It’s a Wonderful Life appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Wow – what a terrific transfer!
Virtually no flaws popped up here. Sharpness looked immaculate. The only minor softness I saw related to some light “glamour photography” for a few shots that featured Donna Reed. Those instances clearly were intentional, as the rest of the flick was crisp and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement.
Despite the film’s age, Life offered a virtually spotless presentation. Some stock photography from WWII showed marks, but that was due to the source and absolutely unavoidable. The elements shot for Life itself came with nary a speck, as it always seemed clean and smooth. Blacks were wonderfully deep and full, while low-light shots demonstrated fine delineation and clarity. I found myself tremendously impressed by this image, as it made Life look better than ever.
While not as amazing as the picture, the monaural soundtrack of It’s a Wonderful Life was more than adequate for a 60-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; 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 a solid auditory piece.
How did the picture and sound of this “60th Anniversary Edition” of It’s a Wonderful Life compare to the prior release? Both offered noticeable improvements. The visuals were a real revelation, as this version was considerably sharper and cleaner. The audio also presented a tighter experience and it eliminated some defects from the source. This DVD was a considerable step up from its predecessor in terms of movie presentation.
It’s a Wonderful Life also provides a few decent supplemental features. Most significant are the two documentary programs: The Making of It's A Wonderful Life and Frank Capra: A Personal Remembrance. Although the titles of these programs seem to indicate that they will focus on different issues, they really seem quite similar. While both shows mainly document aspects of the creation of Life, they take slightly different viewpoints and they largely manage to avoid repetition of the same facts.
Hosted by Tom "Mr. C." Bosley, “Making” runs for about 22 minutes and 43 seconds, while “Remembrance” features narration from Frank Capra, Jr., and lasts for 14 minutes, five seconds. In general, “Making” mostly details the actual creation of the movie itself, while “Remembrance” deals more with the film's impact and staying power. I'm not sure about the genesis of the former program, but the latter clearly was originally created for use prior to a TV screening of the film; at the end of it, lil' Frank introduces a showing of the film.
Whatever the case, I found both programs to be quite enjoyable and informative. Neither offers a definitive picture - separately or combined - but they provide a nice amount of information and helped add to my interest in the film. Both seem similarly constructed: they use their narrators to guide us through an assemblage of movie scenes, still photos, and interviews with some of the main participants. Not surprisingly, big Frank dominates “Remembrance”, but we hear from James Stewart and others during it. Those two and more also appear in “Making” but the project seems a little more balanced than the Frank-heavy “Remembrance”. All in all, I really like these documentaries.
The Life DVD also includes a pretty good trailer and a preview for Last Holiday.
This “60th Anniversary Edition” of Life includes no new extras, but it drops one from prior releases. We lose a four-page booklet that shows a few pictures plus some very brief production notes. Those mainly duplicate information found in the documentaries but they also offer a few more specifics, such as the amount of money the film lost during its initial release.
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. Since that's not as easy as it used to be when the film aired almost nonstop from Thanksgiving to Christmas, it's a nice DVD to own. This “60th Anniversary Edition” doesn’t include any new supplements, but it offers significantly improved picture and audio. That makes it the Life to own, and it’s definitely worth the “double dip” for fans who already have the earlier release.
To rate this film visit the original review of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE