Little House on the Prairie:
Christmas is a compilation of two Christmas episodes from the long-running
television show. "Christmas at Plum Creek" comes from the first
season, and "A Christmas They Never Forgot" from the eighth season.
Given the substantial time gap between the two episodes, this set is probably
intended mostly for viewers who already know and love the show, and who won't
be shocked by seeing Laura and Mary as little girls in one episode and grown
women with husbands in the next.
Of the two episodes,
"Christmas at Plum Creek" is probably the better, as it has a real
storyline. In their first winter at Plum Creek, all the members of the family
want to give memorable presents to each other, but since they're very short of
money, this generosity leads to some sacrifices. It's a cute episode, but I
couldn't help being constantly aware of how anachronistic the story was: it's
very clearly the result of a 1970s "holiday" mentality plunked down
in the pioneer setting. Christmas would have been more a religious holiday then
than it is now; certainly it was common to exchange gifts, but people like the
Ingalls would have focused on small, hand-made gifts rather than things they
could buy from the store.
And speaking of stores... the
Oleson's general store is practically a parody of itself; it's a 1970s vision
of "Ye Olde Country Store." A real country store of the time would
have had barrels full of grain, flour, and crackers, bolts of cloth, cooking
utensils, farm tools, and so on. Unfortunately, the Little House-for-television
version is basically a knick-knack shop with lots of toys, china figurines,
ready-made clothing, and other items that are utterly unrealistic. Then again,
it all goes along with the episode's storyline, which is a fair representation
of a consumeristic Christmas, just in a pioneer setting. The fact that the cast
of characters is extremely amiable and enthusiastic makes "Christmas at
Plum Creek" watchable, but it's still pretty silly stuff.
"A Christmas They Never
Forgot" is weaker, because it doesn't have much of a story. The Ingalls'
entire extended family is trapped inside their house on Christmas Eve by a
blizzard, so they pass the time recounting tales of Christmases past. Kind of
cute? Sure. Sappy? Definitely. It's a slow-paced episode, but it will probably
be fun to watch for viewers who are familiar with the whole Little House
saga, as we get to see the whole family together for Christmas. If you don't
have as much sentimental attachment to the characters, there's not much to the
The two 50-minute episodes are
on one DVD, packaged in a plastic keepcase.
The first episode on this
double feature is from the first season of Little House on the Prairie,
and the second is from the eighth season; surprisingly, the image quality is
poor for both. Especially in the first episode, colors are muted and grayish,
and certainly don't look as good as the remastered episodes on the full Season 3 set, for
instance. The second episode has reasonably natural-looking colors, but the
contrast is too heavy: the dark areas in the image are too dark and detail is
lost. Print flaws also appear throughout the episodes.
The two episodes are presented
in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is
adequate for both episodes. The sound is fairly flat, and the dialogue isn't as
distinct as it could be, but it gets the job done.
There are no special features
on this DVD.
If you have fond memories of
the Little House on the Prairie television series, but you aren't a big
enough fan to shell out for the season sets, this Christmas compilation is a
reasonable way to get a taste of the series. With its juxtaposition of episodes
from the first and eighth seasons, though, it's not a good choice for those who
aren't familiar with the series. I'll suggest it as a rental.