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Blu-ray Review: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)

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Normally, I’m not the type of feller to dive into a Christmas-oriented title. Nor am I automatically inclined to watch an animated film or short. Not without some sort of bribe, that is. However, there are times where I simply feel like giving my seasonal holiday depression a reason to exist, and like to dive into one of those good ol’ animated Holiday classics many of us remember fondly (where applicable) from our respective youths. And, when it comes to such seasonal fare, the collective brains of Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass — the fellows that gave us ‘70s TV favorites such as Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town — are always on the top of my list.

Another cherished yuletide hit from the team of Spankin’ Rankin and Boss Bass is 1974’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, which didn’t benefit from being as star-studded as many of their other efforts (this one stars the vocal talents of Joel Grey, Tammy Grimes, John McGiver, and George Gobel). It also didn’t benefit in being as widely beloved, though it’s still a fun tale for kids.

The story here — for those of you who somehow missed it over the years — relays the plight of Junctionville, whose inhabitants are most distressed since all of their kids’ letters to that Santa Claus guy have been returned unopened. The culprit behind the otherwise jolly St. Nick’s shunning here is Albert Mouse, who has publicly accused the generous gift-giver of being a myth. The dirty rat.

Will Albert learn the error of his ways? And will the children of Junctionville receive a visit from Santa? Well, of course they will: it’s a Christmas cartoon for the kiddies, after all!

Incorporating a rather weird-looking Kris Kringle, as well as the classic titular poem by Clement Moore (there’s also a song version in here: what would a Rankin/Bass Christmas production be without songs?), ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a timeless tale for kiddies and adults alike who don’t mind saying “Aw, what the hell,” and feel like popping in a holiday treat.

Warner Home Video gives the vintage animated television wonder new life with a rather stunning Blu-ray presentation, which preserves the intended 1.37:1 aspect ratio and is very rich in color. Fortunately, no one tried to remix this one, so we have the original mono English soundtrack in Dolby Digital. A Spanish 1.0 track and optional subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, and French are also included.

Believe is or not, Warner decided to give us a few special features with this one. But don’t get your hopes up on a retrospective look at the history of Rankin/Bass or anything like that: the main bonus item here is an annoying “educational” tidbit called “Christmas: A Global Holiday,” which tells of the cultural phenomenon of the holiday all around the world (except for Israel, Africa, Iraq, Mongolia, etc.), and is a poorly-animated eight-and-a-half-minute bore.

And that’s all there is, kids. You’d think we might get a little more padding to warrant the purchase of a Blu-ray with a runtime of 24-minutes (especially with a retail price of $25 — another reason for my seasonal holiday depression to exist), but no, we do not. Yet, I somehow feel that those of you who wouldn’t mind having this in their collection of seasonal selections won’t object to the banal bonus piece.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
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