Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on November 10th, 2010
Having made it through WWII, fellow soldiers Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are now a song-and-dance team. Kaye is worried about the lack of romance in Crosby’s life, but that problem seems likely to be resolved when sister act Rosemary Clooney and Ver-Ellen show up. These two pairs of entertainers must pool their talents in order to save the inn run by former general Dean Jagger from financial ruin.
The plot is, of course, very thin, a mere excuse on which to hang the sentiment and the songs. This is, of course, not the film which originated the title track – that was the earlier Holiday Inn (1942), which Crosby was teamed up with Fred Astaire. The holiday this time is strictly the Christmas one, and White Christmas goes its predecessor one or two better in terms of spectacle, thanks to Technicolor and VistaVision. The end result is not really the classic it self-evidently wants to be, but it and its cast are extremely likable.
Gorgeous stuff. The print is in immaculate condition, with nary a hint of speckling or grain. The colours are beautiful, popping off the screen as if the film’s premiere were yesterday. Contrasts, flesh tones and blacks are all superb. The AVC codex keeps things at 25-35 Mbps, for silky-smooth results. The visual presentation is, quite simply, beyond reproach. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, so essentially the VistaVision format, of which this film (as the credits proudly trumpet) was the first instance.
There are a number of audio options here, including the restored mono, which purists will probably want to stick with. The 5.1 track has a few things going for it, but it also has its share of problems. The music songs come off best. The title song, for instance, sounds amazing, with the timbre of Crosby’s voice so resonant it will set up sympathetic vibrations in your chest. But the dialogue is prone to distortion, and the music has a tendency to gurgle. Surround FX themselves are minimal, and the volume is very low overall.
Audio Commentary: This is obviously from a prior release of the film, given that Clooney died in 2002. At any rate, her love for the film is clear, and she has a wealth of anecdotes to recount, though there are also some rather long silent stretches, too.
Backstage Stories from White Christmas: (11:56) This is the generalist introductory feature, and essentially is the making-of piece.
Rosemary’s Old Kentucky Home: (13:26) The title is not a metaphor. This is, indeed, a piece about Clooney’s home, and the preservation of its heritage, though we also get a portrait of Clooney herself.
Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner: (14:16) A profile now of Crosby, with, as one might guess, emphasis placed on his success as a purveyor of Christmas songs.
Danny Kaye: Joy to the World: (13:10) Danny Kay’s turn in the spotlight. This and the Crosby companion piece are both short but informative little pieces. Just don’t expect too much depth.
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: (7:22) And while we’re doing profiles, how could we not have one on the song itself?
White Christmas: From Page to Stage: (4:21) This is about the more recent stage adaptation. Since we’re going from film to stage, rather than the other way around, this feature is pretty tangential to the movie itself.
White Christmas: A Look Back with Rosemary Clooney: (15:16) An older featurette (its picture quality is older, too).
Original and Re-release Theatrical Trailers.
The season is approaching, and this is a release that will no doubt be welcomed by many. The sound may not be perfect, but the picture is simply stunning, and there is a pretty solid set of extras here.