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George Seaton
Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood
Writing Credits:
George Seaton

Kris Kringle - unbeknownst to cynical, market-minded adults, the real Santa Claus - is hired to play himself at Macy's Department Store, New York City. His gentle, joyous spirit and magical powers soon transform those around him, including a little girl and her world-weary mother.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/10/2017

• Audio Commentary with Actor Maureen O’Hara
• “AMC Backstory” Featurette
• Movietone News Footage
• “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” Featurette
• Promotional Short
• Poster Gallery


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Miracle On 34th Street: 70th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1947)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 12, 2017)

One of a handful of true Christmas classics, 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street embraces the basic notion of belief in the unbelievable. On Thanksgiving Day, the man hired to play Santa in the Macy’s parade turns up drunk.

Happily for organizer Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), a dead ringer comes along to fill in – and he claims to be named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn)! Macy’s hires Kris to be their in-store Santa and he proves to be a hit.

We also get to know Doris’s personal life. The divorced mother of young Susan (Natalie Wood), Doris’s neighbor Fred Gailey (John Payne) takes a romantic shine to her.

Fred finds out that Doris allows Susan no illusions in life. The youngster doesn’t believe in Santa and knows no fairy tales.

This starts to change as Susan gets to know Kris. She sees him in action and views behavior that can’t be explained by Doris’s relentless focus on facts and realism. The film follows Kris’s interactions with the Walker family as well as controversies that come with his insistence that he really is Santa Claus.

Christmas flicks walk a fine line between goopy sentiment and heartwarming emotion. Happily, Miracle stays on the right side of that line.

Indeed, it often indulges a harsher view of matters, and a lot of the credit for the film’s success comes from its underlying cynicism. Via Doris and Susan, the movie embraces the harsh, cold realism of normal life. That contrast sets the flick in the real world and allows for a good contrast.

Actually, almost every character in the movie acts out of self-interest. Kris is the only genuinely altruistic character here, as even good-natured Fred’s actions initially are motivated by his desire to put the moves on Doris. He later works more toward what he sees as the greater good, but without his lasciviousness, he never would have become involved in the story.

With the possible exception of Susan – whose super-emphasis on realism is simply a reflection of her mother’s bitterness – everyone behaves in ways to promote their own agendas. Macy, Gimbel, the prosecutor, the judge… all down the line, we find self-interested parties who endorse the reality of Santa because of their own bottom lines. Even the post office employees who forward the letters to Santa to the courthouse do so out of a desire to shift responsibility to someone else.

This underlying cynicism really works well because it bolsters the warmth the film eventually embraces. In the face of all these doubts, we see how Kris wins over Doris and Susan. Without such a dim view of humanity the rest of the time, the movie’s resolution would prove less bracing.

Some excellent performances help Miracle as well, and Gwenn makes Kris warm and lovable but never sappy or cloying. He’s got enough of an edge to himself to ensure that he’s not just some goofy old elf.

Payne’s Fred avoids the character’s pitfalls so he never becomes patronizing or judgmental. O’Hara shows Doris’s bitterness without turning into a cold shrew.

Best of the bunch, Wood offers one of the all-time great performances from a child actor. She makes Susan practical and doubting but never loses that little girl spark.

When Susan starts to believe in Kris, Wood transforms in a fully believable manner and smoothly moves from tiny cynic to cheerful little kid. It’s a wonderful piece of work. Miracle captures a nice spirit of magic without ever becoming cutesy or sugary. The cynicism from the outset ensures that the sweetness feels more natural.

This is a nice way to have its cake and eat it too, as it shows the selfish reasons people go along with Santa’s existence but still manages a sense of joy and wonder. Miracle fully deserves its status as a Christmas classic.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus C+

Miracle on 34th Street appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a bad presentation, this was a wholly lackluster image.

Some of the problems stemmed from the film’s definition. Although the movie never came across as terribly soft, it showed a generally flat sense of sharpness much of the time.

Light edge haloes contributed to this, as the film was reasonably concise but not particularly crisp. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, though.

Source flaws failed to become a problem, though the image took on a somewhat “digital” feel much of the time. It simply lacked a natural film-like impression and could come across as “artificial”.

