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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: It's A Wonderful Life (re-issue)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Sep 4, 2003.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    It’s A Wonderful Life





    Studio: Republic/Artisan
    Year: 1946
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 133 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Standard (1.33:1)
    Audio: DD Mono
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish





    When originally released Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life was a box office bomb and received bashing from nearly every film critic in America. The movie opened and closed with no attention given to it. Both Capra and star James Stewart thought this could end their career. Thankfully for the film the copyright fell into the public’s hand. Since no one owned the rights that meant any station could show the film however many times they wanted. Since then, It’s a Wonderful Life has become the most loved film in American history.

    Everyone knows the story and if they don’t there isn’t a reason to give it away, so I’ll keep this short. George Bailey (Stewart) is what you would call the nicest man in town. He puts everyone else’s problems before his and he hasn’t a problem doing so. His wife Mary (Donna Reed) stands behind him as do his three children. George’s life has gone perfectly except for the fact that he was never able to explore the world like he wanted to. His life’s dream was denied when he stayed home from college so that he could run the family bank and loan.

    On Christmas Eve George hits the hardest part of his life. The bank he works for has just misplaced some money and this could send George to jail. Another problem is the mean owner of another bank named Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore). George starts to look at his life and begins to think that he’s nothing more than a failure. At a local bar George says a prayer and decides to kill himself. Just then the prayer is answered by an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) who is trying to earn his wings. Clarence shows George what life would have been like if he had never been born.

    It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of a simple man that a lot of people would like to be like. Although the film has become of “Christmas” picture this isn’t the films intent. The movie is about life and the greatness that comes to good people. The movie’s underline message is the reason the film gets shown at least twenty times a year.

    The performances by the entire cast are wonderful. James Stewart gives one of his greatest performances as the broken down George Bailey. Stewart brings the kindness of the role and perfectly mixes it in with the pain that the character is feeling. Barrymore is simply evil as the crooked Mr. Potter who wants to see George behind bars. Barrymore’s wonderful performance also puts him into one of the most hated characters in film history. Henry Travers also shines in the role of Clarence.

    It’s a Wonderful Life is probably the best loved American film of all time. Year after year families gather around the television to watch this film and each time the movie gets better and better. A lot of older films lose their punch after a while but this film still packs the punch that will leave viewers knocked out. The tale of a great man being down on his luck only to be saved by other’s kindness is something that a lot of films have tried to duplicate but has never reached the level of It’s a Wonderful Life. No matter how many times you see this movie it will never get old. The message of the film is one that will live throughout eternity and that message is why the film will never die.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown full (1.33:1) frame, which is the way the movie was shot. The picture has been THX certified and has never looked better. While this isn’t the greatest B&W transfer I’ve seen those who only viewed this on television are certainly in for a mighty shock. The blacks are dark and very solid adding all sorts of detail to the shadows and faces in the film. The whites, unlike previous releases, don’t “glow” and is full of detail.

    AUDIO---The sound is Dolby Digital Mono and has also been THX certified. The sound is brilliantly clear with the exception of a few spots where the sound is a bit muffled. I only noticed this during chapter five and it runs for a little over a minute. The rest of the time the Mono track is free of any hiss or pops, which wasn’t the case with previous late night showings and video versions.

    EXTRAS---The one bad thing about the disc is that all the extras are on side B. You get the original theatrical trailer, which is also in very good shape. You also get two different documentaries, although both mainly deal with the same things. The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life is a short documentary made a few years back with interviews by James Stewart and others. The second documentary is A Personal Remembrance, which is a tribute to Frank Capra by his son.

    OVERALL---One of the best and most loved films in history is given a very special treatment, although I’m sure many fans will be upset that Artisan didn’t take this opportunity to release a Special Edition. Depending on how you feel about extras I personally see nothing wrong with this release. The video quality is stunning and the Mono track is very nice. While the extras are somewhat entertaining, I’m sure most would have liked a commentary or a featurette. This is simply a re-issue (with better artwork) so if you have the previous version there’s no point in buying this one. If you don’t own this film in your collection then the low retail price of $19.95 makes this a must have.


    Release Date: September 23, 2003
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    How would the transfer rate against the original DVD release? Oh, and thanks for the nice review!
     
  3. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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  4. AndrewG

    AndrewG Extra

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    This is the original DVD transfer I am pretty sure. This is just a re-release of the film by Artisan now that they have the rights to it from Republic.

    Andy
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    ...and since when does Artisan ever rarely improve
    anything from their original release? [​IMG]

    You know by now how this studio works -- keep
    reissuing the same lame transfers in new packaging.
     
  6. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    It's the exact same disc from the previous release. Everything is the same except for the cover, which is different. The insert is the exact same as well.
     
  7. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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  8. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    oh yeah the Quiet Man transfer, the one Artisan didn't make but was forced to use because it's what they were given... since they only have distributing rights, but not access to the actual negative--as with all of the Republic titles.
     
  9. ScottR

    ScottR Screenwriter

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    This film needs to be remastered....although most of it looks pretty good on this release, there are a few missing frames and the framing itself is a bit off.
     
