the movie themselves.
  • Christmas In Ohio: A Christmas Story House – We meet the folks who purchased the house and restored it for the film.
  • Another Christmas Story – We meet four of the main stars from the movie (characters of: Ralphie, Flick, Schwartz and the bully) as they tell how the movie impacted them and how it’s been ever since. What was so distracting is the pop up things when they’re speaking (such as an arrow that points to a hand and says “Not a real cell phone”). It kind of degrades the entire featurette, but it’s still a bit fun to watch.
  • Daisy Red Ryder: A History  – Essentially that – a fictionalized story about the gun pined after in the film.
  • Get A Leg Up – An interview with the owner of the company that makes the famous “leg” lamp seen so prominently in the film. Evidently the operation is a success, but he interviewer seems to be making more fun of them than trying to get any real facts. Needless to say, if you’re in the market for a leg lamp, you have a place to go.
  • Flash Gordon Deleted Script pages – We see this (in an image form) as promised.
  • The Leg Lamp Promo – A commercial for the infamous Leg Lamp.
  • Jean Sheperd Original Radio Recording – Read by Sheperd, these are some radio programs where the stories are read which served as the basis of the film.
  • Trailer

The Bottom Line

This is a modern classic in every sense of the word. It’s not uncommon to see this movie running on a variety of channels all Christmas Day. It’s hard to re-invent the wheel when it comes to offering this on disc. The video offers a distinct upgrade over the previous versions and while not all of the supplements are carried over from previous versions, what we have here is more than enough. This one is worth the upgrade, folks.

Disc Scores

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