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(60th Anniversary Edition)

Iím of the opinion that it just isnít Christmas, unless youíve watched IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ($20) for the umpteenth time. Oh heck, let me just come out and say it- I love this syrupy sentimental holiday movie. Iíve seen IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE more times than I can possibly remember, since during the Christmas season of my youth, it was one shown on television, in what seemed like twenty minute intervals. Of course, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE does have its detractors; those who will swear this film is Capra-corn at its very worst, but as I stated just a couple of sentences ago, I love this movie! Sure, no matter how many times I have seen IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, I still get weepy at all the appropriate moments, feel inspire during others and have my faith in humanity renewed just before the films end credits roll. For its countless fans, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a film that is as magical, as the holiday season seems to an innocent child.

Jimmy Stewart was seldom better on the screen than he was portraying self-sacrificing everyman George Bailey, who inherited a broken down building & loan from his father, and continued to run the business out of its necessity to his hometown, despite his own unfulfilled personal dreams of seeing the world and building something even greater for himself. The basic premise of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE recounts the entire life of George Bailey, up until an unfortunate Christmas Eve leads him to despair and contemplate throwing away his greatest gift. Fortunately for our protagonist, help comes his way in the form of heavenly intervention, which gives him a glimpse what the world would be like if he had never been born. The superb cast of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE also features Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame, H.B. Warner, Frank Albertson, Todd Karns, Samuel S. Hinds, Mary Treen, Virginia Patton, Charles Williams, Sarah Edwards, William Edmunds, Lillian Randolph, Argentina Brunetti and Charles Lane.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE available on DVD in a marvelous looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. The image appears consistently sharp and provides very good definition throughout. Blacks are deep and inky, while the whites are crisp and completely stable. Additionally, the picture boasts terrific contrast and a very nicely varied grayscale. The film elements are if great shape for their age and display virtually no blemishes or other signs of wear. There is a modest grain structure that is noticeable at times during the presentation, which serves to remind one they are watching a film and not a video. Digital compression artifacts are well contained.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE comes with a pretty solid Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack, although it does have the expected fidelity limitations of a sixty-year-old movie. However, even with those limitations, the soundtrack still manages to sound pretty darn good. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves the track without noticeable sonic flaws. Dialogue is always completely understandable, although some of the voices occasionally have a slightly canned quality. Music can be a somewhat thin sounding, but I think it holds up well enough, even with a bit of amplification. A French language track has also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as The Making Of It's A Wonderful Life, a twenty two minute documentary hosted by Tom Bosley, plus the fourteen minute Frank Capra: A Personal Remembrance featuring the directorís son. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the extras.

For a whole lot of people like myself, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a significant piece of the holiday season. Kudos to Paramount for offering the film in its best looking home presentation- thus far. Highly recommended.



It's a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition) (1947)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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