HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Angelfish
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, A
This is a Hijack
Loved One, The
Jumanji: The Next Level
Krabi 2562
Call of the Wild, The
Diary of a Country Priest
Sea Fever
Throw Down
Grudge, The
Green Man, The
Specialists, The
Convoy
Romantic Comedy
Going Ape!
Rabid
Infinite Football
Little Women
Camino Skies
Ema
Another Shore
Cry Havoc
Legend of the Stardust Brothers, The
Mystery Team
Westward the Women
Demonwarp
Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The
Chloe
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
Murder Inferno
Extraction
Overlanders, The
Can You Keep a Secret?
Women in Revolt
Astronaut
Peanut Butter Falcon, The
Ip Man 4: The Finale
Card, The
   
 
Newest Articles
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
Look Sinister: The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Blu-ray
Star Wars Triple Threat: The Tricky Third Prequel and Sequel
I Can See for Miles: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes on Blu-ray
Too Much Pressure: The Family Way on Blu-ray
The Alan Key: Alan Klein and What a Crazy World on Blu-ray
A Japanese Ghost Story: Kwaidan on Blu-ray
The Zu Gang: Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain on Blu-ray
Reality TV: The Year of the Sex Olympics on DVD
The Young and the Damned: They Live By Night on Blu-ray
Mind How You Go: The Best of COI on Blu-ray
Der Kommissar's in Town: Babylon Berlin Series 3 on DVD
The End of Civilisation as We Know It: The 50th Anniversary
The Whalebone Box: The Andrew Kotting Interview
Being Human: The Elephant Man on 4K UHD Blu-ray
It's! Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 3 on Blu-ray
Put the Boot In: Villain on Blu-ray
The Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 2: Vic Pratt Interview
All the Lonely People: Sunday Bloody Sunday on Blu-ray
Desperate Characters: Beat the Devil on Blu-ray
Chansons d'Amour: Alfie Darling on Blu-ray
Ozploitation Icon: Interview with Roger Ward
   
 
  It's a Wonderful Life Hell On Earth And Goodwill To All Men
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, FantasyBuy from Amazon
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 2411 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
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
  Hannah Prosser
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
  Rachel Franke
Paul Smith
   

 

Last Updated: