A movie that needs no introduction, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has stood the test of time and has remained a timeless classic and one of the best examples of a movie you want to screen every Christmas. This is an annual tradition of yours truly, and luckily I live in a city where this movie does screen in cinemas around the holidays. How can one not love the classic everyman, underdog story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) trying to provide for his large family but having problems with his bank business. George seems to be failing but there is a guardian angel watching over him and with his guidance, which leads to one of the most famous happy endings in cinematic history where George Bailey gets his wings.
Amazingly, this movie was released outside of the holiday season AND wasn’t a box office success at first, until both re-releases and screenings on TV where it finally found its audience. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE also went into the public domain for a long time as well until Paramount finally put it under its wing (no pun intended) and continues to inspire and entertain many generations.
About The Blu Ray:
This is a somewhat strange release from Paramount. Available on every single home video format, it’s one that I have had on laserdisc and DVD in the past with no shortage of collectible versions available. In the current home video world, there are already plenty of releases out there already including a full on 4k HDR disc release with a recent restoration effort.
As somewhat of a surprise, this new collector’s edition sent to me this week is just a Blu Ray special edition with no 4k HDR disc included. In addition, there is an included Apple TV code that is 4k & Dolby Vision. The main selling point here is the packaging with a nice assortment of collectible cards featuring Bailey family recipes from food, snacks and even hard drinks. It’s a lovely package and yet it’s still gnawing at me why a 4k disc isn’t included in this anniversary edition, especially with a 4k version readily available.
This is a re-release too of the previous transfer, so I ran the included Apple TV 4K to screen the movie. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has been lovingly restored in 4k and also translates well over to the Blu Ray too in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. On both versions the black detail is incredible, deep and really showcasing the original B&W photography, giving the impression of what one of the original theatrical presentations would have been like. I was especially impressed with the famous bridge sequence near the end of the picture at the true, deep blacks showcasing this stunning cinematography.
One main feature I liked here, of which I must stress is only a special feature, was finally being able to check out a strange colour version, which I only sampled as I am firmly against colourization of movies. It’s fine to just sample a few key scenes but for the most part it’s just a strange bonus curiosity. Please please PLEASE do not watch IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE this way. In addition to this, there are a few nice features on the restoration and interviews about the movie’s legacy.
While IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a classic movie that is absolutely worth owning, if you have 4k/HDR capabilities instead opt for the 4k release which also includes a Blu Ray if you haven’t upgraded yet, and all of which include the same bonus features. I still think this packaging and design is quite lovely, however, and it’s recommended if you are just sticking with the Blu Ray format.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: 75th Anniversary Edition is now available on Blu Ray from Paramount Pictures. Many thanks to Paramount PR for sending along a copy for review.