While many classic Christmas movies have been released on DVD, only a few have made it to the Blu-ray format. But there are certainly enough to fill anyone's stocking this year. Here are seven classic holiday films that will make someone's Christmas bright.
Most might remember the 1961 remake by Disney or recall this film under its other title, March of the Wooden Soldiers, which was used for its 1952 theatrical re-release. But it was originally Babes in Toyland and starred comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as two incompetent toymakers who manage to save the home – actually a shoe – of Mother Peep (Florence Roberts) from the evil mortgage holder, Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon), despite their many bumbling attempts. The Laurel and Hardy classic remained a staple on television over the decades during the holiday season and was finally released on Blu-ray in September 2010.
Not to be confused with the Alastair Sim classic from 1951, this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ famed novella A Christmas Carol was the first-ever sound film following a number of silent-era movies, many of which are now lost. Scrooge starred British actor Seymour Hicks as the miserly Ebenezer – a role he played countless times on stage and once before on film in a 1913 silent version. Released back in September, Scrooge features both the original black-and-white and a colorized version, though both are edited down from the film’s already truncated 78 minutes. For serious collectors only.
An all-time Christmas classic that was released on Blu-ray two years ago, Miracle on 34th Street starred 72-year-old Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, a bearded dead-ringer for Jolly Old Saint Nick who takes over for a drunken department store Santa and begins to transform the lives of all around him, including a young girl (Natalie Wood) lacking the Christmas spirit ever since the divorce of her parents. Kringle’s insistence that he is the real Santa Claus is met with skepticism and eventual courtroom accusations, though he manages to prove that he is the jolly old elf while managing to give the young girl a Christmas to remember.
The famed Alastair Sim retelling of Dickens’ classic tale received the Blu-ray treatment just last month for the 60th anniversary of the film’s release. This definitive version is anchored by Sim’s richly textured performance as the tight-fisted Scrooge. The plot details are well-known, so they won’t be belabored here. Suffice it to say, this release contains a number of great features, including a retrospective of director Brian Desmond Hurst, a tour of locations used in the film, and two 1922 silent shorts based on Dickens’ works, Scrooge with Henry Vernon Esmond, and Bleak House, starring Sybil Thorndike as Lady Dedlock. This is a must-have for anyone’s collection.
Hugely popular in 1954, White Christmas struck just the right note with audiences when it was released, and it became the highest-grossing movie by a wide margin that year. Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, the heartwarming musical featured a rather thin plot involving the four stars trying to put on a big show to save an old general (Dean Jagger) from dire financial straits. But White Christmas was best remembered for bevy of Irving Berlin songs and lavish musical numbers, including Crosby’s famous rendition of the title song, which remains in heavy play on radio during the holiday season. Not an all-time classic, the uplifting White Christmas< is still worth having on one’s video shelf.
Not all Christmas stories are sugarplums and reindeer. Bob Clark’s slasher flick gained a degree of notoriety upon its release in the U.S. (it was made in Canada) and went on to become something of a cult classic. The story follows a pair of college girls (Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder), who stay behind in their sorority house over the Christmas break and are terrorized by murderous psychopath hiding out in their attic. Black Christmas one of the first true slasher films ever made and helped revolutionize the horror genre alongside John Carpenter's more famous Halloween. Released in November 2008.
No Christmas collection is complete without this comedy classic, also directed by Bob Clark. There are no killers hiding out in the attic here, but there are plenty of laughs in this nostalgic, yet slightly sardonic tale of nine-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB Gun despite warnings that “You’ll shoot your eye out.” As the big day approaches, Ralphie contends with schoolyard bullies, parents feuding over a lamp shaped as a woman’s leg, disappointment over his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring and a bright pink bunny suit sent by his Aunt Clara. Despite the many disappointments and embarrassments suffered, Ralphie may in the end get just what he wanted. A Christmas Story has become an instant holiday classic, thanks to repeated airings on television, including a 24-hour marathon on TBS.