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.
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