This is another film one feels a little silly summarising, given that it must be an exercise in redundancy. At any rate, Macy’s department store gets a new Santa, and this one (a marvellous Edmund Gwenn) insists that he is the real thing. He sets about restoring the sense of wonder in hard-nosed Maureen O’Hara and her skeptical daughter (Natalie Wood), and John Payne winds up having to prove that our boy is who he says he is in a memorable court case.
Schmaltz is hard to avoid in C…ristmas movies, but this one leavens things with just enough dry wit that it never tips over into complete cornball. Its ambiguity is also a smart, and risky move, which pays off in a movie that expects its audience, no matter its age, to be able to think. A wonderful film.
Mono and new 5.1 choices are present. The remix avoids the problems that plague most such efforts on Fox releases – nothing comes out of the rear speakers that shouldn’t be here, and that particularly includes the dialogue. The trade-off is that there isn’t that much surround at all, though there are a nice moments, such as crowd effects during the parade. The sound is clear and as free of distortion as one could reasonably hope for.
The film comes in two versions: the original B&W and a colourised one. The same print is used in either case, and it’s in good, but not perfect shape. Damage is minor (a few speckles, some lines here and there), and there’s a little bit of grain. The image is sharp, and there is no visible edge enhancement. The B&W tones are nice. The colourised version is, it need hardly be pointed out, hideous. The colours are dishwater ugly, limited, and are a complete betrayal of the artistic vision of the filmmakers.
The colourised version may be Disc 1, but the features are concentrated on Disc 2, which features the correct version of the film. The still stunning Maureen O’Hara’s commentary track is on both versions, and it’s a good one, filled with sharp memories. The AMC Backstory is the usual sort of retrospective, but is still quite informative. Another featurette provides a history of the Macy’s parade, as well as covering some of the same ground with regards to the movie. A Movietone newsreel is here, showing the film’s Oscar wins, and there’s a neat promotional short, a vintage mini-movie in itself. And for something really odd, there’s the TV version of the story. Finally, there’s the poster gallery.
Some really fascinating extras here, accompanying a movie that can certainly stand on its own. Now if only the colourised version would go away.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- AMC Backstory
- Movietone Newsreel
- Promotional Short
- 20th Century Fox House of Stars TV Version
- “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Floating in History” Featurette
- Poster Gallery