It's A Wonderful Life 4K
review by Michael Fraley
Frank Capra’s holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, is one of those films, that even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve seen most of it, or at least the end in several other movies. Many television shows, and other movies as well, have copied or parodied It’s a Wonderful Life since it was released in 1946. Some lines, like “Every time a bell rings, an Angel gets it’s wings,” and “Hello movie house!” are so ingrained in our culture that even if you didn’t know where they came from, you’ve heard them. George Bailey’s realization of just wonderful of a life he has is probably only second to Luke’s parentage as far a movie spoilers go.
I am one of the few that have never sat and watched It’s a Wonderful Life from start to finish. It was never a part of my Christmas line-up, my holiday oeuvre if you will, growing up, and as I grew older, I just never found a spot to fit it in between Clark’s breakdowns, Frank Cross’s revelations, or Hans Gruber’s fall. So, when offered the chance to review the 4K restoration, I thought this would be a great chance to correct this egregious error.
It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a man
who sets aside his dreams to run his father’s small community bank and try to keep people of his small town safe from the greed of local businessman Mr. Potter. After a banking error pushes George to the edge of taking his own life, Clarence, Angel Second Class, swoops in to show George just how much his life means to those around him and try and finally earn his wings.
I loved It’s a Wonderful Life. A few of the other Christmas movies I’d missed out on and tried at a later age, I’m looking at you A Christmas Story, just didn’t resonate with me, but this one did. It’s powerful message, that wealth isn’t what makes a great success, but how a person touches the lives around them, is just as strong, if not stronger today. George Bailey never became the man he wanted to be growing up. He was never able to leave his hometown and find his riches or adventures, but because of his actions, the people around him were able to have much better lives than they would have had he not been there to offer his support.
This transfer looks amazing. There is more detail now than there was when the film was originally released. It almost looks like it was filmed today in black and white. I will say the colorized version on the Blu-Ray left a little to be desired. The higher resolution made a lot of the colors just seem off, but the movie wasn’t made to be watched in color, so just enjoy it in its original black and white splendor.
Along with the digital copy and colorized Blu-Ray, the release includes three special features. If you are a fan of movies in general, I strongly recommend “Restoring a Beloved Classic in 4K.” It is an in-depth look at the restoration process. Also included is a home movie of the original cast party and a look back on this history of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Whether you’ve seen this film a thousand times, or are new to it, like me, I can’t recommend this transfer enough. It’s a movie that’s morals and message should be taken to heart by everyone today, and the transfer is beautiful. In addition to the black and white 4K version of the film this all-new Steelbook release also includes a colorized version on Blu-ray, featurettes and a mini reproduction of a vintage poster.
Grab your copy of the It's a Wonderful Life 4K Ultra HD Steelbook Edition available now from Paramount Home Entertainment.