Sunday, November 11, 2007
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2-Disc Collector's Set)
Written by Senora Bicho
The It’s A Wonderful Life 2-Disc Collector’s Set is being released in time for your holiday-viewing pleasure. It is considered by many to be the best holiday film ever made and is one of the best films, in my opinion, of all-time. It was originally released in January 1947 and was not an instant success. Reviews were mixed as it ranked 26th at the box office that year. It was a financial failure, even though it was nominated for five Academy Awards and Frank Capra won the Golden Globe for Best Director.
In the 1980s it was revived thanks to broadcast television, where it aired on many channels throughout the holidays, and the introduction of the VCR. The film also got some attention when it was colorized. The original thought was that this would make it appeal to more viewers. It was not well received, and Capra and Stewart both strongly opposed this version. I did also and always removed the color from my set. Thankfully, the black-and-white version soon returned to TV.
It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of honest, hardworking family man George Bailey, played by James Stewart in perhaps the best and most well known performance of his career. The film begins with prayers from various people in the small town of Bedford Falls seeking help for George. Pan up to the heavens and Clarence (Henry Travers), an angel trying to get his wings, is assigned to the task. To prepare him for the assignment, he is shown pivotal events from George’s life.
From an early age, George is determined to get out of the town and make an exciting life for himself. After high school he plans to travel the world, go to college, and then start a career building something big. George saves money while working at his father’s Building and Loan. As he is about to start off on his adventure, his dad has a stroke and dies, which leads him back to his father’s business. He also finally finds romance with Mary (Donna Reed) who has loved him since childhood. Although he couldn’t follow his big dreams, he ends up married with four kids and running the Building and Loan in little Bedford Falls. He has accepted his life and is happy.
Then it all starts to crumble. Henry Potter, played devilishly perfect by Lionel Barrymore, has long wanted to bring down the Building and Loan because it is the only thing in town he doesn’t own. When George’s dimwitted but lovable Uncle loses an $8,000 deposit, it finds its way into Potter’s hands. He of course doesn’t return the money. Instead he calls the police claiming that George has embezzled it.
George goes on the run, facing both financial ruin and jail time. He regrets all of his decisions and considers ending his life so his family will benefit from his life-insurance policy. When he is at the depths of despair, Clarence appears and shows him that ending his life is not the solution; however, George then comes to the conclusion that he should have never been born. Clarence grants his wish and George goes on an adventure that proves how wrong he is and leads to the best ending in cinema history. It makes me cry like a baby every time I watch it.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a great film for many reasons. There are strong performances by all of the actors; they play real people that you come to love or hate. Also, the messages and themes are about what truly makes a life rich, and it is not money. You need to appreciate what you have and not lose sight of what is important. Also, one person can make a difference no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. As we head into the holiday season, this film is a great reminder about spending time with those people you love rather than the commercial aspects that have become so much more prevalent today.
I love this film and strongly feel that it should be a part of everyone’s collection; however, I can’t say that this DVD set is wonderful. It includes both a restored black-and-white version and a colorized version. The black and white looks amazing and sounds great. It is crystal clear and so much better to watch compared to the grainy television version I have watched repeatedly over the years, but I can’t say how much better it is compared to last year’s 60th Anniversary Edition release that also included a restored picture.
The colorized version is the only new item included in this set and is extremely distracting. I have always been against the colorization of classic films and this furthers my belief. In the film, people’s skin looks yellow and the other colors do not look natural. However, it is a restored version and has not been available previously, so for those that prefer to watch it in color (and you should be ashamed of yourselves if you do), this is your chance to own it. There are no other new special features. There is a making-of featurette and a Frank Capra remembrance that have been included on every released version since the 1990s. If you already own a recently restored version of It’s A Wonderful Life, you are all set. Now you just need to go buy some eggnog, build a fire, sit back, and enjoy.