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It's a Wonderful Life (2-disc)
DVD disk
12.05.2007 By: Mathew Plale
It's a Wonderful Life (2-disc) order
Director:
Frank Capra

Actors:
James Stewart
Donna Reed
Henry Travers

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Even though it only covers a bit more than a third of the film, here's what everyone says is the plot: down-on-his-luck George Bailey (Stewart) contemplates suicide, only to be shown his purpose on Earth by the cutest darn angel you'll ever see (Travers).
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
We all have our Christmas traditions: Ma has her house-famous ham, the old man his festive sock-moose Wally. My brother ogles, for 24 hours, over electric sex and the Bumpus hounds. Me? I have It’s a Wonderful Life.

But this isn’t a Christmas film—not in the Miracle on 34th Street sense. Santa Claus is nowhere to be found, while ‘Buffalo Gal’ stands in for ‘Jingle Bells’ on the soundtrack. Perhaps it’s because no other motion picture has made us feel so pure, so aware of the good humanity can offer—unadulterated Capra.

The easy-to-love protagonist of the tale is George Bailey (James Stewart), the lanky lad with skyscraper-sized dreams of travel and college. But through the intervention and misfortune of others, ol’ George remains embedded in his small hometown of Bedford Falls, his dreams left to a fat collection of brochures.

George takes over Bailey Building & Loan Association, the one company not owned by Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), the “warped, frustrated old man” of Bedford Falls. The townspeople (many of whom wouldn’t recognize a frown if not for Potter) entrust their savings in George, who later lassos a moon for and weds the enchanting Mary (Donna Reed, in her first starring role).

But that’s not why networks air the film every winter. It’s a Wonderful Life is best remembered for its final 40 minutes, where George, after his ne’er-do-well Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) misplaces $8,000, faces jail times. And so he trudges through the snow to the town bridge, saved only by wingless angel Clarence (Henry Travers), who shows George what the town would’ve been like had he not been born.

This is the grim, unsettling portion of Capra’s film: people have died, others are homeless, Uncle Billy holds residence in the loony bin, and—{GASP!}—Mary’s a librarian! This is Pottersville, a hellish locale of neon lights, tempting dancers, and straight gin. It’s Las Vegas in a scarf.

It’s a Wonderful Life, hokey title and all, is based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s story, ‘The Greatest Gift,’ a work that garnered about as much acclaim as its silver-screen counterpart upon release. Frank Capra turned the story (made popular on a Christmas card) into a film blanketed with—what else?—fields of Capra-corn. And we wouldn’t take it any other way.
THE EXTRAS
All three features were featured on last year’s 60th Anniversary Edition and the 2001 release.

The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life (22:43): Here is a nice piece on the making of the film. From turning ‘The Greatest Gift’ into the shooting script, casting, censorship, Mr. Potter’s (lack of) punishment, and innovative artificial snow, this featurette covers plenty of ground for those who haven’t read much on the production.

A Personal Remembrance (14:05): In this vintage featurette from 1991, Frank Capra, Jr. reflects on his father’s classic picture, combined with interview footage with Capra and James Stewart.

Original Theatrical Trailer.

Disc Two contains a bastardized color version of It’s a Wonderful Life. For once, I am not pro-choice.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
A classic, but you don't need a lowly DVD critic to tell you that. What you do need me to tell you is that the colorization of this film is an abomination (even if it did have Capra's backing) and so was the inclusion of it on this disc. And with rehashed extras from previous releases, no double-dip is necessary. Those who don't own It's a Wonderful Life may want to pick up a cheaper edition.
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