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A Christmas Story (1983) – DVD Review

A Christmas Story 2-Disc Special Edition DVD cover art


Written by: Leigh Brown & Bob Clark, based on the writings of Jean Shepherd
Directed by: Bob Clark
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz


  • Running audio commentary by writer/director Clark and actor Billingsley
  • 20th anniversary making-of docu
  • Docu on the history of the Daisy Red Ryder rifle
  • Docu on the making of the infamous Leg Lamp
  • Decoder “match the quote” game
  • Trivia game
  • Radio readings by author Shepherd

Released by: Warner Brothers
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Are you kidding? Own it, dammit.

[ad#longpost]It’s the 1940s and it’s time for a slice of good old fashioned twisted Americana. Ralphie (Billingsley) knows, I mean knows what he wants–nay, needs–for Christmas. It’s a Red Ryder Carbine Action, Two-Hundred Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. Trouble is, everyone–even Santa Claus, it seems–thinks that said rifle will only be a ticket to shooting one of his eyes out. Meanwhile, there’s also the trouble with local bullies, the neighbor’s horde of rampaging dogs, and a particular package Ralphie’s dad (McGavin) has been waiting for.

Well, it’s not like I need to talk about the film much. This is one of those films that you simply can’t have avoided seeing at some point since its release. As stated in the commentary, it’s shown wall-to-wall around Christmas. The reason is simple: it managed to tap into not only the zeitgeist of the period in which it was set, but it also painted a (sometimes frighteningly) realistic portrait of how a loving yet somewhat dysfunctional family operated during the holidays. Because of this, and because Ralphie is so easy to identify with (at least for anyone who was ever a kid)–the bloody thing’s timeless.

Billingsley was perfect as Ralphie–and consider me odd if you will, but it didn’t strike me until I was listening to the commentary that the poor little guy really didn’t have much in the way of dialogue to work with–he’s, for the most part, just reacting to Shepherd’s rattling off of his internal monologue. That considered, his performance is rather impressive. McGavin and Dillon were also flawless, playing the Archetypal Parents who are quite universal…except for maybe the bit about the Leg Lamp.

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie from A Christmas Story

Twenty years out and we have a DVD release that manages to both play off of the film’s own kitsch and yet not stray into Velveeta-Land without returning. The commentary from Clark and Billingsley is fair, although they’re not talking wall to wall and aren’t imparting a great deal of information. It’s passable for the diehard fan but only just. The documentary on the film, featuring Clark and the majority of the kids from the cast all grown up, is amusing largely because we get to know some more about the shenanigans the kids got up while making the film. However, the standout would have to be Zack Ward (who played bully Farcus). His diatribes were terribly laughworthy, especially his demand for a copy of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali for Christmas.

The games are decent, but nothing to write home about, though the trivia is for somebody who has actually paid attention to the film. You also get two mildly amusing docus on the infamous Red Ryder rifle and the Leg Lamp and their particular origins. Lastly, and a real gem amongst the bonus stuff, is a bunch of audio bits of Shepherd and his stories. I will say, however, that I’m puzzled at the pointlessness of the first menu on the second disc. There’s one choice: “Special Features.” Seeing as how it’s either click it or stand there and stare at the screen until the Second Coming, why not just bypass the only choice and take us to the menu…?

Zack Ward from A Christmas Story

It cannot be denied–as many points as they get for truly trying to make this a special edition–the film itself eclipses any bonus material. It’s just priceless. So despite the fact that none of the bonus features really drive home the need to purchase this–it’s really not necessary. You have to own it; it’s a moral imperative.

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