Who are you, really? Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like ‘It's a Wonderful Life.’ Does it take me back to that place in my heart, where I can’t tell you from me? Make me long for everything that once was great and that it could be again? Does it remind me of my childhood, Christmas in my home? No. Maybe it's just simply what I always wanted from life and every man I want to be.
George Bailey (Stewart) wants nothing more than to make it out of the drudgery of hometown Bedford Falls, to a life of excitement. He wants to design skyscrapers that tell stories with a view. Build bridges that close the gap to someone like you, all you know and how you speak. To travel, see the world and all of its wonders and glory. He has dreamed of nothing else since childhood, where he saved both his brother's Harry (Karns) life and the grieving Mr. Gower from a terrible mistake. You see, that’s the thing about George, he puts others before himself. The ultimate in selflessness. It’s no wonder why a Guardian Angel named Clarence (Travers) watches over him through flashbacks of the most intimate moments of George’s life. Nothing really changes from childhood to the life of an adult, as George never lost the ideals that come with innocence. Now George is ready to tackle his dreams head on, nothing can hold him back. That is until one night he goes out and gets the chance of a lifetime, in a beautiful girl named Mary (Reed). A woman who shares George’s values in many ways and it seems she has been with him his entire life, he just didn’t know where to look.
Then tragedy strikes the Bailey’s; as Pa Bailey (Hinds) falls ill and passes away, leaving George with the responsibility of running the family business, the Bailey Building and Loan. He is torn between saving the community of Bedford Falls, and true love and all that he has ever dreamed of. It comes to no surprise when George chooses the Building and Loan. During that time, his relationship with Mary grows as they marry and start a family. Everything is picture perfect, but you can’t ever count the old miser Mr. Potter (Barrymore) out. He is the richest man in town and plans on doing everything he can to stay that way. That includes a misplaced sum of $8,000 dollars and the corruption of one George Bailey. The thing that Potter doesn’t understand is that all George’s life he has been taking care of others, his friends, and they intend to return the favor. All he needs is a little guidance from Clarence to help clear his head and the love of his Mary. In the end, it all adds up to one of the most darling moments in film history.
Everything about this film is well for lack of better words, perfect. No question to it any longer, the best performance by an actor I have ever seen. It's more than just beautiful, timeless, or fair. All of Stewart is revealed. Everything coming together for Capra. Lionel Barrymore at his best, which seems to be his worst. Sometimes, I think there is a reason why things happen, and I'm pretty sure there is some magical reason why this film was made. I’ll never forget the first time I saw this film. I was 25 years old and it was Christmas Eve. I did little since graduating from college, was in a dead end job, and to make matters the absolute worst, I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart. To say the least, I was at the end of my rope. Then I caught ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on television late that night. I mostly ignored the film prior, considering it a corny holiday flick. I made possibly the biggest mistake of my film buff career, but I’ve made up for lost time in watching it countless times since. The only movie to ever make me cry. I probably wouldn't have all the answers for you, if you asked me why. I'm still trying to figure Stewart out and just how beautiful was Reed.
When ‘RKO’ Radio Pictures released ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ the film was met with disappointing results at the box office and with little acclaim. Nominated for 5 Oscars in 1947; Best Actor, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Picture and Best Sound, but without a single win. With ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ picking up most for the year, but in recent years the film has enjoyed a major comeback, being aired on a constant loop on cable around the Holiday season. This led to a considerable amount recognition for the film and opened the eyes of generations to its timeless beauty.
So the question is - Who are you, really? I’m 29 years old. With a lovely wife, a beautiful baby girl and a 30 year mortgage. I’m right where I should be. Some would say that I’ve reached my peak, but how is it that I feel like I’m just getting warmed up? In this world there are only 2 options. You either win or you lose. Now, I’ve been on both sides. I like who I am now better. So who are you and where will you be, when the chance of a lifetime comes knocking down your door? ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ makes me feel good to be alive. What a wonderful little world it is. And if I waited my entire life, it would not be a waste of time.
What can I say? This movie is a life changing experience.
It's a Wonderful Life Blu-ray/B&W
Paramount Pictures debuts the highly anticipated film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, with a pristine 1080p~ AVC MPEG-4 Blu-ray transfer. Having owned the latest DVD release, 60th Anniversary Edition, which honestly looked clean, but rather dull, the Blu-ray is a major upgrade that comes fully loaded with both the original B&W edition and the blasphemous colorized version on a two-disc set. I’m thankful that the colorized version is on a bonus disc, because basically I skeeve that copy, and do not want it to even touch my freshly pressed, beautiful original Blu-ray version.
In viewing the film, I compared the Blu-ray to the exceptional release of ‘Casablanca’, as it shares the same ratio and intent. I also considered my DVD version, through the benefits of upscale. The film is brilliant, with deep blacks, but sometimes soft whites. Not a scratch or speck of dirt can be found throughout the entire picture and any missing pixels are resolved. Overall the transfer is fine and crisp. The evidence of this is visible from the opening title cards to the progression of the opening scenes, as the neon sign on ‘Martinis’ bar glows with ominous intent through the impending winter storm. While some scenes remain a little dark for my taste, it is a fairly bright transfer. The drab interiors have been replaced with fine detail and the exteriors present a wonderful, realistic impression.
Make no mistake; this is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in its purest state, which probably hasn’t been viewed since its original theatrical release. No longer viewed through a bland or cropped showing, wear is pretty much a non-issue. While some evidence of a shaky picture is visible in scene transitions or camera pans, it is mostly focused on the transition of blacks, whites and grays. The actual difference is noticeable, but shouldn’t be a problem to those except the prudish of all Blu-ray enthusiasts. The Dolby Digital Mono audio sounds true, with a little pop and flair, but doesn’t take away from the experience of the combination of a classic picture and another fine Blu-ray transfer.
It’s a Wonderful Life Blu-ray/Color:
Even in my obligation as a non-biased reviewer, this reviewer refuses to view this film in its unnatural state. ‘Hal Roach Studios’ released the first colorized version in 1986 followed by ‘Republic Pictures’ attempt in 1989. The only version to appear on television is the B&W original, in consideration of the heated protest from both Capra and Stewart on the colorization of the classic.
In reflection of the two-disc set, including the colorized version as an extra, the special feature score got a scaled bump-up, but still comes in with only the single featurette included.
The Making of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (23 min, SD) Hosted by Tom ‘Happy Days’ Bosley. Although the making of is a fairly informative piece, with details on the inception of the film from the short story ‘The Greatest Gift’ written by Philip Van Doren Stern, to Capra’s enduring vision, the special features are fairly disappointing The question with the extras is, why Tom Bosley? I really don’t know. I mean sure he was cool enough to let the Fonz live in his garage, but he let his daughter marry Scott Baio. And there is nothing cool about herpes…aaaa. If anything, it offers a comparison look to the original and what a fine example of a Blu-ray transfer the film has become.
Theatrical Trailer: The original Theatrical Trailer of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ presented in the brilliance of HD for our viewing pleasure.
It’s safe to say that Paramount has timing and class, releasing ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ just in time for the Holiday’s. They took their time with this one and delivered a near perfect Blu-ray transfer. I highly recommend this Blu-ray and film to fans and first-time viewers. So pick this one up, it might just help you answer some of life’s most important questions. And “After that, who cares?”