  10. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    It's really, really important for prospective buyers to remember that this is not an Artisan master -- Republic Home Video created it and issued it under their own banner prior to the Artisan takeover. Aside from THX mastering (by which many around here are none too impressed as a general rule, for understandable reasons), it was also, according to its original Republic packaging, derived from the original negative.

    It looks very good, in my estimation, miles better than any Republic film mastered by Artisan (which, again, this was not) that I've yet seen, with my only persistent complaint a bit of needless EE:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...hreadid=153293

    Aside from its overall DVD quality, I can also back up Michael's statements about versions available on earlier formats; while I've never seen Criterion's laser, this DVD is an absolute joy after the fuzzy Republic laserdisc release, of course to say nothing of low res broadcasts and VHS. [​IMG] Personally, I couldn't recommend it more highly, even if it does now say "Artisan" on the box. It's a Republic Home Video product, and looks smashing.

    David and Adam -- back when it came out as one of the first Artisan releases under their new Republic license, The Quiet Man was detailed on The Big Picture DVD (before they went pay-only) as a tremendous step down in quality from earlier, Republic Home Video-sourced releases to DVD. It was clear from their review and others (this was around 1998 or '99) that consumers could expect to find something far less than what they'd come to expect in the quality of Republic Pictures product with TQM now under Artisan's banner, leading me to believe Artisan created that, and most/all of their subsequent Republic masters, themselves (strictly a guess, and from Adam's comments it remains possible that Republic, no longer in a position to receive direct profit from the sales of the films, dumped what few they still had cued up for transfer into quick and careless masters ... but I doubt it; the early RHV releases were just too good, suddenly shifting to relative crap with Artisan, for me to blame RHV in any way -- well, aside from agreeing to the license -- without further evidence). Subsequent image captures and reviews of TQM have established it as one of the worst transfers of three-strip product out there (as painfully "PDish" as UAV's Royal Wedding, I presume, which I eventually tossed in the garbage in disgust), and (of course! [​IMG]) the DVD packaging (two versions thusfar, both Artisan) has never said it was transferred from negative materials, nor does either package claim THX certification.

    But the short of it is: don't hold Republic Home Video and Artisan to the same criticism. Artisan has earned that critique, but I don't believe RHV did -- and It's a Wonderful Life, unlike DVD titles such as The Quiet Man, is an RHV product (I don't see any indication on the packaging that Artisan has "re-sweetened" it, unlike their second releases, and the third overall to DVD, of High Noon -- note that the THX certification of RHV's DVD is now missing from Artisan's packaging -- and Rio Grande), and an RHV product specifically derived from the original film negative (I hope they mean a dupe of that negative) and transferred with THX certification. I haven't seen the Artisan reissue, but I just viewed the original Republic Home Video DVD release a few days ago, and it holds up beautifully to my eye (see the above link). It doesn't look like an LDI project! [​IMG] Or even (quite) an unrestored 2003 B&W transfer by a major studio from original, good condition elements (EE's a bit heavier, for one, though perhaps on par with what MGM is still doing). But it looks very nice nonetheless, and succeeds in suggesting a film-like experience in its grayscale and fine detail. Again, I myself very highly recommend it (assuming, one last time, that Artisan has done nothing "new" to it, but it seems from Michael's review that the THX certification of RHV's edition remains intact, suggesting it hasn't been changed -- see my comment about High Noon above).
     
  11. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I guess I should change the studio credit on this one. The side of the DVD does list Republic and not Artisan. The back of the case also shows Republic with a small note saying "Distributed by Artisan". This was thrown in with the Artisan screeners so I listed them as the studio.

    The only difference is the price reduction and the cover so if you own the previous release then there's no need in buying this one.
     
  12. William Miller

    William Miller Stunt Coordinator

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    This makes no sense.

    The photo in the review is the original release which is now out of print.

    The current version, which is readily available, has this cover:

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    William, the cover you posted is the one for the review. The press release has the release date set for 9/23/03 unless Artisan has bumped it up.
     
  14. William Miller

    William Miller Stunt Coordinator

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    On my computer, the photo in your HTF review is not the one that I posted.

    Anyway, I don't think it's being "reissued" at all. If they are saying it has a "street date" of September 23rd, I just think that Artisan is reminding dealers to stock up on this title as the Christmas season approaches.
     
  15. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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  16. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I don't post the pictures in the reviews so I'll let someone know it needs to be changed.
     
  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Actually, guys, if you are looking for someone
    to lynch -- that person is I.

    I just grabbed the cover art that was available
    from the normal etailer I grab cover art from.

    I'll update the cover art at once.

    Now....back to discussing the review....
     
  18. Matt Lucas

    Matt Lucas Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello all---

    Maybe this is a silly question, but I noticed that the film logo on the cover art says "Original Uncut Version."

    Is this the same version we've been seeing on television for the past several years, or was the film simply edited or TV, and this is the unedited version?

    Thanks for any information you can share. This one is literally one of my ten favorite films, and I've put off buying it in hopes that a Special Edition would be released. It doesn't sound like that will happen anytime soon, so...

    mattl
     
  19. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    It's the long version that airs on TV. The movie was edited to show in a shorter tiem slot, and the short version was colorized. THose versions haven't been seen since copyright was re-asserted.
     

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