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Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Teddy Eccles, Jose Ferrer, Paul Frees
Writing Credits:
Romeo Muller

An orphan drummer boy who hated humanity finds his life changed forever when he meets three wise men on route to Bethlehem.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 25 min.
Price: $29.93
Available As Part of “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collection”
Release Date: 9/8/2015

• None


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Little Drummer Boy: Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2015)

1968’s The Little Drummer Boy remains moderately well known, but it doesn’t merit consideration as an acknowledged “Christmas classic”. While it continues to get holiday exposure, it lacks the consistent popularity and cultural relevance of efforts such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This shouldn’t diminish the quality of Little Drummer Boy, though, as it offers an interesting effort. After desert bandits kill the family of a youngster named Aaron (voiced by Teddy Eccles), he turns his back on humanity. Bitter and angry, Aaron befriends various animals but remains negative toward all people. We follow his story and his eventual redemption upon the birth of Christ.

Boy could have been very good, largely due to its surprisingly dark tone. Aaron is an intensely angry character who watches the murder of his parents and gets sold into slavery.

The show mostly follows a dramatic line, but it doesn’t fully embrace that spirit. It engages in too much slapstick and goofiness, as though the Rankin/Bass folks aren’t confident enough to make it totally dramatic.

This feels like a mistake. Perhaps the show’s creators thought they needed to tone down the drama due to its family audience, but I disagree. Kids can handle dark tales, and the seriousness of Boy acts as a strength.

Even without the dramatic consistency I’d prefer, Boy provides a reasonably good story. At the very least, it contrasts with most of its peers.

The Disc Grades: Picture D/ Audio B-/ Bonus F

The Little Drummer Boy appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The show offered a weak transfer.

Sharpness appeared mediocre at best. Close-ups demonstrated passable clarity but anything wider seemed soft and fuzzy. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge haloes appeared.

Colors flopped. Granted, the desert setting didn’t boast lots of vivid hues, but the tones of Boy appeared terribly drab and flat nonetheless. Blacks were inky and mushy, while shadows were bland.

Print flaws seemed minor, as I detected a few specks and marks but nothing serious. Grain seemed awfully heavy, though – and looked suspiciously like DVD artifacts. I couldn’t help but wonder if the image came from a 12th generation transfer or from a pre-existing DVD. Whatever the source, this was an unappealing and disappointing presentation.

On the other hand, the show’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack seemed surprisingly good. The stereo soundscape remained essentially monaural, though – and by “essentially”, I mean “entirely, as far as I could tell”. Any use of the side speakers was minor at most.

Given the show’s origins, though, that was fine, and the track sounded quite good. Speech was fairly warm and natural, which just a bit of edginess. Effects could be slightly rough, but not terribly so, and they usually demonstrated pretty nice range.

Music satisfied most of all. The songs and score demonstrated pleasing tones, as they showed good clarity and depth. Unfortunately, the performance of the title song heard during the show’s climax came from an iffy source and could sound a bit wobbly. A mild hum could be heard at times, but it didn’t become a notable distraction. Overall, this seemed like a mostly positive soundtrack.

Boy comes with no extras. Since it essentially exists as a bonus feature attached to better-known shows, this doesn’t come as a surprise.

An unusually dark holiday special, The Little Drummer Boy lacks consistency. I like its dramatic tone but it spoils the atmosphere with too many self-consciously light moments. The Blu-ray offers good audio but suffers from terrible visual quality and lacks supplements. Boy has its ups and downs but it remains a mostly enjoyable show – too bad this Blu-ray looks so awful.

Note that this version of Little Drummer Boy comes from a package called The Original Television Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition. That box packages Boy with Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, The Cricket on the Hearth, and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. With a list price under $30, it’s a good deal.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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