Contrast was decent. While the movie never seemed too bright or too dark, it didn’t impart the silvery sheen I expect from black and white films. The film came across as a bit dull and bland, factors that left us with a mediocre transfer that came across as dated.

This release of Miracle came with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. Taken from the original monaural audio – which also appeared on the disc – this track opened up the spectrum in a minor manner.

Music showed decent spread across the front, and some environmental elements also cropped up from the sides. Some of these proved useful -–such as when a buzzer came from the correct spot on the left – but most were too general to create much of an impact. Surround usage was minor and added little to the set.

Audio quality was acceptable. Speech came across as intelligible and reasonably warm, given the restrictions of the era. Music accentuated high-end a bit too much, though the score seemed reasonably concise.

Effects stayed in the same realm, as they were clear and nothing more. The mix lacked background noise. This was a perfectly acceptable track, though I don’t think the 5.1 remix brought anything extra to the release.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2006 Special Edition DVD? Audio seemed a bit clearer and lacked the hiss from the DVD, while visuals were cleaner and tighter. Though the Blu-ray didn’t impress me, it beat the DVD.

Note that Miracle originally came out on Blu-ray in 2009. I never saw that disc, but I feel 99.9 percent certain that this 2017 “70th Anniversary Edition” simply repackages the 2009 version. I did research and everything I read strongly implies that the 2017 disc clones the 2009 one.

The Blu-ray includes most – but not all – of the extras from the 2006 DVD, and we find an audio commentary with actor Maureen O’Hara. She offers a running, screen-specific discussion that looks at aspects of her career and her casting in the movie, working at Fox and with the other actors, shooting in New York and various production specifics, thoughts about the film’s legacy, and reflections on Christmas back home in Ireland.

At the start, we get an alert that plenty of gaps will occur in this track, and that proves true. Warning or not, this creates plenty of dull spots.

In addition, O’Hara often just narrates the movie. She throws out a smattering of interesting notes, but there’s not enough here to sustain us over more than 90 minutes. We’d be better off with a simple interview featurette instead of this tedious commentary.

AMC Backstory lasts 22 minutes, six seconds. The program offers info from O’Hara, film historian Rudy Behlmer, biographer Suzanne Finstad, Natalie Wood’s sister Lana, and actors Robert Hyatt and Alvin Greenman.

The show traces the project’s genesis and development, casting, location shooting and getting clearance to use the real Macy’s and Gimbel’s, sets, notes from the shoot, releasing the flick in the summer, and its reception and success. This offers a somewhat glossy look at the production, but it throws out a reasonable amount of information.

More archival material comes from the Movietone News clip found here. Called “Hollywood Spotlight”, this one-minute, 46-second snippet spotlights the 1948 Oscars. Edmund Gwenn won Best Supporting Actor, which is why this clip appears here. Unfortunately, it truncates his acceptance speech.

A Promotional Short runs five minutes, eight seconds, and this offers a quirky form of trailer. It starts with some typical advertising hyperbole before it stops due to the insistence of ad executive Ed Shaffer.

He then wanders the Fox lot and gets the opinions of Rex Harrison, Anne Baxter and others. It’s a clever piece and a lot of fun.

For info on the big holiday event, we go to a 15-minute, 32-second featurette called Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Floating in History. It presents notes from author Robert M. Grippo and former Macy’s VP John W. Straus.

“History” offers a quick history of the movie and its production before we learn about the parade and its depiction in the film. Though reasonably informative, I’d have liked more info about the parade over the years.

Finally, we get a Poster Gallery. This includes nine images and offers a nice little look at advertising that came with the film’s initial release.

As I noted, the Blu-ray doesn’t include all the same extras as the 2006 DVD. It loses a colorized version of the film – which doesn’t bother me one bit – and it also drops a 1955 TV adaptation of Miracle. Its absence creates a disappointment, as it was a nice addition to the set.

Delightful and bright, Miracle on 34th Street succeeds because it embraces sentiment but never becomes soft or gooey. Instead, its relentless streak of cynicism means that the fantasy comes across as more effective. The Blu-ray offers mediocre picture and audio along with a modest array of supplements. I like this film a lot and wish Fox would give it the high quality presentation it deserves.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

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