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Frank Capra
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi
Writing Credits:
Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

Not Rated.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Dolby 1.0
French Dolby 1.0
Spanish Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 10/11/2016

• "The Making of It's a Wonderful Life" Documentary
• Theatrical Trailer
• Colorized Version
• Art Cards


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


It's a Wonderful Life: Platinum Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1946)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 8, 2016)

One of Hollywood’s all-time most beloved movies, 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life focuses on George Bailey (James Stewart). Lifelong resident of Bedford Falls, George dreams of the world outside of his small town, but matters always conspire to keep him there.

Married to childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed) and apparently consigned to a life of barely getting by, George’s world takes a turn for the worse when his uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) loses money meant to cover the family’s business. This sends George into a downward spiral and on the verge of suicide.

Before George can kill himself, his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes. Clarence attempts to show George what a good life he’s led and to set our lead back toward happiness.

Like many people, I maintain a love/hate relationship with this holiday classic. On one hand, I dislike its oversentimentality and hokeyness and find it to offer an unrealistic portrait of a fantasy America that never really existed. Life seems blatantly obvious in its attempts to wring tears out of its audience.

On the other hand, I have to admit that the stupid thing works, damn it all to hell! While the movie shamelessly manipulates the audience, it's hard to feel too angry about it because of the raw jolt of unabashed emotion that it provides. Watching Life is like overdosing on some sort of sick sentimentality drug.

Whether that's or bad depends on your point of view, I suppose, and what you want to get out Christmas programs. We usually find two kinds of "adult" Christmas films or shows. There are the somber ones that deal with the historical details of Christ’s birth.

There’s also the soppy flicks, meaning those that end with a "life rules!" message. Not all of the latter are bad, of course - A Christmas Carol falls into that category - but their unrelenting weepiness can make them tough to watch.

Life clearly falls into that latter category and probably ranks as its prime example. Don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing that reaffirming the value of one's life and appreciating what one has are bad things. It's just that there's something about this movie that can grate at times. I suppose it's one of those films for which you really have to be in the mood; if you're not, you'll hate it.

But if you are in the right frame of mind, Life can be a total treat. Maybe that's why I'm so ambivalent about the film: my own moodiness! Whatever the case, despite its treacly tendencies, I must acknowledge that Life accomplishes its goals quite well and it's a nicely made piece of work.

Perhaps the one factor that most makes Life work comes from its fine acting, and James Stewart is at his best as George Bailey. The role demands a number of different tones and attitudes, and Stewart handles them all with ease.

Donna Reed also seems terrific as George's wife Mary. While the role doesn't appear as demanding as Stewart's, she ably functions as the emotional bedrock of the story and nicely complements Jimmy.

All of this leaves It’s a Wonderful Life as a mostly enjoyable film. Its hokey moments can irritate but the final product remains endearing and charming much of the time.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

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

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