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George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all — and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence. Clarence then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all of his good deeds over the years. Will Clarence be able to convince George to return to his family and forget suicide? – Synopsis via Paramount Pictures.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is directed by Frank Capra. He directed other beloved films such as MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.
This is a classic piece of American cinema and a Christmas staple to many. It has everything you want in a film: love, hate, tyranny, angels, Christmas spirit, failure, and redemption. It stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed is his wife, Mary Hatch. Stewart’s charismatic Bailey is loved by the town and by Mary Hatch. They have excellent chemistry and he brings the charm he’s known for.
It is difficult to express in words how much this film gives me the feels and I don’t just mean the holiday stuff but the story is moving. Sometimes people don’t know how much others care until they really need it. My first screening was only a few years ago and I now watch it every holiday season. One thing I will say is that this movie doesn’t have to be watched only during the holidays like WHITE CHRISTMAS or CHRISTMAS VACATION.
I’m not huge on colorizations of movies for a few reasons but the one thing that gets to me is the skin tones. They don’t look natural and are a bit distracting. I don’t want to make a broad generalization on the technique so fans of the look will enjoy that it is included with this release.
James Stewart as George Bailey
Donna Reed as Mary Hatch
Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy
Henry Travers as Clarence
Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bailey
Frank Faylen as Ernie
Ward Bond as Bert
Gloria Grahame as Violet Bick
H. B. Warner as Mr. Gower
Frank Albertson as Sam Wainwright
The video is a 1080p AVC presentation and it looks beautiful. This disc is created from the remastered version so the sharpness in the images is superb. Clothing texture, snow, and even the little intricacies of a scene are pronounced.
There is also a light grain to add to the cinematic charm. The grey scaling of skin tones is perfectly toned. Clothing ranges from dark blacks to lighter grey that gives the impression of color. The overall treatment of the film is the perfect amount of respect that should be shown to this vision.
The audio is a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 mono mix and it divvies the mono track between the speakers. This mix seems to have a wider reach with this track that was carried over from the previous release. The dialogue shares the channels properly with the music and effects. Overall, it’s clean and works well on the release.
SUPPLEMENTS & PACKAGING
-Restoring a Beloved Classic: This goes over the 4K restoration process with Andrea Kalas SVP, Archives at Paramount Pictures, and Laura Thornburg, Executive Director, Film Preservation at Paramount Pictures. They explain how the source desperately needed the restoration to preserve the film before it deteriorated completely.
-Secrets from the Vault: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: This 22-minute featurette with historians Craig Barron, Creative Director/VFX Supervisor; and Ben Burtt, Sound Designer/Filmmaker. They discuss the production and the history of the film.
-It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party: This is vintage footage from the production’s wrap party.
The packaging is new for the 75th-anniversary release with a digipack, slipcase, and the recipe cards have a designated slot. There is a clear holder for the disc with The Bailey’s image as a background. On the back is the note that Clearance left to George with the gift.
2-Disc Blu-ray Set
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono
German Dolby Digital Mono
Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
French Dolby Digital Mono
Italian Dolby Digital Mono
Japanese Dolby Digital Mono
THE BOTTOM LINE
I don’t think that there are more ways to convey how important this film is to the history of American cinema. Capra and Stewart together did outstanding work. The video taken from the remaster is exquisite and is the best transfer in this format. The audio is mix is well done as a 2.0 mix. This movie doesn’t necessarily need a surround mix but who wouldn’t want it to have one? The extras are good for what they are and I’m always a fan of seeing the restoration process but I would think for such an important release, there would be more included. The packaging is very nice with the recipe cards as a nice inclusion. Either way, this is one for the collectors and newcomers so this comes highly recommended.