Warner Bros. // 1975 // 24 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // October 25th, 2012
Unwrap A Christmas Miracle.
An orphaned shepherd boy named Lucas is taken in by a group of kind nuns following an accident that has left him blind. With Christmas just around the corner, Sister Theresa (Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote) fights to keep Lucas at the convent, while others attempt to have him moved to the local orphanage. As Lucas begins to recover from his injuries, Sister Theresa regales him with stories of her own childhood, and how it would snow each and every Christmas. Having never seen snow himself, young Lucas makes a wish that, in turn, leads to him realizing the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is a time for sharing, giving, and fleecing families on the lookout for ways to entertain their little ones. Regardless of the quality of the 1975 Christmas special The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow, one has to take issue with the shoddy release Warner Bros. has chosen to put out.
First, let's talk length. With a running time of just twenty-four minutes, how Warner can stick an RRP of $19.97 on this DVD is beyond me. Sure, you'll find the disc discounted online (and likely at most retailers), but the decision to release this TV special alone, rather than as part of a compilation with other Rankin/Bass shorts, is ridiculous, and simply does not equate to good value for money.
Next up I have to address the "Remastered Deluxe Edition" banner than is so prominent on the DVD cover. First let's discuss the "Remastered" part of the equation. Admittedly, having not seen any other DVD version of The First Christmas, I don't have anything to compare this release to, but the audio-visual presentation is so lacking that I don't think I'd have the cojones to boast about it. The print is clearly suffering from the effects of age, with numerous instances of damage being evident. Colors are washed out and detail levels just about adequate; but what proves to be most memorable are the frequent instances of dirt and the scratches that remain despite the "remastering." The audio also proves to be lacking, though at least dialogue is clear.
Moving on, we can at least take solace in the fact that this is the "Deluxe Edition" of The First Christmas, meaning we're in for a bumper crop of extras...or maybe not. Perhaps I'm being overly fussy, but I might suggest that an 8-minute guide on making Christmas cards -- no matter how informative it proves for young children -- is hardly enough to warrant claims that this is a "Deluxe Edition."
That just leaves us to discuss the TV special itself. Like all the best Rankin/Bass festive specials, The First Christmas makes a point to remind us that presents are not the be all and end all when it comes to Christmas. Though religious aspects of the holiday are surprisingly absent -- despite featuring nuns and a priest so prominently -- it captures the warmth of the season beautifully. The stop-motion animation adds to the show's charm, with my own children -- who are so accustomed to CGI fare like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs -- being fully entertained by it. It was also pleasing to see my three-year-old actually picking up on the story's message, and realizing that Christmas is about much more than just gifts and mountains of food.
The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow may not be the pinnacle of Rankin/Bass' Christmas output, but it nevertheless manages to capture the spirit of the season in a lovely little tale that will surely enrapture children and adults alike. That such a warm and endearing story has been sullied by this cheap release is simply unacceptable.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 24 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated