The blu-ray (from Nov 2009) is missing the 14-minute tribute to Frank Capra that even my old Republic DVD edition has. It also doesn't have a lossless audio track and has just a regular mono track that sounds just like DVD, thus it doesn't take advantage of the blu-ray medium. And to add insult to injury, they added an extra disc that contains the colorized version, adding to the cost and also showing no respect to James Stewart, who hated colorization. I love the film but this BD is a non-purchase for me.
Both the b/w and colorized version apparently came from the same video source that made the 60th anniversary edition. Screen captures are here: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/wonderfullife.htm . The blu-ray picture is clean and sharp, but Robert Harris said the picture was artificially and needlessly smoothed and grain-reduced like so many other blu-ray titles of classic films so they would look "clean" to modern viewers.
Why the heck didn't they port over the only other produced extra for this title:"A Personal Remembrance" - A special tribute to Frank Capra narrated by his son Frank Capra Jr.? This would seem like a no-brainer!
If you mean a 4K (or higher) scan of film elements specifically for this blu-ray, then this is most certainly is not it, because the picture quality of this blu-ray is simply not as good. If it were a brand new 4k or 8k scan, you would certainly notice it, such as the blu-rays for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur. Most likely the blu-ray for It's a Wonderful Life was made from the same HD transfer that produced the 2006 standard-def DVD edition.
Yeah, I hear you. Hopefully people read the reviews in depth...but doubt they dig too deep. I have a solid DVD collection, so to see this happen and not have all the previous extras and a new 4-8K transfer......well it is a glorious money grab IMHO.
I bought the blu-ray and found it stunning. Perhaps there's been another remaster? If you google "High Def Digest" and go to their review of the picture quality, which they do after the general review, they give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, and they are pretty trustworthy and picky about video quality on blu-ray; I've never viewed a 4-or-above star rated blu ray from them and found it anything but beautiful.
Can't help thinking this transfer is getting a bad rap in this thread. To my eyes, it's one of my best looking black-and-white blu-rays, and I have quite a few of them.
Yes, the Blu-ray got a lot of positive reviews, but one of the most authoritative voices on the matter, Robert Harris, who was the film restoration expert for Vertigo, Lawrence of Arabia, and others, wrote here that the Blu-ray is "assuredly NOT recommended": http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/294790/a-few-words-about-its-a-wonderful-life-in-blu-ray
His reason is that the Blu-ray was "transferred, processed, grain reduced, sharpened -- to give it that wonderful Christmas tinsel look -- and then compressed by someone who apparently has no idea what they're doing." In short, it doesn't look like film; it looks like video. For regular consumers that may not be a deal-breaker, but those who (a) have seen old movies in theaters and know what old movies should REALLY look, and (b) have a large screen TV that can offer film-like viewing ONLY IF the Blu-ray transfer is done right - know what Mr. Harris meant exactly. The squeaky-clean screen captures at DVDBeaver bear out Mr. Harris's opinion. They still look pretty good as still photos, but if you see them in motion, and if you HAVE seen old movies in theaters, you will notice that is not the way it should look.
So, what is the "best-looking" version to buy? My mom has a new 55 inch flat screen and Blu-ray and I wanted to get her the sharpest, yet authentic-looking version for Christmas. Is the 60th anniversary version the best (also because it includes the missing Frank Capra tribute)? Is it any better/crisper than the older DVD version? Thanks!
The "best-looking" is still the Blu-ray, but it isn't as good as a Blu-ray should be. Many people like myself are avoiding it because of this, on the chance that they may release a better Blu-ray in the future.