Paramount has prepared a new SteelBook release of It’s a Wonderful Life on 4K just as we begin to head into the holiday season. In a year that has been, well, to put it lightly, quite difficult for many, this is a film that has a fantastic message that everyone could use reminding of when life seems to be kicking you while you’re down. It’s a genuine classic that even 74-years later truly stands the test of time like the best of them, and while the film has been released in 4K before, this release targets the SteelBook collectors out there – or those who just love beautiful images to house their discs, because make no mistake about it, this is a simple, yet gorgeous case!
On the front we have a beautiful shot of George Bailey (James Stewart) and Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) that harkens back to the original poster art. It’s just so clean, and while the film is so much better in black and white, the colour here just works so well and gives you a warm feeling just looking at it. A big thing with SteelBooks is for them to create unique covers that aren’t found elsewhere, yet I honestly can’t think of a better, more endearing image that represents the theme of this movie better than this throwback picture with the soft blue night’s sky and giant moon behind them.
On the back we have the famous quote, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” It’s beautifully presented in white lettering on an image of a pair of bells, with the entire back coloured in the same red of the film’s title found on the front of the case. They even made the smart decision to keep the stars/snow from the front continuing to the back, which gives the case a very united look and feel. The red and light blue work harmoniously together to give the case a fantastic Christmas feel as well.
On the inside we have a colourized image of the end of the film, which makes sense to keep things fluid with the coloured images on the front of the disc. It’s a beautiful image that looks really sharp behind the plastic casing that holds the discs in place. As a whole this case is just top tier work, and SteelBook fans should be very pleased.
There’s also a mini-poster of the film’s original theatrical poster found folded up inside for fans who may want to display it, or to simply get a better look at the feel and style of this poster from the 1940s.
For those who have yet to purchase It’s a Wonderful Life on 4K, this SteelBook release is a no-brainer, as it’s just a perfect package for such a wonderfully memorable film. The 4K transfer work that Paramount has done here is once again some of the best on the market. Going right back to the original nitrate negative, they’ve cleaned it up in ways that never cease to amaze me. The amount of work done on these older films in order to basically save them before it’s too late is often stunning, and Paramount delivers on this front time and time again.
If you’ve already purchased the film in its initial 4K release, then you simply have to ask yourself: do I love the SteelBook art enough to warrant a double-dip? Because other than the case and the folded up, original mini-poster found within, everything else on the 4K and Blu-ray disc (which allows you to watch the film in colour if you so choose) remains the same. Maybe the win win scenario sees you purchasing the new SteelBook for yourself and paying your prior 4K copy forward to a friend or family member, as it is the season for giving, and what a wonderful gift this movie is.
For those looking for further thoughts on the film itself, please check out my previous review of the Blu-ray release from 2011…oh, how time flies!
4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:
As mentioned above, the film looks the best it ever has for home viewing. The 2160p/HEVC H.265 transfer is masterful. It looks gorgeous, and its filmic look is preserved while all the scratches, dust and other things that eat away at a film as the decades pass have been erased. The film also receives a lossless audio, Dolby TrueHD mono track that Paramount again nails. I praise Paramount quite a bit with its 4K transfers of older films, but that’s because they’ve proven time and time again that they deliver some of the best upgrades/restorations on the market.
Special Features: (Note: The special features are identical to those on the film’s previous 4K disc release)
Restoring a Beloved Classic – This feature is 13-minutes in length, and what it’s about is fairly self-explanatory. It goes deeper into the processes of how they restored the film from its original nitrate print, why it was so urgent to do so now and the tools involved. It’s definitely worth the watch to watch the magic happen.
Secrets from the Vault: It’s a Wonderful Life – This feature runs at 23-minutes in length and delves into the making-of process for parts of the movie, its initial failure at the box-office and how it went on to become a classic despite the bumps out of the gate. For those looking to find a small bit of history on the film, you need look no further.
It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party – This featurette is 8-minutes long and shows some footage from the film’s wrap party.
Paramount Pictures presents It‘s a Wonderful Life. Directed by: Frank Capra. Written by: Frank Capra, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hacket. Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, Henry Travers. Running time: 130 minutes. Rating: G. Released on 4K/Blu-ray SteelBook: Nov. 17, 2020.
Tags: Beulah Bondi, Donna Reed, Frank Capra, Gloria Grahame, Henry Travers, It's a Wonderful Life, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, SteelBook