A wonderful film about the power of faith.
I think the color version makes this film look cheap.
The two disc set of Miracle on 34th Street is really a gem to behold. This tale of Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) and a her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) as two women who come to believe in Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas, is a tale that can be watched any time of year but it certainly goes down well around the holidays. This all begins when she has a man who looks like Santa (Edmund Gwenn; who also goes by Kris Kringle) fill in for her in the Macy's Day Parade. From there, he starts working in the store and his presence and utterances of goodwill even cause Macy and Gimble to shake hands and become friends. Throughout all this, he is spending time with Susan, Doris, and Fred (John Payne) and impacting all of their lives greatly. Things get muddled when Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall), the store busy body, ends up having Kris Kringle committed to an insane asylum.
Suddenly the film hinges on a court case examining whether or not Santa Claus does or does not exist, and I think whatever your feelings, whatever your faith, you cannot help but be touched by the magical quality contained in Miracle on 34th Street.
AMC Backstory and Movietone News
Once again, the people who created the AMC Backstory did a really wonderful job in telling the story behind this film. It must be hard to fathom now but nobody believed in it when it was first presented. Miracle on 34th Street was opened in June and not around Christmas which seemed to make no sense, and some of the actors didn't even want to be involved with the production. In addition to this is a Movietone News segment that shows us the Academy Awards from the year that this film took home 3 Oscars.
From just a purely historical standpoint, this is interesting because it's like an early production featurette which are so common on DVDs nowadays. Basically, it follows a studio executive around as he's trying to figure out how to sell this movie. He's trying to keep it simple but the more he talks about Miracle on 34th Street, the more he realizes that this film is many things to many people.
20th Century Fox Hour of Stars
I was confused by this at first because I didn't know what it was. I did some research on the internet and it turns out that this film is a 1950s remake. Why they would want to remake this movie is beyond me, but I didn't really watch a lot of it as I didn't want to dilute my experience with the actual film.
Floating In History
This is a piece that looks at the appeal of Miracle on 34th Street, mixed in with the public's love of the Macy's Day Parade. We see how the world has embraced this film as a classic and how it, and the parade, will forever be linked throughout history. I actually had the pleasure of talking with Robert Grippo who co-wrote the book Macy's Day Parade, and I think reading my interview with him is a nice compliment to the segment on this two DVD set.
Maureen O'Hara does solo duties here however this isn't a commentary track so much as it is an interview. As a result, there are gaps in what we are listening to but it is still worth checking out. O'Hara discusses how she got the role of Doris (two words: Darryl Zanuck), that she didn't want to do it at first but eventually changed her mind when she realized how special the film was going to be, and how the cast was somewhat miffed that the only person who was nominated out of all he actors was Edmund Gwenn.
They offer this film in color and in black and white. Both of them are in the Full Frame - 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio. There is a color version and the original black and white one. I know they are promoting the colorized one because young people supposedly won't watch a movie in black and white, but I am 33, and while I might not be a teenager, I can say resolutely that the only way to watch this film is in black and white. I found the images so rich and nicely compressed on DVD, whereas the colorized version seems quite shoddy by comparison. Still, it's great to have them both in such a succinct set.
English 5.1 Dolby Surround. English, French and Spanish Mono. Subtitled in English and Spanish. Close Captioned. The audio on this movie, considering that it's almost 60 years old, is awesome. Sure there is a little audio hiss here and there, but everything is leveled quite nicely and it seems like Fox has gone to great care to get all the assets for this film in their best possible shape.
The cover image of this DVD case features that classic shot of Santa and Susan with the Macy's Day Parade happening behind them. This picture is, of course, in full color. The back continues pushing this idea with some more pictures, a description of the movie, a Special Features listing, and technical specs. The two discs in this set are both neatly stored in one amaray case.
I hadn't ever seen Miracle on 34th Street before I was given it to review. However, my interview with Robert Grippo really made me want to discover this gem, simply because this movie and the parade was something that he is very passionate about. When I do interviews, I am often inspired by the people who I talk to, and so I watched this movie and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. I think the biggest reason why it works is because the people involved in it really believe in what they are doing. There was no mugging for the camera, no camp, and as a result we get a movie that plays as a heartfelt ode to this magical time of year. Also, I think this film makes a lot of subtle and not so subtle points about society, people who are different, and how sometimes we lose sight of what's important in our quest to survive.
If you don't already own it, Miracle on 34th Street needs to be in your collection!
Miracle on 34th Street was released June 11, 1947.