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Youngstown OhioIt's a Wonderful Life
Published: 19 September, 1995
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List price: $19.98
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As of: November 07th, 2006 07:07:43 AM

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Youngstown Ohio Why is this the BEST release of "It's A Wonderful Life" in DVD history?

Rather than review this almost universally beloved film, I'm just going to comment about the quality of the DVD itself.

I've owned nearly every version of this title in almost every format available on home video during the past 25 years. It's true that the CONTENT of this Viacom/Paramount DVD -- including its special features -- is identical to the Republic Pictures Home Video release more than 10 years ago.

However, this 60th Anniversary edition is spectacular for several different and extremely important reasons.

You don't have to be a technical expert to immediately notice the striking improvement of the picture AND sound in this 2006 edition. The print is crystal clear and in my view, has more vividness and sharpness than ALL other previous releases of this title on home video.

Proof? I put my "old" THX-version DVD issued by Republic Pictures / Artisan Home Video (the former DVD gold standard for this title) -- into my Sony multi-changer DVD player, cranked up my stereo speakers -- and watched and listened to every frame of this film AND its special features.

I stopped and started this "older" DVD in several spots -- and stopped and started the new 2006 Paramount edition repeatedly -- so I could compare quality almost "side-by-side."

Hands down -- this 2006 version is fabulous. The spots and dirt have been wiped clean, the sharpness and contrast are arguably better than what film audiences saw 60 years ago. There are no ragged spots, no jumped frames and no lint, fiber or hair fragments along the edges or jumping across the screen.

I seriously doubt this version was struck from the original negative. The original negative was produced by Liberty Films, long defunct, stored on unstable stock, fell into public domain, aired a million times on TV and released by many different video companies. The film was acquired by Republic Pictures, taken OUT of public domain -- cleaned up a bit, probably mostly by hand -- and then re-released on home-video exclusively under the Republic/Artisan name. Then Republic itself was acquired by Viacom/Paramount.

I believe the technicians at Paramount digitally cleaned EVERY frame of the last DVD release -- so that the film now looks like a million dollars. It's almost too pristine, if there is such a thing. No jump cuts, no sound breaks or popping, no fogged-out scenes, nothing ragged -- with the result being the cleanest and purest version of "It's A Wonderful Life" ever issued in home video history.

It gets better. English subtitles were available on older DVD versions of this title, but the 2006 version has a cleaner typeface, wiping out some of the confusing and unnecessary attributions of "who's saying what" that were disruptive to some hearing-impaired viewers. In this 2006 version, you'll get a mostly straight, line-by-line reading of what's being said -- as it's being said.

Meanwhile, the DVD's special features -- which include the same pair of documentaries produced in 1990 and 1991 -- are identical in that they were shot on video tape hence there isn't much improvement in picture quality.

However, subtitles that WERE NOT available for these special features -- are NOW available in this 2006 edition. The only "extra" to the previous "gold standard" that remains unchanged -- is the original 1946 trailer. Subtitles are not available and it has the same raggedness and dirt commonly seen with vintage trailers stored separately from the films they used to advertise.

Ordinarily I'm highly critical of re-issued DVDs which seem nothing more than an excuse to squeeze more dollars out of buyers for the same material with new packaging.

But the 2006 Paramount DVD version of "It's A Wonderful Life" is the best to date, and trust me, this comes from a person who's owned many formats of this title dating back to the early 1980s, always hoping for REAL improvements in technical quality. This one finally has it all.

Much was made when Republic Pictures Home Video got the THX LucasFilm sound system seal of approval for "It's A Wonderful Life" during the 1990s. But it was still two-channel mono with negligible equalization of sound effects. There was less popping but it still sounded like it had been given an obligatory run through a Dolby processor to minimize some hiss.

The sound in this 2006 DVD is superior. You'll get consistent two-channel mono and decent sound equalization to minimize "booming" and over-modulated portions in the film. In the old versions, you had to turn down the volume a notch during the musical portions -- and turn it back up when the dialogue came back. It's a nit-pick, but you really notice the difference if you're crazy enough to do a side-by-side comparison of "old vs. new" like I just did.

Someone MIGHT argue this film could be further improved in three ways if it were released again for home video.

Well, in my view, all three are non-starter arguments. The first would be to phony up the sound to make it "faux stereo" -- the second would be to digitally colorize the film (I still own the colorized VHS video for younger viewers who hate black and white) -- and the third would be to issue a high definition version. All three so-called "improvements" would betray the spirit of this original black and white classic that wouldn't come more "alive" on your hi-def TV screen anyway unless it had been shot in 21st century Technicolor, which it wasn't. This 2006 DVD is NOT in color.

Finally, another reason to buy this DVD. It's old news to some, but it's not widely known that "It's A Wonderful Life" is NO LONGER, repeat, NO LONGER -- in the public domain. It used to air a zillion times during the holidays on every local TV station on earth. It was a quick way to get tired of even a super film you think you know by heart.

But Viacom/Paramount now owns "It's A Wonderful Life" outright and NBC has exclusive licensing rights to air it just ONCE each year. This is a good thing for future generations to appreciate. NO local station can run this film unless it's an NBC affiliate and if they do, they can only run it ONCE.

So junk the old, buy this version and be happy. It may feel painful, but it's worth it. I'm giving away my old DVD version, which is still decent for most people who wouldn't know the difference unless you told 'em -- or if they knew I was cranky enough to spend the time to compare DVD versions for a film that's truly great. And no, I DON'T work for Amazon OR for Paramount Home Video.

Youngstown Ohio A cleaner digital transfer makes it worth it.

I already have the It's a Wonderful Life DVD, that was released in September of 1995. But I still found it worth purchasing this new release because it is so much more cleaned up digitally. There are a lot of scratches and specs on the '95 release, even though it was re-mastered in THX. This new October 2006 release has zero dust and scratches and that makes it a little more special.

All grayscale accept the DVD menu and the Special Features documentaries.

I love to see this movie around the holidays because the stress of the Christmas rush is downright depressing and this movie identifies with me and gives me encouragement during the holiday season.

Youngstown Ohio IT's NOT in COLOR

I bought this as a birthday present for my mom because she used to have the It's A wonderful Life in color on VHS.I recored over this VHS about 5 years ago, and i have felt terrible ever since. AMazon said that this edition was in color, so i decided that this was a perfect gift for my mom. I received the DVD today, and i am so dissapointed that it is not color? Why did they tell us it wasn't~

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