National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

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  • Chris D
    Moderator Emeritus
    • Dec 2000
    • 16877

    National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

    "Is your house on fire, Clark?"
    "No, Aunt Bethany"

    Along with "A Christmas Story", which I've also reviewed here, this is one of my favorite Christmas film. Unfortunately, until now Warner Brothers had released only a low-quality DVD of this movie, in non-anamorphic widescreen. As I don't buy DVD's of that kind, I've been without this movie for quite a while. When I learned that a new "Special Edition" was being released, with my must-have anamorphic widescreen, I was as happy as... well... a kid on Christmas, and pre-ordered it right away.

    And the verdict? Quite a letdown for a DVD. Yes, the picture is finally anamorphic, and not too bad with picture quality. Nothing stellar, though, showing occasional errors from the original film. But the sound is very disappointing. The DVD case (which I was surprised to see is the original low quality DVD-style of cardboard flaps, held with a plastic retaining strip) contains the Dolby Digital symbol. But if you read and understand the fine print or play the movie, you'll find that the only Dolby Digital sound on the DVD is the FRENCH soundtrack, and even then only in mono! :wtf: The English track is only analog Dolby stereo, not digital in any way.

    The only extra on this "Special Edition" is a recent commentary made with Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, and others watching the film. While they do make several interesting comments and throw out entertaining information, some of it is just them watching the movie with you, saying "this is funny", or "I love this part".

    One interesting thing I learned--did you know that the actress that plays Aunt Bethany, who is absolutely priceless in her role, was the original voice of both Betty Boop and Olive Oil?

    I haven't seen the movie for some time, and had a lot of fun watching it again. Seeing Julia Dreyfuss in her pre-Seinfeld days is great. All of the characters interact wonderfully, and the story is guaranteed to keep you in stitches throughout the film. In typical Lampoon fashion, while the scenes are quite silly and go somewhat beyond expected reality, their is a part of everything that happens that makes you think "that's just like MY dad"... or "I remember that happening one Christmas to me".

    So... I'm torn. I've got to give two different ratings here--- :2: for DVD quality, and :45: for the movie itself.




    CHRIS
    Luke: "Hey, I'm not such a bad pilot myself, you know"
    CHRIS

    Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
    - Pleasantville
  • Burke Strickland
    Moderator
    • Sep 2001
    • 3161

    #2
    So buying the DVD wasn't a sound decision? :>) Sorry it turned out to be such a disappointment after all the anticipation. But that's about the way I felt when I got ahold of "National Lampoon's European Vacation" DVD a while back. I was glad to be able to see the movie again without resorting to VHS, but the presentation on DVD wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be. The National Lampoon movies really need the Criterion treatment. (But I know of a really hot place other than Houston that will be frozen over before that ever happens.) :>)

    Burke

    What you DON'T say may be held against you...

    Comment

    • Kevin P
      Member
      • Aug 2000
      • 10809

      #3
      Originally posted by chris dotur
      Unfortunately, until now Warner Brothers had released only a low-quality DVD of this movie, in non-anamorphic widescreen.
      Actually, the original release was open-matted full frame (aka MAR), not widescreen. It and "Vacation" are the only MAR DVDs I own.
      But if you read and understand the fine print or play the movie, you'll find that the only Dolby Digital sound on the DVD is the FRENCH soundtrack, and even then only in mono! :wtf: The English track is only analog Dolby stereo, not digital in any way.
      :huh: :?? DVDs don't carry analog soundtracks. Maybe you meant that the English track is DD 2.0, which is usually ProLogic-decoded by your processor. The French track is probably DD 1.0 (mono). Some receivers/processors (Yamaha for example) will display "Pro Logic" instead of "Dolby Digital" when playing a DD 2.0 track, but it is still Dolby Digital, even if isn't 5.1.

      I was hoping for better, but maybe I'll get it for the anamorphic video.

      KJP




      Official Computer Geek and Techno-Wiz Guru of HTGuide - Visit Tower of Power
      My HT Site

      Comment

      • Chris D
        Moderator Emeritus
        • Dec 2000
        • 16877

        #4
        Originally posted by Kevin P
        DVDs don't carry analog soundtracks. Maybe you meant that the English track is DD 2.0, which is usually ProLogic-decoded by your processor. Some receivers/processors (Yamaha for example) will display "Pro Logic" instead of "Dolby Digital" when playing a DD 2.0 track, but it is still Dolby Digital, even if isn't 5.1.
        Whoops, you're right, of course, Kev about DVD's not having analog soundtracks. I wasn't thinking there. I've never heard that, though, the statement you made about some receivers displaying "Pro Logic" with DD 2.0. You probably know more than I do in this area. The Christmas Vacation package lists the English track as "Dolby Stereo".

        Would this imply, then, that ALL soundtracks on DVD's are Dolby Digital of one channel format or another? (unless they're DTS, of course) That's something I haven't heard before.




        CHRIS
        Luke: "Hey, I'm not such a bad pilot myself, you know"
        CHRIS

        Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
        - Pleasantville

        Comment

        • Trevor Schell
          Moderator Emeritus
          • Aug 2000
          • 10935

          #5
          That's too bad on the sound.
          However this is one movie I also love to watch every Christmas.
          It is definately a CLASSIC!!




          Trevor
          My HomeTheater S.E.
          Sonically Enhanced
          C5
          Trevor



          XBOX 360 CARD

          Comment

          • Burke Strickland
            Moderator
            • Sep 2001
            • 3161

            #6
            Originally posted by Chris Dotur
            Would this imply, then, that ALL soundtracks on DVD's are Dolby Digital of one channel format or another? (unless they're DTS, of course) That's something I haven't heard before.
            Yes, sort of. According to various technical sources, the DVD spec for NTSC discs requires either a PCM or a Dolby Digital soundtrack. (Both are allowed if there is space on the disc with all the other features, but they only HAVE to include one or the other). Other soundtrack formats, such as DTS, are also allowed, but as an option in addition to one of the required tracks. Since Dolby Digital can be anything from mono to 6.1, a "DTS" disc can meet the spec by having a mono track in Dolby Digital in additon to the DTS track (which is either 5.1 or 6.1). (Note that the "Eagles: Hell Freezes Over" DTS disc has only a PCM stereo track in addtion to the DTS track.)

            Here is a quote from a Dolby Labs paper written a few years ago discussing several competing sound encoding formats: http://www.dolby.com/dvd/sel-code.html
            Originally posted by Comments from Dolby Laboratories
            There is only one version of this technology being licensed in consumer products covering the range of mono to 5.1-channel audio, and data rates from 32 kbps to 640 kbps.
            Of course, their more recent technology (Dolby Digital EX) extends that to one additional surround (rear) channel, making it 6.1, rather than 5.1 channels.

            Burke

            What you DON'T say may be held against you...

            Comment

            • Chris D
              Moderator Emeritus
              • Dec 2000
              • 16877

              #7
              Ah yes, that's what I thought--that tracks could be PCM, Dolby Digital, or DTS. Three possibilities? I thought PCM was the digital DVD track version of just a standard stereo signal, like what a redbook CD would output, but different than Dolby Digital. Would that be what the Christmas Vacation soundtrack is, then?




              CHRIS
              Luke: "Hey, I'm not such a bad pilot myself, you know"
              CHRIS

              Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
              - Pleasantville

              Comment

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