DVD Review: A Christmas Story (20th Anniversary Edition)

A Christmas Story is a Christmas comedy film directed by Bob Clark. The film is based on stories and anecdotes of author Jean Shepherd; specifically, it includes material from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories. When A Christmas Story was released to theaters a week before Thanksgiving in 1983, it had moderate success; however, the film has gone on to become a holiday classic and it can easily be seen on television during the Christmas season.

My first exposure to A Christmas Story first came in 1991 during my junior year of high school, when my English teacher showed us the film during class right before we left for Winter Break; he said this was one of his favorite movies. I found it to be an enjoyable viewing experience, so I had no problem with my husband purchasing the 20th anniversary DVD of the film. We try to watch this DVD every year right around Christmas.

A Christmas Story is set in the town of Hammond, Indiana. When it comes to the actual time period of the film, I would guess that it’s set in either the 1930s or the 1940s, judging by the look of the sets, how the characters are dressed, and the fact that they’re listening to the radio for entertainment instead of watching television. The main character of the film is Ralphie Parker, and he only wants one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock and “this thing that tells time.” Ralphie uses various schemes to try to convince his parents to get him the gun for Christmas. And every time Ralphie tries to convince an adult that he needs this gift, he’s always told, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Through the various comical hijinks, the viewer is left wondering just as much as Ralphie about whether or not he’ll get the Red Ryder BB gun.

The 20th anniversary released was a two-disc DVD set that was released in 2003. The first disc contains the film itself, as well as a commentary with Peter Billingsley (the actor who portrayed Ralphie) and Bob Clark. You can also see the theatrical trailer, which runs for two minutes and eleven seconds.

However, the bulk of the bonus features appear on the second disc. First is “Another Christmas Story,” which is a retrospective documentary that runs for eighteen minutes and eighteen seconds. This documentary includes interviews with Peter Billingsley, Bob Clark, R.D. Robb (the actor who portrayed Schwartz), Scott Schwartz (the actor who portrayed Flick), and Zack Ward (the actor who portrayed Scut Farkus, the bully). The documentary is done in a humorous style, and it also includes sound effects and pop-up graphics. Personally, I enjoyed this documentary. Not only were the behind-the-scenes stories funny to listen to, but it was neat to get the see the actors from the film all grown up. Even as adults, Peter Billingsley and Zack Ward are still very recognizable as their respective characters from the film.

Next is “Triple Dog Dare,” which is a trivia game for A Christmas Story. There are three levels to choose from: Double Dare, Double Dog Dare, and Triple Dog Dare. Each question has three selections to choose from, and after you answer a question, either a member of the cast or the director will tell you whether or not you got the question right. This was a decent bonus feature.

The feature labeled “Radio” has a menu designed to look like an old fashioned radio. In this feature, Jean Shepherd reads two selections from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. The “Decoder” feature is designed to look like the Little Orphan Annie decoder that Ralphie gets in the film. In this feature, you match quotes from the movie with a scene from the film. If you make a correct answer, the actor who portrayed the character speaks.

The “Additional Special Features” link takes you to a menu for two documentaries: “Daisy Red Ryder: A History” and “The Leg Up.” “Daisy Red Ryder: A History” is a roughly five minute long documentary that explains the history of the Red Ryder BB Gun. “The Leg Up” is a roughly five minute long humorous documentary about the Leg Lamp and how a Leg Lamp is made.

Overall, this is a decent DVD release for A Christmas Story. In 2008, this set was repackaged as the Ultimate Collector’s Edition, and was released on both DVD and Blu-ray. However, the Ultimate Collector’s Edition is packaged in a metal tin case and comes with special memorabilia.

If you enjoy A Christmas Story and haven’t purchased it yet for your own DVD or Blu-ray library, then you really need to own either this release of the film or the Ultimate Collector’s Edition.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD release that my husband and I purchased.

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