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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful.
Blu-ray: The best version of the film on video thus far! Legend Films first step to Blu-ray gets a positive thumbs up!
By [KNDY] Dennis A. Amith
"Babes in Toyland" or known to many as "March of the Wooden Soldiers" has been an annual Christmas film that has been shown on television for decades. Many people have grown up with this Laurel & Hardy classic and now, the 1934 film gets its re-released on Blu-ray via two restored versions in its original black and white and utilizing Legend Films colorization process.
As for the two different titles, back in 1934 when "Babes in Toyland" was released, in 1948 for its re-released by Lippert Pictures, the film was edited down to 73-minutes and for years, many people have watched this version of the film. For this re-released version, the version included on Blu-ray is a 77-minute version but instead of using "Babes in Toyland", Legend Films has opted to use "March of the Wooden Soldiers".
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is based on the libretto by Glen MacDonough and for the film adaptation directed by Gus Meins and Charley Rogers and a screenplay adaptation by Frank Butler and Nick Grinde, the film takes place in Toyland where many fairy tale characters live.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is presented in 1080p (1:33:1) and is the first Blu-ray release from Legend Films. Bare in mind that this film is available in public domain but this is probably the best version of the film to own at this time. I have seen others who have said the MGM Holiday boxset with the film on DVD is much better but seriously, with the Blu-ray release having a much higher bitrate, the Blu-ray version is the better looking of the two.
I've heard people complain that there are no blacks and only grays. I saw blacks but is the contrast perfect... No. Is it fantastic as other bigger companies or the Criterion Collection have invested in their classic films? No, but the fact that Legend Films is getting involved in the Blu-ray scene, with their first release, this is where they get to learn what people want to see on Blu-ray, especially since they have done several classics as I would love to see them bring out "My Man Godfrey" on Blu-ray.
As for the colorization of the film, if there is one thing that Legend Films excels at and that is their colorization process. I tend to dislike black and white films being colorized especially the way Turner did their colorization back in the early '90s but Legend Films uses better technology and so far, watching "My Man Godfrey" on DVD and now watching "March of the Wooden Soldiers" on Blu-ray, I'm quite content with their colorization. They do a fantastic job! Now whether or not the clothing and hair is accurate, I don't know. But I know for "My Man Godfrey", they did the research of what colors the costumes were and I would assume they would have done the same type of research on this release.
With that being said, I still prefer the black and white version of the film.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is presented in Dolby Digital Mono but seeing they put 2.0 mono, I'm assuming that they meant stereo or putting two mono tracks to the left and right speaker. Nevertheless, dialogue and music is clear and heard no major pops or hissing during the film.
You will hear some degradation with some of the classic shorts in the special features.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" features the following special features:
* Origintal Theatrical Trailer - Featuring the B&W and color trailers for "March of the Wooden Soldiers" plus trailers for "A Christmas Wish", "Beyond Christmas" and "The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection".
* Christmas Trailer Gallery
* Bonus Animated Movie: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - (8:28) A classic Rudolph Technicolor animated short.
* Rare Laurel & Hardy Short Film - (4:45) A Department of Agriculture Laurel & Hardy environmental colored short from the '50s.
* Christmas Toyshop - (9:18) A B&W Christmas short from the '30s or '40s (part live/part animated). Two kids who are excited about Christmas wakeup to find Santa Claus in their living room.
* Howdy Doody's Christmas Special - (7:18) Howdy Doody and friends in a Christmas short.
* Christmas '45 Theater Greeting - (:50) Christmas 1945 theater greeting.
* A Message from Santa - (:36) A quick message from Santa.
* `Twas the Night Before Christmas - (8:05) A Castle Films B&W short featuring Santa delivering his toys on Christmas.
* Merry Christmas - (8:49) A Castle Films B&W short about Santa Claus and the elves working at Santa's toy workshop.
* Jingle Bells - (2:08) A color classic sing-along .
* Classic Toy Commercials - (8:53) Classic toy commercials that are an interesting but enjoyable addition to this Blu-ray release.
