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MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood
Director:  George Seaton
Audio:  Dolby Mono
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  Trailer, TV Spot, Cast Info
Length:  97 Minutes
Release Date:  October 5, 1999

Film ****

Yes, Natalie…there is a Santa Claus.

That’s the premise of Miracle on 34th Street, one of the most perfect and beloved of all holiday movies.  When a loveable, sweet old man who calls himself Kris Kringle (Gwenn) makes the claim that he is in fact the one and only Santa Claus, it lands him a job in the Macy’s parade, in the department store, and eventually, in a lot of trouble as well.  Before it’s all over, both he and the people and children who believe in him are going to have to somehow convince the Supreme Court of New York that he his who he says he is, or else he’ll be committed.

This movie is so much about the spirit of innocence winning out over the hard hearted cynicism many of us have succumbed to as we’ve gotten older.  I guess what it comes down to is this:  if we can believe that a kind hearted old man who brings happiness and joy to children everywhere can really be Santa Claus, then the world’s not as bad as we thought, is it?

The cynical world is represented rather nicely by Doris (O’Hara), a good but practical manager at Macy’s, and her daughter, Susan (the delightfully disarming Miss Natalie Wood).  Susan is a child quite unlike most little kids.  She doesn’t believe in Santa, or for that matter, playing games of make believe or reading fairy tales.  She was raised to live in the real world, and those other things are just silly wastes of time.  Kris muses early on that if he can convince these two, then he can believe that the world hasn’t grown as cold and callous as he had feared.  But that’s going to take some doing.

In the end, though, he does have to go on trial to prove his competence…after all, believing oneself to be Santa Claus is insane.  Unless…unless maybe, just maybe, he really is!

Is the film sentimental?  Yes.  Idealistic?  Absolutely.  But there’s just something about the Christmas season that makes it feel so right to pop a movie like this at home, and remember when those ideals meant something to us…and perhaps, to consider that even now, they still have more value than we might have thought.

Video ***1/2

For such an old film, Fox did very well with it.  It’s a very clean print, with hardly any noticeable scars or blemishes.  The black and white photography is well rendered and sharp, with mostly no evident grain except in the one or two brief darker scenes.  No colorization anywhere on this DVD.  Thank you, Santa Claus!

Audio ***

The mono soundtrack has also held up well, and is beautifully clean and clear.  No complaints!

Features **

The disc contains the original trailer (which is quite a hoot!), a TV spot, and some cast info.

Summary:

Miracle on 34th Street is a winning, charming holiday tradition, and I’m thankful that I have this treasured classic on disc in time for Christmas.  This is one you’ll want to keep and enjoy year after year with your family and loved ones.  Enjoy.