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Because they no longer make movies like WHITE CHRISTMAS ($30), I look for any excuse to lose myself one more time in this musical holiday classic. WHITE CHRISTMAS harkens back to a simpler time when people were less cynical and Christmas was something more than the busiest shopping season of the year. Using a wonderful Irving Berlin score as a base, WHITE CHRISTMAS weaves a wonderful tale of love, friendship, patriotism and the magic of yuletide season.

Opening during WWII, we are introduced to army Captain Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), who are putting on a Christmas Eve show for the troops on the night that their much loved commanding officer, General Waverly (Dean Jagger), is being transferred away from the front. As the show is breaking up, there is a bombing raid and Davis ends up saving Wallace’s life. In gratitude, Wallace partners with Davis after the war, with the duo becoming one of the biggest successes in show business. The years pass and we find Wallace and Davis in Florida, where they have just finished a successful run with their latest show. As a favor to an old army buddy, they check out a sister act that is also appearing in Florida. While the act is good, Wallace and Davis find themselves instantly attracted to Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and her sister Judy (Vera-Ellen). Due to circumstances beyond their control, Wallace and Davis follow The Haynes Sisters to Vermont for their next engagement, which just happens to run during the Christmas Holidays. When they arrive in Vermont, the foursome discovers that the state is in the middle of a freak heat wave, which is ruining the ski season. Wallace and Davis are also surprised to discover that General Waverly is the proprietor of the Vermont inn that has booked They Haynes Sisters. Of course, once Wallace and Davis learn from the General’s housekeeper (Mary Wickes) that the old man has sunk his life savings into the inn, they decide to bring their entire show up to Vermont to save their former commanding officer from financial ruin. In addition to the title tune, WHITE CHRISTMAS also features such songs as Sisters, The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing, Snow, Mandy, Count Your Blessings and Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me.

Paramount Home Entertainment has given WHITE CHRISTMAS a nice wide screen presentation on DVD that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Framed at 1.78:1, the transfer is fairly sharp and clean looking, with a respectable level of detail. However, any shot in the film that contains an optical fade appears somewhat soft in comparison to the rest of the film. This is a limitation within the film elements, which cannot be attributed to what is otherwise a solid transfer. Colors are slightly muted, but there are places in the film that give one a nice idea what an original IB Technicolor print of WHITE CHRISTMAS might have looked like. Flesh tones usually have that healthy glow of a Hollywood makeup department and fit in perfectly with the vivid hues of some of the costumes. The Christmas red costumes that appear at the end of the film look especially good and are reproduced without any signs of distortion or bleeding. Blacks are accurate, although the level of shadow detail is limited by the film stocks that were available in the mid-1950s. The element used for the transfer shows a modest number of blemishes, as well as displaying a bit of film grain in places. Digital compression artifacts are non-existent on this cleanly authored dual layer DVD. WHITE CHRISTMAS is presented in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix that favors the musical portions of the soundtrack. The music has a mild stereo presence in the front and a good deal of fill in the rear. Frequency response is limited, however the music never seems harsh or distorted. In fact, the music sounds rather pleasant and is well worth amplifying. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and there are no signs of hiss on the soundtrack. A restored English monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD. Additionally, a French language track and English subtitles are also provided.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. There is a full running audio commentary featuring Rosemary Clooney. Clooney’s comments are sometimes sparse, but her talk is a sweet personal remembrance of working with a wonderful cast on her own favorite film. Also included on the DVD is a retrospective look at WHITE CHRISTMAS that features an interview with Rosemary Clooney, as well as behind-the-scene photos and footage from the movie. An original theatrical trailer and a re-release trailer fill out the DVD’s extras. By the way the trailers are presented in anamorphic wide screen and the colors have the vibrancy of IB Technicolor.

WHITE CHRISTMAS is a wonderful musical, as well as being a holiday favorite. Paramount’s DVD looks and sounds quite nice, so fans will want to pick up WHITE CHRISTMAS and have it handy for the yuletide season.


White Christmas



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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