Classic films review: Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life fully restored release

What better time than Christmas to experience the life-affirming message of director Frank Capra’s enduringly popular classic from 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life. This brilliant Christmas classic has now been fully restored from the original negative in 4K delivering amazing clarity with sharper and brighter images for a sensational home viewing experience. It is available on 4K Ultra HD, DVD and Blu-Ray™ including three amazing behind-the-scenes documentaries that shed light on how a cinematic masterpiece is made.  

The story 

It’s a Wonderful Life shows the power of the individual and fills us with hope each Christmas in ways few movies can.  The main character George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all – and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence – who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years.

The trailer 

The verdict 

Paramount spent over a year painstakingly restoring this treasured film, using the original nitrate negative along with two fine grain masters made in the 1940s.  Each element was carefully scanned using the very latest technology to both preserve the delicate negative and create the best possible digital image.  Fortunately, 13 of the 14 reels of the original negative survived, but portions had begun to deteriorate so the best image was selected from one of the three original sources on a shot-by-shot basis.  The result is a more vibrant and detail-rich picture that brings this classic to life like never before.

The 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack includes the black-and-white film in 4K high definition, as well as a colourised version on Blu-ray™, along with three special features new to 4K Ultra HD disc: “Restoring a Beloved Classic,” “Secrets from the Vault,” and “It’s A Wonderful Wrap Party.” A 2-Disc Blu-ray™ set will also be available that includes the newly remastered film in black-and-white, along with a colourised version and the three special features listed above.

Exclusive Special Features include:

  • Restoring a Beloved Classic
  • Secrets from the Vault: It’s a Wonderful Life
  • It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party                                        
Restoring a beloved classic is a fascinating documentary on the 4k restoration of the 35 mm film. They restored the original negatives which were deteriorating – 13 of the 14 original reels survived. All negatives that survived were scanned. The digital restoration tools available now are so advanced that nothing was lost. The restored version is much better than what the first audience originally saw. 
Now lots of little details can be seen much more than before. Great craftsmanship has been put into this. Lovely interviews with the restorers. 
Secrets of the movie 
Interesting unknown facts about this movie on how the story originated. Frank Capra formed his own production company, Liberty, to make this movie and affirm his creative freedom. 
They show how they built the scenery of the little time, representing the Americana and the challenges on how it was created in the hot months during a heatwave but still re-creating a snowy landscape. Illusion technology was used including the first wind machine. 
The film wrap party 
The homemade footage of the wrap party organised by Frank Capra for cast and crew at the end of filming is my favourite extra content. It’s a picnic with games outdoor like the sack and three-legged races, while guests were eating watermelon and ice cream. It made me feel nostalgic about the simplicity of the post-war years. Priceless content!

London Mums’ rating: 10/10 

Related features:

The Best Black and White Films Now in Colour

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