* The Little Rascals Happy New Year Greeting - (:28) Featuring a greeting from the Little Rascals singing "Happy New Year to you".
When it comes to Laurel & Hardy, fans have felt that Americans have gotten the shaft when other countries especially the UK have received wonderful Laurel & Hardy DVD releases (especially the wonderful Universal Laurel & Hardy DVD box set). Sure we have had the lost Laurel & Hardy DVD set (which came out and then made out of print) and there are a few movies released on DVD.
But when it comes to Blu-ray releases, it's one thing to get Chaplin or Keaton on Blu-ray but for Laurel & Hardy, no one ever knows if any of Hal Roach-related releases such as Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase or Little Rascals releases will ever be released on Blu-ray, so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised and also a bit giddy that there was a Laurel and Hardy film set for release on Blu-ray courtesy of Legend Films. One, we are getting a popular Christmas classic in black and white and color but also, Legend Films are now taking their first step in High Definition.
And I was very surprised to find out that this Blu-ray release was going for less than $10. It's important to note that Legend Films are nowhere near Criterion Collection or KINO status but they do have the potential to become fan favorites for classic movie and TV show fans because of the titles they have released on DVD thus far. In fact, "March of the Wooden Soldiers" is a pretty solid release for its price. Not only do you get a pretty good B&W release, you also get a colorized version and when it comes to colorization, Legend Films excels at it.
Sure, the company has taken on many titles that were released on public domain but compared to other companies that also take on PD titles, Legend Films has a solid track record for releasing solid black and white and solid colorization of restored films. And the fact that they are releasing on Blu-ray does make me happy.
I know that a few people have said that they did not see and blacks and their blacks were grays. In my experience, that was not the case, so I'm guessing depending on your setup, it's all subjective. But compare to the MGM release years ago (from the MGM Holiday Classics DVD box set), I still feel this Blu-ray release tops it in picture quality.
Also, I was surprised to see so many classic Christmas special features added to this release as well and although many have nothing to do with Laurel & Hardy, they do take place around the same time period that the duo were still performing onscreen. Personally, I thought it was cool to see the Little Rascals singing a Christmas message, especially singing the classic Holiday shorts.
Overall, "March of the Wooden Soldiers" was a pleasant surprise as I was not expecting Legend Films to release on Blu-ray but I'm glad they have. Laurel & Hardy's "Babes in Toyland" (March of the Wooden Soldiers) is ingrained in the heads of many generations of viewers as a Christmas classic that it was perfect timing for this Blu-ray release and also to add, a pleasant surprise as I purchased this Blu-ray for under $10.
If you enjoyed this classic, it's definitely recommended on Blu-ray especially at the very low price you can find it for. And I hope that this is a signal that more Legend Films releases will be on Blu-ray in the near future. Laurel & Hardy fans, this release is recommended!
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful.
March Of The Wooden Soldiers Blu-ray Review (Legend Films)
By Cloud Surfer
I'm posting the following information for those who were taken by surprise (as I was) at the quiet release of this movie on blu-ray and were curious as to details. It looks like everything on the DVD version has been transferred to blu-ray (no additional features have been added). As far as quality goes, the movie does look sharper in some areas (set pieces, costumes) but still blurry in others (the straw on the Little Pigs hut, cave). So if you're looking for a substantial upgrade, you won't find one. But it is an improvement over the DVD version. If you like Laurel & Hardy and or have fond memories of this film, and have a large screen TV, it's worth the $9.49 upgrade.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" is a re-issue of the 1934 film "Babes in Toyland." You'll need to search on the later title to find it on IMDB.
Blu-ray Stats: 1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 48khz, 192kbps, AVC (except Vintage Toy Commercials), 12 Mbps average.
Menu Choices: Play Movie In Color (01:17:30), Play Movie in B&W (01:17:31), Scene Selection (12), Special Features (12).
Cartoon (Max Fleischer)(Technicolor)(08:28): Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer.
