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Frank Capra
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
Writing Credits:
Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.


Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Dolby TrueHD 1.0
English Audio Description
French Dolby 1.0
Spanish Dolby 1.0
Italian Dolby 1.0
German Dolby 1.0
Japanese Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 11/17/2020

• "Restoring a Beloved Classic” Featurette
• “Secrets from the Vault” Featurette
• “It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party” Featurette
• Colorized Version Blu-ray
• Steelbook
• Mini-Poster


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


It's a Wonderful Life (Steelbook) [4K UHD] (1946)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 4, 2020)

One of Hollywood’s all-time most beloved movies, 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life focuses on George Bailey (James Stewart). Lifelong resident of Bedford Falls, George dreams of the world outside of his small town, but matters always conspire to keep him there.

Married to childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed) and apparently consigned to a life of barely getting by, George’s world takes a turn for the worse when his Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) loses money meant to cover the family’s business. This sends George into a downward spiral and on the verge of suicide.

Before George can kill himself, his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes. Clarence attempts to show George what a wonderful life he’s led and to set our lead back toward happiness.

Like many people, I maintain a love/hate relationship with this holiday classic. On one hand, I dislike its oversentimentality and hokeyness and find it to offer an unrealistic portrait of a fantasy America that never really existed. Life seems blatantly obvious in its attempts to wring tears out of its audience.

On the other hand, I have to admit that the stupid thing works, damn it all to hell! While the movie shamelessly manipulates the audience, it's hard to feel too angry about it because of the raw jolt of unabashed emotion that it provides. Watching Life is like overdosing on some sort of sick sentimentality drug.

Whether that's or bad depends on your point of view, I suppose, and what you want to get out Christmas programs. We usually find two kinds of "adult" Christmas films or shows. There are the somber ones that deal with the historical details of Christ’s birth.

There’s also the soppy flicks, meaning those that end with a "life rules!" message. Not all of the latter are bad, of course - A Christmas Carol falls into that category - but their unrelenting weepiness can make them tough to watch.

Life clearly falls into that latter category and probably ranks as its prime example. Don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing that reaffirming the value of one's life and appreciating what one has are bad things.

It's just that there's something about this movie that can grate at times. I suppose it's one of those films for which you really have to be in the mood, so if you're not, you'll hate it.

But if you are in the right frame of mind, Life can be a total treat. Maybe that's why I'm so ambivalent about the film: my own moodiness! Whatever the case, despite its treacly tendencies, I must acknowledge that Life accomplishes its goals quite well and it's a nicely made piece of work.

Perhaps the one factor that most makes Life work comes from its fine acting, and James Stewart is at his best as George Bailey. The role demands a number of different tones and attitudes, and Stewart handles them all with ease.

Donna Reed also seems terrific as George's wife Mary. While the role doesn't appear as demanding as Stewart's, she ably functions as the emotional bedrock of the story and nicely complements Jimmy.

All of this leaves It’s a Wonderful Life as a mostly enjoyable film. Its hokey moments can irritate but the final product remains endearing and charming much of the time.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

It’s a Wonderful Life appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Expect a terrific presentation.

Overall sharpness seemed positive. A few slightly soft spots emerged, but those stemmed from the source and remained modest. The majority of the flick boasted tight, clear delineation.

Jagged edges and shimmering remained absent, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent, and digital noise reduction appeared conservative. I feared the transfer would go overboard in that regard, but we still got a nice layer of grain throughout the film.

Blacks looked dark and deep, and shadows offered nice clarity. I thought contrast worked fine, as the movie usually presented a nice silver sheen, and the disc’s HDR gave these tones extra depth. This became a really appealing image.

Though not exceptional, the film’s Dolby TrueHD monaural soundtrack was more than adequate for a 73-year-old movie. Speech seemed a little hollow but lacked edginess or other flaws, and the lines were always perfectly intelligible.

Though the music didn’t present much range, the score was clear and never became shrill or tinny. Effects fell into the same realm, as they may not have packed a great punch, but they sounded clean and reasonably accurate.

No signs of background noise or other source flaws marred the presentation. Given the age of the material, this was an acceptable auditory piece.

How did the 2020 4K UHD compare to the original from 2019? Both are identical.

The only difference found in this 2020 version comes from the packaging, as we get a steelbook here as well as a mini-poster. I guess the steelbook acts as a way to plop it back on the shelves as a “new release” for the 2020 holidays with little effort.

None of the earlier Blu-ray or DVD releases' extras repeat here, but we get some new materials. Restoring a Beloved Classic spans 13 minutes, three seconds and provides notes from Paramount Archives SVP Andrea Kalas, Paramount Film Preservation Executive Director Laura Thornburg, film scanner Eric Chilpa, and digital film colorist Michael Underwood.

Like the title implies, “Classic” examines attempts to bring Life up to snuff for 4K presentation. Some of this feels self-congratulatory, but I like the view of the techniques involved in the restoration.

Via Secrets from the Vault, we find a 22-minute, 11-second piece that features comments from VFX supervisor Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt. Both sit together to give us insights into the production, with an emphasis on technical areas.

Though “Vault” doesn’t provide a thorough overview of the movie’s history and production, it works pretty well. Burtt and Barron offer good insights and make this an informative chat.

Finally, It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party goes for eight minutes, four seconds. As expected, it offers footage from the celebration that greeted the shoot’s conclusion.

The film looks awful and lacks source audio, so we hear Wonderful Life score played over the material. As archival elements, these prove enticing.

Over on a separate Blu-ray Disc, we get a colorized version of It’s a Wonderful Life. I take this job seriously and usually watch all of a set’s extras for my reviews, but this is where I draw the line.

I couldn’t possibly be less interested in a colorized rendition of Life, so I regard Disc Two as useless. If you want a color edition of the flick, though, have fun!

As mentioned, this set drops all the extras from the prior Blu-ray. That means we lose a trailer and a circa 1990 “making of” show.

This set should include the black and white Life disc, as that’d give us a Blu-ray version of the film as intended as well as these minor extras. It seems ludicrous a 4K UHD release that will appeal to videophiles bothers with a colorized version, as it seems unlikely many serious film fans will want to watch it.

I also really wish Paramount would deliver a half-decent package of supplements for the film. I don’t expect them to lasso the moon, but would it be that tough to get a film historian to record an audio commentary?

Ultimately I maintain a lot of misgivings about It's A Wonderful Life as a film but I find it hard not to recommend it. Despite my love/hate relationship with the movie, I still usually get that urge to watch it at Christmas. The 4K UHD presents excellent picture along with age-appropriate audio and minor supplements. I wish Paramount would give this class the special edition treatment, but in terms of movie presentation, this one becomes a total winner.

Fans who already own the 2019 4K will find nothing new from this 2020 release other than a steelbook package and a mini-poster. If you want the movie but don’t own the prior 4K, pick the one you can find for the least money – unless you just can’t live without the steelbook.

To rate this film visit the original review of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

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