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It’s A Wonderful Life: 2-Disc Collector’s Set Blu-ray Review


  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, PCM 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 2
  • Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 1 , 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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BestBuy.com:
It's a Wonderful Life -

Purchase It’s a Wonderful Life 2-disc Collector’s Set on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]


Frank Capra’s classic Christmas-time film, It’s a Wonderful Life, is now a deluxe collector’s edition box, complete with storybook and Christmas ornament.  More importantly, this two-disc set contains a remastered black and white original and a colorized version. While this family favorite film is so well known that it could be considered self-recommending, the Capra-Goodrich-Hackett script does occasionally show its age. The story of how George Bailey (James Stewart), a down-on-his-luck banker, survives a dark night of the soul, thanks to an angelic visitation, is still spiritually uplifting. Today’s audiences might find the plot a bit corny, but it does manage to warm the heart, abetted by the terrific supporting performances of Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Mitchell, Beulah Bondi and Gloria Grahame. Nominated for five Academy Awards, it was shut out by The Best Years of Our Lives, which had an even better cast and the cachet of post-World War II themes.  It’s a Wonderful Life helped to launch director Capra’s highly successful movie career, and was honored in 1990 by the Library of Congress as one of only twenty five films deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

I was astonished to see how well both Blu-ray versions showed up on my home theater display. The B&W original features crisp images with a modest amount of graininess, probably looking as good or better than in its original silver screen debut. What surprised me more was how good the colorized version appeared as some of the screen captures will attest. I have not seen very many film noirs that were improved by attempts to glam them up with color. In fact, some previous efforts are almost comical in their missed assignments of the RGB palette.  It’s a Wonderful Life’s color version seems quite the exception and may become the way that I will tend to view it in the future, even if cinema purists will probably stick to the original B&W format.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]


Late 1940’s movies were issued with monaural soundtracks. Stereophonic recording was available at the time, but was still considered experimental and not quite ready for prime time. The advantages of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 are slight over the PCM 2.0 soundtrack since there are no surround effects. Dialogue is clear and the background score by Dmitri Tiomkin, no less, is well reproduced.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

Besides the usual trailers, there is a nice behind-the-scenes featurette, “The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life.”  It is interesting to watch the approach of director and cast to getting the story right and making the film so appealing.  Given the “deluxe” aspect of this release, I would have appreciated more than a slim cast booklet since many younger viewers will have little idea about who the principals were or their contribution to the film industry.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

It’s a Wonderful Life demonstrates that you don’t need adult situations and language, nudity and sex or extreme gore and violence to make a film enjoyable, particularly for younger audiences. The reason that this movie has had its long successful run is that it combines all of the elements that you expect in the cinema, good story, tight direction, strong cast, and timeless themes. I am pleased that Paramount chose to issue a well-crafted colorized version since this will encourage new viewers who were raised on Technicolor to enter rather than to eschew George Bailey’s little world. Whether you have seen it once, or watch it every year (as I do), you will be left with “good vibrations,” for want of better description, and isn’t that the experience which films are supposed to deliver?

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B005HMHPGI[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
It's a Wonderful Life -

Purchase It’s a Wonderful Life 2-disc Collector’s Set on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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