It’s a Wonderful Life appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though more than watchable, the image could use work.
Overall sharpness seemed positive. A few slightly soft spots emerged, and I saw light edge haloes at times, but the movie usually delivered appealing delineation. Jagged edges and shimmering remained absent, but the transfer appeared to use some mild digital noise reduction – that gave the film a look that seemed a bit too “smoothed out” at times.
Blacks looked dark and deep, and shadows offered nice clarity. I thought contrast worked fine, as the movie usually presented a nice silver sheen.
In terms of print flaws, I saw the occasional small speck. These didn’t add up to much, but a more significant distraction popped up around the 2:01:30 mark, as a long vertical line appeared on the far right side of the screen. This remained for the following eight minutes. All of these factors gave us a transfer that showed its age.
Though not exceptional, the film’s Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack was more than adequate for a 70-year-old movie. Speech seemed a little hollow but lacked edginess or other flaws, and the lines were always perfectly intelligible.
Though the music didn’t present much range, the score was clear and never became shrill or tinny. Effects fell into the same realm; they may not have packed a great punch, but they sounded clean and reasonably accurate. No signs of background noise or other source flaws marred the presentation. Given the age of the material, this was an acceptable auditory piece.
Note that this 2016 “Platinum Anniversary Edition” represents the second Blu-ray release of Life. The original came out in 2009 – and apparently reused a transfer created for a 2006 DVD.
The 2016 Blu-ray duplicates the 2009 release – literally. It does nothing to alter or upgrade the prior version.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get 1990’s “The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life” runs 22 minutes, 45 seconds. Narrated by Tom Bosley, it looks at the movie’s roots and development, cast and performances, story/characters, sets, various production notes and the film’s reception/legacy. Though Bosley’s narration dominates, we also get comments from director Frank Capra and actors Sheldon Leonard and James Stewart.
While a pleasant overview, “Making” shows its age. Given the movie’s prominence, Life deserves a detailed examination, but “Making” doesn’t do that. Although I think it’s a likable program, it remains too short to be especially strong.
Over on Disc Two, we get a colorized version of It’s a Wonderful Life. I take this job seriously and usually watch all a set’s extras for my reviews, but this is where I draw the line.
I couldn’t possibly be less interested in a colorized rendition of Life, so I regard Disc Two as useless. If you want a color edition of the flick, though, have fun!
This release also includes six art cards. These present reproductions of movie advertising materials. They’re decent enough.
Ultimately I maintain a lot of misgivings about It's A Wonderful Life as a film but I find it hard not to recommend it. Despite my love/hate relationship with the movie, I still usually get that urge to watch it at Christmas. The Blu-ray presents acceptable picture and audio with minor supplements. A classic like Life could use a superior presentation.
To rate this film visit the original review of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE