Studio Canal have released a newly restored edition of holiday classic Santa Claus: The Movie on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD. I have watched the Blu-ray and here are my thoughts on both the movie and the brand new transfer.
Like many of my generation, I first saw this film during the 1990s, taped from a TV broadcast no doubt because we wanted to watch something that was on another channel at the same time. The broadcast quality then was much lower than the High Definition we are all used to today. The print being used as the source for broadcast was likely an old one which had been pulled out year-on-year (the film was released in 1985 so was already 10+ years old by this time). And VHS was not exactly known for stellar visual and audial clarity. Despite this, it became a firm seasonal favourite in our house when I was growing up.
What is not to like? There are plenty of British faces in this film to keep a little girl from the UK engaged. Not to mention the terrifying John Lithgow and the absolutely adorable portrayal of Father Christmas by David Huddleston. But more on that later. There is so much colour and magical imagery, traditional toys and a moral that tells us that caring and love are so much more valuable than any material goods.
In this film, we chart the journey of Father Christmas from humble woodcutter making toys for local children in the late Middle Ages, to 20th Century Santa in his famous red suit complete with flying reindeer and workforce of toy-making elves.
There is something incredibly heartening, especially for a film made in what was arguably a very materialistic era, to see that more down-to-earth, human part of the story told. We mustn’t forget Dudley Moore’s character, Patch. He is childlike in his innocence and desire to both do good and impress Santa. It is his naive exuberance which sees him self-exiled from The North Pole and joining forces with the thoroughly evil toy manufacturer B.Z. It is Patch’s genuine desire to make the children of the world happy that offsets the mercenary intentions of B.Z. and his associates.
The performances in this film are outstanding. David Huddleston seems unlikely casting in the role of Santa Claus, but he is sublime, He brings such warmth and jollity to the part, alongside concern and gravity. Dudley Moore is perfect in the role of Patch the elf, for far more than his diminutive stature. That light in his eyes, cheeky smile and depth of emotion that he conveys in his acting make for a truly endearing character. Judy Cornwell is simply adorable as Anya, Mrs. Claus. And we have turns from other British faces, such as sitcom favourite Melvyn Hayes. John Lithgow is utterly terrifying to a child, while as an adult viewing this film, he injected the part with plenty of humour. And the two children, played by Christian Fitzpatrick and Carrie Kei Heim, are sweet, innocent and just real enough to contribute to that human feeling. Not forgetting the great Burgess Meredith as Father Time-esque Ancient Elf.
This film is pure holiday magic, and the new transfer enhances that to such a high degree. The visual quality of this film on the higher-definition format is impeccable. The colours are so rich and vibrant, the little twinkly effects when something magic happens, the sparkly luminescence of the magic reindeer food, all just leap off the screen and pull you into that seasonal warmth.
There is such humour and life in this film, with the shadows and shade to offer contrast and enhance the highs. It is very satisfying to watch as an adult, even having loved it as a child. If you should happen to be on the fence about introducing this into your multi-generational household, have no doubt, it will tick boxes for all the family.
And I find, having reached this point, I haven’t even touched on the beautiful puppetry. Even the reindeer are characters in this film, with real reindeer used for action sequences and distance shots, and really lovely, sophisticated puppets used for fine movements and close-up character interactions. This added such a wonder to this film for me as a child, and I can still appreciate the skill and intention today, even though it may be just a touch less convincing with the extra visual definition. That doesn’t diminish the honesty and intent with which all of these effects are created.
The new editions contain some great special features which were included on previous DVD releases, such as a Making Of Santa Claus Featurette, Behind-the-Scenes of Shooting the Press Conference Scene and Deleted Scenes. But this release also brings us a brand new interview with Judy Cornwell, who plays Mrs Claus in the film. Having seen the Making Of previously, I can say that this coupled with the new interview definitely add value to this updated release.
Santa Claus: The Movie was already a family holiday favourite. With the new 4K restoration, the magic is elevated to even greater heights. It fully deserved this chance to shine brighter and more vibrantly. This new release more than justifies its place among your Festive Collection.
Santa Claus: The Movie is now available on 4K UHD Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon (do make sure to select the release from the 13th November 2023 to get this newly restored version and new bonus features!).
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