HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Blonde. Purple
Dirty Ho
Annette
Shepherd
Dying to Divorce
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Trouble with Being Born, The
Last Matinee, The
Strings, The
Free Hand for a Tough Cop
People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan
Dear Future Children
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
Swallow
Thin Red Line, The
Petite Maman
Fast & Furious 9
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sweet Thing
Maelstrom
Father, The
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Night House, The
Father of Flies
80,000 Years Old
Dead & Beautiful
Bull
Censor
Sleep
Freaky
Nightbooks
Whisker Away, A
Wild Indian
Whale Island
Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires
Don't Breathe 2
Closing Time
Cryptozoo
Weathering with You
Rim of the World
   
 
Newest Articles
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
   
 
  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 3604 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 probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: