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DVD Review

DVD cover

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
The Collector's Edition


Starring: James Stewart and Donna Reed
Universal Pictures UK
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: U
Available 10 November 2008

George Bailey has lived in the sleepy town of Bedford Falls all his life. For years he's been saving up to leave and travel the world. But, every time he plans to go, some crisis prevents him. His latest problem is by far his worse and could end up losing him his job, his family and his freedom - as it looks like he might have to go to jail after he loses money belonging to the bank. Driven to despair, on Christmas Eve, suicide seems the only way out. This attracts the attention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, who is dispatched to earth to show George that the world would be a much worse place without him in it...

It's A Wonderful Life is the ultimate 'feel-good' film. Starring the unforgettable James Stewart as George Bailey, the man who receives the greatest Christmas gift of all. A superb ensemble cast includes Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, this high-spirited Christmas tale is directed by the immortal Frank Capra and ranks as an all-time favourite of fans and critics alike.

It's A Wonderful Life began as a short Christmas tale called The Greatest Gift. The premise was simple: A regretful man sees what would have become of his family and friends if he had never lived. Yet various writers struggled to balance the story's pathos and humour. Only Capra's painstaking polishing made the script filmable, with enriched characters and plot adding hugely to its depth and drama.

If you bought this DVD back in 1999 then you don't need to splash out again, as this is just a reissue of that "Collector's Edition". In fact it's missing one aspect - the DVD booklet that was issued with the 1999 version. The DVD menus, the chapter points on the movie and the extras are all identical. The only major difference is that instead of being presented in a perspex case, this reissue is released in a standard plastic DVD box with a cardboard slipcase.

Extras include Interview (13 min, 43 sec) which is actually more of a featurette on the history of the movie. This is hosted by Capra's son, Frank Capra Jr. and looks at many interesting aspects of the movie - including how the film really only became popular when its copyright expired meaning that it entered into the public domain and TV stations could broadcast it without having to pay royalties.

There's also a Documentary (22 min, 43 sec) which is hosted by Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham in Happy Days). This has plenty of interesting facts that most fans won't be aware of - like the fact that the entire town of Bedford Falls was a large outdoors set and that the snow was manufactured - the filming actually took place during a heat wave. Then there's a look at some scenes that were left in even though the action didn't run as it should have.

This is one DVD that everyone should have in their collection - despite the fact that it's on TV almost every year. It's been one of my favourite films since I saw it over 30 years ago as a small boy. If you don't already own this, then now is the perfect chance to introduce it to your collection.


Darren Rea

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