Theatrical Trailers(5): March Of The Wooden Soldiers in Color (02:08), March Of The Wooden Soldiers in B&W (03:27), A Christmas Wish (02:31), Beyond Christmas (01:48), The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection (03:19).
Laurel & Hardy Short (color)(Department of Agriculture, Forest Service)(4:45): The Tree In A Test Tube.
Vintage Toy Commercials (MPEG-2)(B&W)(08:53): Poor quality, but interesting.
Christmas Toy Shop (B&W)(09:18): Poor quality, low contrast.
Howdy Doody's Christmas Special (B&W)(07:18): Poor quality but better than the commercials.
Christmas '45 Theater Greeting (B&W)(00:53): Poor quality.
A Message From Santa (B&W)(00:36): Poor quality, low contrast.
Merry Christmas (1950)(B&W)(08:49): Poor quality, low contrast.
Jingle Bells (Color)(02:10): Poor quality, follow the bouncing ball and sing-a-long.
'Twas The Night Before Christmas (B&W)(08:05): Poor quality, low contrast.
The Little Rascals Happy New Year Greeting (B&W)(00:28): Poor quality, low contrast.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful. See all 932 customer reviews...
MGM DVD is superior to the Legend Films Blu-ray
By Paul J. Mular
There are currently two nice versions of this movie available. Both versions have the original BABES IN TOYLAND opening titles.
The official MGM release March of the Wooden Soldiers includes SUBTITLES in English, Spanish, and French, as well as both mono and 'stereo' soundtracks.
The Legend Films release on DVD March of the Wooden Soldiers (Colorized / Black & White) and Blu-ray March of the Wooden Soldiers [Blu-ray] includes both a B&W version and a Colorized version of the movie as well as Bonus Films: Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer cartoon and some bland, watch-it-once, Castle Films Home Movie Christmas films.
The big news is that the B&W picture quality has more detail on the MGM standard DVD than the Legend Films Blu-ray disc! The problem is that the Legend Films master film is overall lighter, with blacks looking gray and the lighter grays looking washed out, losing detail. Little Bo Peep has a birthmark on her cheek that is easy to see in the MGM DVD, but the Legend Blu-ray washes it out so that you can barely see it. Earlier in the opening Mother Goose song after she opens up the book, there is a hair on the right side of the picture that happened during the original lab matting process. This hair is hard to see in the washed out Legend Films version. The MGM DVD has so much detail that you can see the split screen matt line in this same scene, but not on the Legend Blu-ray.
The official MGM DVD also includes the original MPAA Approval notice at the beginning of the film, Legend Films replaces this with their logo as the movie's music plays.
The hearing impaired, and those who don't speak English will want to get MGM's DVD as it has subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. Legend Films DVD & Blu-ray does not have any.
If you have to see the film in color, then you will want the legend Films DVD & Blu-ray releases as they include a colorized version (the discs de-fault to Colorized for play-out).
The legend Films DVD & Blu-ray release also includes some mediocre bonus Christmas films. The first and best is the Dave Fleischer color cartoon RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, but beware THE MUSIC HAS BEEN CHANGED! Gone is the classic Rudolph theme song, as it is copyrighted, and new holiday music is in its place.
On the menu there is a generically titled Laurel & Hardy Short, this is an incomplete presentation of Laurel & Hardy's educational film A TREE IN A TEST TUBE which is available in complete form on other L&H DVDs and not necessary to have again.
Most of the other bonus Christmas films are Castle Films Home Movie live action Christmas Films that I challenge you to sit through.
A JINGLE BELLS SING-A-LONG is actually an excerpt from a Paramount Bouncing Ball cartoon, but the cartoon itself is not included.
Since I would be buying this for the BABES IN TOYLAND movie itself, I would go for the better picture quality on the MGM DVD. Why only 4 stars out of 5? The picture still looks grainy in both releases & the nicer MGM version doesn't have any bonus material, not even the original theatrical trailer (which does exist).
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