HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Deathstalker II
Cloak and Dagger
Honeyland
Love Ban, The
Western Stars
League of Gentlemen, The
Higher Power
Shinsengumi
IT Chapter Two
Rich Kids
Arena
Glory Guys, The
Serial Killer's Guide to Life, A
Lovers and Other Strangers
Shiny Shrimps, The
Good Woman is Hard to Find, A
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Doctor at Sea
Spear
Death Cheaters
Wild Rose
Streetwalkin'
Mystify: Michael Hutchence
Devil's Playground, The
Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
Hustlers
Mega Time Squad
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Souvenir, The
Birds of Passage
Ma
Woman at War
Happy as Lazzaro
Mickey's Christmas Carol
Marriage Story
Santa Claus is a Bastard
Star, The
Tom & Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale
Shadow
Christmas Carol, A
   
 
Newest Articles
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
70s Psycho-Thrillers! And Soon the Darkness and Fright on Blu-ray
Split: Stephen King and George A. Romero's The Dark Half on Blu-ray
Disney Post-Walt: Three Gamechangers
But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci: Tony Hancock's The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man on Blu-ray
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood: Interview with Director Rene Perez
   
 
  It's a Wonderful Life Hell On Earth And Goodwill To All MenBuy this film here.
Year: 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame, H.B. Warner, Todd Karns, Samuel S. Hinds, Mary Treen, Frank Albertson, Virginia Patton, Charles Williams, Sarah Edwards
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rating:  10 (from 2 votes)
Review: There's a lot of praying tonight in the small New York state town of Bedford Falls, and one name keeps getting mentioned: George Bailey (James Stewart). Up in heaven, the celestial powers that be take note and ponder their next move - could it be time for an intervention? How about they send one of their angels down to the town to see if he can assist, how about Clarence (Henry Travers), who still doesn't have his wings after around two hundred years of trying? But before his mission, he has homework to do, and is instructed to take a look into the recent past, for without understanding what has brought George to the brink of abject despair, Clarence cannot help. George, you see, always wanted to leave Bedford Falls and see the world, but the best laid plans...

Once the Second World War was over there was a subgenre of drama and comedy that emerged reflecting the interest in what happened on the other side, as people were seeking reassurance those departed souls were going to be looked after by a higher power. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in Britain offered up the definitive, immediately postwar statement on these concerns with A Matter of Life and Death, but Frank Capra's masterpiece It's a Wonderful Life wanted to take in an entire life from childhood to the potential demise and make sure that individual didn't feel his whole existence had been in vain, something that all too many of those left after the global conflict found dear to their hearts, they wished the loved ones they had lost had died for a better world, after all.

However, as it turned out, audiences didn't wish to hear that from Capra, not when The Best Years of Our Lives was released the week before this and quickly became one of 1946's major blockbusters, detailing hope for the future among the returning troops and their families; George Bailiey never even fought in battle, he stayed at home thanks to deafness in one ear. But his brother Harry (Todd Karns) was a war hero, saving an entire ship, and he wouldn't have been around if George hadn't saved him from the frozen lake accident that cost him half his hearing, and there lay the crux of Capra's film, which stated that no matter how insignificant you think you are, we are all in this together and each play a part. Which is all very well if you are a decent chap like George (in one of the great Hollywood casts, Stewart was quite brilliant), but not so beneficial if you are, say, a certain millionaire called Potter (Lionel Barrymore).

Potter was the film's villain, and he is frightening for how persuasive he can be. It is he who wants to close down the Savings and Loan company set up by George's late father, and he is the reason our hero cannot leave, since if he were to go Potter would be able to take over the whole county and run it into the ground for the sake of increasing his already substantial fortune. At every turn when Bailey tries to leave, to get somewhere in the world, there is his nemesis Potter, dragging him back, which might have been another reason It's a Wonderful Life didn't catch on with the public at first: it's one of the most miserable films ever made. It's not simply sad, it's desperate, it's tragic, as we watch one kind man slowly driven to suicide - at Christmas, too! Nowadays it is well known Capra had a happy ending for George, but that tends to downplay just how effective this is at punishing its protagonist.

And simply because he dares to dream. George wants to make the world a better place, nothing wrong with that, yet the entire story up until the last five minutes demonstrates what toll that can take, idealism not being enough. To be a success in this arena you must have the ruthlessness of a Potter, that willingness to treat people like dirt and tread on them accordingly for your own self-satisfaction. Potter isn't just a shrewd businessman, he actively relishes ruining lives, it's what gives him his power, and there's such a dark heart to his machinations and a society that allows him to get away with it - and possibly continue doing so after the tale of the movie ends - that it's only the overwhelming sweetness and generosity of that finale that offers a beacon of hope to Bedford Falls and its residents. We have seen how bad things will get if Potter gets his way.

The characters around George define him, just as he discovers he has defined them, none more so than his wife Mary (Donna Reed in her finest role) who has loved him since they were children and finally catches him in a curious scene which seems like it's going to be played for comedy, except George won't play ball until he admits he loves her, a confession that has to be practically torn out of him. Mary represents what was worth winning the war for, and brings out the best in her husband even as he tries to deny it, but he is propping up others such as his Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) whose fuzzy-headedness with a bank payment proves George's undoing. These people are bundles of flaws and dreams, and too often the former outweighs the latter, which brings the film's most ingenious element: Clarence granting George's wish to never have been born. The consequences? Without one good man's precarious position, the whole house of cards tumbles and Bedford Falls becomes Hell. An unforgettable warning, moving but not as sentimental as its reputation. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 2202 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
  Desbris M
   

 

Last Updated: