‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ at 75

Home Video Picks & Passes 12.05.21

The Christmas classic is a beloved seasonal movie.
The Christmas classic is a beloved seasonal movie. (photo: RKO / Public domain)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) — PICK

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life may be a timeless classic (and a 1995 Vatican film list honoree), but if you haven’t seen it in a recently released edition, you really haven’t seen it as it ought to be seen — and the new 75th-anniversary edition will show you why. 

A meticulous 2019 restoration of the film, which was digitally remastered in 4K from the original nitrate negative and two fine-grain master prints, blows away my 2016 70th-anniversary Blu-ray for clarity and contrast (and can’t be fully appreciated via streaming). 

The new collectible limited edition repackages this restoration and its bonus features with a set of 10 recipe cards from It’s a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook with recipes “inspired by” the film. 

Extras include an illuminating 13-minute featurette on the restoration and a 22-minute making-of with film historian Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt discussing the film’s back story, from the founding of Liberty Films to the special effects and cinematography. There’s also eight minutes of silent home-movie images shot at the wrap-party picnic (Capra hits a double at a softball game) and, of course, the obligatory horror that is the colorized version (which may be about as well done as possible, but still destroys the look of the film). 

I don’t understand why Paramount can’t muster more for the 75th anniversary of one of its greatest gems. Not even an audio commentary? It’s a Wonderful Life deserves so much more.


CAVEAT SPECTATOR: Some tense family scenes; contemplation of suicide; brief inebriation. Older kids and up.