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It’s A Wonderful Life – Steelbook (4K UHD Blu-ray)

It’s A Wonderful Life is almost 75 years old and continually remains a seminal holiday classic. Primarily, its connection to Christmas keeps it on most schedules come December in the United States. And, like clockwork, every year studios know how to repackage and rerelease it and others like it in new and exciting ways. Hence, last year saw the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut of It’s A Wonderful Life from Paramount and this year brings us the steelbook version of those same discs in that set. And it actually tops last year’s release as it has the original poster art on the packaging and includes a poster. That’s pretty awesome in my book! It’s available on November 17th and you can pre-order it using the paid Amazon Associates link below.

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Film

George Bailey (James 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.

Oddly enough, my first experience or living recollection of my memory with It’s A Wonderful Life came with another film set during the holiday of Christmas; Gremlins. Joe Dante’s monster film is one of my earliest memories of film watching overall, but Frank Capra’s film was featured on the TV playing within the film. When I would first see It’s A Wonderful Life, I would connect on “Oh, that’s the movie from Gremlins!”. Little did I realize, Dante’s movie was flipping Capra’s world and ideals on its head.

The humorous spin aside, It’s A Wonderful Life can’t help but charm. Capra has a real knack of presenting good natured people through overwhelming challenges in life. Helping that through are such enjoyable and well versed screen presences like James Stewart and Donna Reed. There’s that old heartwarming 1940s idealized small American town with good spirited folks and one evil asshole that lives in it and everybody just seems to let swindle and ruin lives.

I don’t know really what more to add to 70 plus years of discussion for the film, other than its a pretty nice, comforting fantasy story. Sure, it carries some Christian-based religious influence, but seeing as that is a fantasy in itself, it fits. But, its more than a story of any story of any religion, its a story of the difference a human can make in the lives of others whether they realize it or not. And George Bailey is a good guy, and you can’t help but root for the guy and want to see this earn conclusion in the film.

Video

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  This new steelbook 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release of It’s A Wonderful Life is the exact same disc that was released last year around this time. And I have ZERO issue with that. This is one of the best transfers and restorations ever seen in the history of home video. There is even a bonus feature that documents the terrific effort to restore it. It has a very silver look to it, with incredible detail, definition and an all around jaw dropping image. Black and White films appear to be benefitting incredibly from 4K UHD when given attention, moreso than HD.

Depth:  The depth of field on this 74 year old film is quite incredible in the transfer. Its very spacious and smooth moving with great confidence among the characters and cameras. Spacing is quite good and the pushback feeling in interiors is great. No issues with jitter or blurring during any rapid motion scenes.

Black Levels:  Blacks are incredibly rich and natural, being an absolute highlight of this transfer. Its quite amazing the saturation and amount of showcased detail, texture and patterns coming through in different lighting schemes and environments. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones come with a select variances of gray/white to them and is consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are incredibly impressive, visible from near any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English 2.0 Mono Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Mon Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish

Dynamics: Again, this release features the same mono track that’s been featured since It’s A Wonderful Life first dropped on Blu-ray. Its a terrific little track and really features some good, loose balance and maintains the feel of a film from this era with a faint analog hiss as its backbone.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals come through quite clear and well set in the mix with a nice analog hiss underlying it like a nice vinyl record playing.

Extras

It’s A Wonderful Like 4K UHD – Steelbook is a 2-Disc set that comes with the standard Blu-ray disc for the colorized version, a redeemable digital code and a poster for the film.

Restoring A Beloved Classic (4K, 13:03) – Featuring Andrea Kalas (SVP, Archives at Paramount Pictures) and Laura Thornburg (Executive Director, Film Preservation at Paramount Pictures), they take us through the arduous process of restoring the film, in what is probably one of the best featurettes ever on disc that covers film restoration.

Secrets from the Vault: It’s a Wonderful Life (HD, 22:11) – Craig Barron and Ben Burtt discuss Capra’s career and focus on the intricacies, history and legacy of It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s A Wonderful Wrap Party (HD, 8:04) – Archival footage from the wrap party for the movie.

Summary

It’s A Wonderful Life continues to be a time honored tradition and just all around a great film. Its one of my first reaches in the holiday season, year in and year out. This is the same disc as released last year, but the beautiful steelbook artwork and poster are decent incentive to pick it up again and really the way to go if you don’t own it already. If its the holidays and you don’t own it on 4K yet, I’d say this is the year to pick it up. Then again, maybe next year will be, too.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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