Each year, the holidays become more of a burden for everyone. Running around for gifts that are out of stock, making the trip(s) to see family, and watching the checkbook all add up to a time of the year that many people loathe. George Bailey has a more pressing set of holiday problems, one that may cause him to commit suicide, unless someone (or something) can stop him in "It's a Wonderful Life."
Inheriting his fathers Bank and Loan business, George Bailey (James Stewart) takes on an incredible burden. Though he continues to be himself, helping others when they need it and caring for his children, the stress of it all comes to light after losing a large portion of money on Christmas Eve. Facing the fact that he may lose the business, George chooses to take his own life. That is until he meets his guardian angel in Clarence (Henry Travers) who is determined to show just how valuable he is, with or without money.
Nearly 60 years old, "It's a Wonderful Life" still houses a message just as powerful as it was back during the initial release. It's a simple story but a deep character study about one man who's life has changed countless others. Yes, this can be considered a Christmas movie, but it's so much more than that. Trying to convince yourself of anything less is completely missing the point.
Everything is made even more believable by the performance of Stewart. Considering just how old this movie is, his acting is just amazing, adding a true sense of believability to the performance. Comedy it intermittently spread throughout the movie and he handles both this and drama flawlessly.
This is a movie you should see if you haven't. It solidly earns its classic status thanks to a variety of factors, all of which are handled in flawless fashion. You can get so many different messages from this film it's incredible. This is truly a movie for everybody that simply will not age. (***** out of *****)
This was a fairly early DVD release, but likely due to the stamp of approval from THX, this is one of the most impressive looking movies on the format. The sheer clarity of this picture is nothing short of remarkable. The print could still use a bit of restoration work (some frames are obviously missing in a few spots), but the transfer is just impeccable. There is no noise to speak of and the grain is kept to an absolute minimum. Though you wouldn't think of it this way, you should probably buy this disc if you're looking at a new TV to show it off. (*****)
The sound is about what is expected, maybe a bit more. There are a few moments where it just drops out, obscuring lines of dialogue, but these moments are generally quick to pass. There is a slight hiss at times, but for the most part, it's hardly something that will affect your enjoyment. Given the age, this is a serviceable 2.0 mono track that likely could have been much worse. (***)
Besides the usual theatrical trailer, there are two short features on the making of the film. The first is a "Making Of" hosted by Tom Bosley and it aired on network TV back in 1990. It runs about 22-min, covering pretty much all aspects of the film, including the origins and the three scripts Frank Capra was given. It's a bit on the cheesy side, but you'll still learn about how the film came together.
Frank Capra Jr. hosts the second, though most of the information here is regurgitated if you watched the first "Making Of." There are some archival interviews with the original Capra and James Stewart here that make this worth watching. All of these extras are contained on the opposite side of this disc, obviously to avoid any compression issues on the film itself. (***)
This is one of those films that is required in any film collection. It's not just a holiday classic (there is actually very little "holiday" in it), but a true American one. Never mind the fact that it was a box office flop. Some people obviously missed this one initially and since we still talk about it, this one has obviously proved its worth.