It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – 4K Review

It’s hard to believe that the holiday season of 2020 is right around the corner. Soon, television screens will be alight with familiar and nostalgic images that dwell on the premise of good cheer, and peace to all, and a solid cup of eggnog.

There are a few musts for me over the holiday seasons, films I like to fit in Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Gremlins, and more traditional holiday fare like Muppet Family Christmas, The Peanuts Christmas Special and White Christmas (man I love that one). And should I stumble across it, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Frank Capra’s delightful, and enduring film, which became a holiday classic not thanks to its box office (where it fared poorly) but on television, where it was aired almost constantly.

The Jimmy Stewart film has been released on a number of formats through the years, but its finally Paramount Pictures’ turn to deliver a truly stunning and crisp image with their new 4k transfer. And I can say, unequivocally, is that the film has never looked better, the details and the greyscale of this beautiful black and white film are just marvellous.

The story is known, and there’s no point rehashing it yet again, instead it’s better to just throw it on and celebrate with it. I delight in rewatching it with people who know the film, and I look forward to introducing it to those who don’t.

And what a version to show to people – it didn’t even look this good in the theatre when it was originally screened.

The new 4k comes with a couple of extras, the blu-ray includes (for some unfathomable reason) a colourised version (pretty much guaranteeing that disc will never find its way into my player) and there are some cool additions to the 4k disc – a behind the scenes featurette that takes us through the restoration process and examples of some of the fantastic work that has been wrought on the film. A collection of secrets from the vault, that talk about the film’s cinematography and sound, with sound designer and film historian Ben Burtt offering insight, and a truly rare find, footage from the film’s picnic wrap party which gives us a glimpse into the Hollywood of yesteryear.

It’s A Wonderful Life has endured because of its hope and joy, as the characters are confronted with how the world would be without them in it. It’s an oft-used trope now, but it was never done better, and more believably than by Jimmy Stewart, who shares the screen with the luminous Donna Reed.

Watching the 4k version is like discoveing the film anew, and consequently is a perfect holiday gift from Paramount Pictures… now about that Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Cut 4k edition…

It’s A Wonderful Life, the 4k restoration is available today from Paramount Canada. Treat yourself!

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