Paramount // 1954 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 14th, 2010
First and unforgettable picture in VISTAVISION!
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye croon their guts out for Irving Berlin's classic musical that my wife forced me to review.
Army buddies Bob (Crosby) and Phil (Kaye) strike up a successful two man show when they return from WWII and soon enjoy fame and fortune as in-demand entertainers. Phil is convinced that Bob needs a girlfriend, so he sets up a meet-and-greet with a sister act, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Allen) Haynes.
The quartet hits it off and they decide to retreat to Vermont for the holidays. When they arrive at the inn, Bob and Phil are stunned to discover that a) there is no snow and b) the proprietor is their beloved former General and he's hard up for cash. So they hatch a plan to save the inn, importing their hit show up to Vermont and putting on a Christmas event that may or not be magical enough to defeat the effects of global warming and/or global cooling and bring snow to New England.
I'll admit it: I'm not one to move heaven and earth to catch up on these musicals from the '50s. I'll readily confess their importance in pop culture and everything, but watching Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby belting out ballads never made my bucket list. But my wife loves this movie, so I requested it for review and -- ta-da! -- came away pleasantly surprised.
White Christmas is a charming, sweet-natured excursion into the un-cynical movie-making of the days of yore. Everyone's happy, no one drops F-bombs, the romantic encounters don't transition into orgies, and nobody takes offense to the term "Christmas." Is it idealistic and syrupy? Sure, but sometimes, don't you want to kick back with your family and soak in an old-fashioned, inoffensive bath of good feelings and song and dance routines?
Crosby's ridiculously successful "White Christmas" song powers the enterprises, of course, but there's a genuinely sweet couple of storylines going on to make the film much more than a vehicle for the composition. Crosby and Clooney have some nice chemistry and the storyline with the General (and his enduring connection to the men he commanded) is patriotic and reverent to veterans, which makes me all warm and fuzzy during this Veterans Day.
Really, it's all about the singing and the dancing. There are plenty of numbers to choose from, and everyone is more than adept at reeling off the vocals and foot footwork (Vera-Allen, in particular is a dancing dynamo, though it's a tad unsettling when you look at her waist, which is roughly the size of a Fruit Roll-Up). I could probably leave about as many as I take, but there's certainly no shortage of talent here and Bing Crosby's voice continues to astound me.
Classic movie -- how does the Blu-ray measure up? Quite well, actually. The 1.78:1 rehabbed widescreen is a thing of beauty, bursting in color (rocking that Vistavision like no one's business) and swimming in a genuinely stunning amount of detail. Seriously, I've seen high-def versions of contemporary films that fall fart short of the visual fidelity that Paramount has churned out for this disc. A clean, though front-loaded 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix pushes the music pieces very well (the restored, original mono track is also available). Extras are plentiful and substantial: a Rosemary Clooney commentary track full of anecdotes, a recycled retrospective where Clooney looks back at the film and HD featurettes examining Clooney's Kentucky home, Bing Crosby's Christmas singing acumen, Danny Kaye's career, the composition of the "White Christmas" song and, finally, the live-action stage incarnation.
An iconic classic receives the Blu-ray it deserves; a must-upgrade for fans.
I'm dreaming of a Not Guilty verdict.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated