One of my favorite movies ever is Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. When I was growing up, every holiday season my grandmother would scour the TV Guide for It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas, and I'd sleep over at her house and we'd watch them together. This was back in the olden days before cable television, in the very early days of the VCR. My dad was an early-adopter of the VCR -- we had one of the very first $1,000 VCRs on our block -- but it took another decade or so for my grandma to trust those newfangled recording contraptions.

Back then, It's a Wonderful Life came on once a year, and if you missed it you were screwed. So my grandma and I would make sure we knew when it was on, and I'd cuddle up on her couch under the afghan, and she and I and my great-grandmother would watch George Bailey's life unfold again on the television screen.

In recent years, of course, we've been able to get more than our fill of It's a Wonderful Life as it's shown a lot more, and there have been a couple of versions released on DVD, but now we have the "Special Collector's Edition" two-disc collector's set.

I'm going to work from the assumption that I don't need to go into a great deal of detail here on the plot of the film: George Bailey (James Stewart), a nice guy who runs a savings and loan and has four kids with his lovely wife, Mary (Donna Reed). After some bad luck (aided and abetted by the local evil rich guy, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), with his savings and loan on the brink of collapse and under investigation, George makes a wish that he'd never been born -- and with the help of a bumbling angel named Clarence (Henry Travers), he gets to see just what the world would have been like without him.


Sure, it's sappy and melodramatic, but it's my favorite of Frank Capra's films, and one of my favorite James Stewart films as well. Every time I watch it, I pause and take stock of my own life, and ponder how things would be different it I wasn't here ... or even if I'd make this choice rather than that choice at a given turn in the road. It's a worthwhile exercise for anyone to practice, this regular taking stock of the path your life is on and whether you're heading the direction you really want to, and if you're making the choices in your life that support that or not, and the annual viewing of It's a Wonderful Life always reminds me to do that.

This two-disc edition is pretty nifty if you're a fan of It's a Wonderful Life. It includes both the original black and white version, beautifully restored and looking much crisper and clearer than I remember it looking on Grandma's old TV set back in the day. There's also, for those who aren't black-and-white purists, a colorized version, which looks just fine although I personally prefer the black-and-white. There are a few extras tossed in there as well: a special documentary featurette on "The Making of It's a Wonderful Life" -- hosted by Tom Bosley, a special tribute to Frank Capra, narrated by his son, Frank Capra, Jr. and, for you film history geeks, the original theatrical trailer.

The packaging isn't terribly fancy -- personally, if I'm going to buy a collector's edition of anything, I like the packaging to be cool too, and there are all sorts of ways the packaging for a film like this one could have been designed to be really creative, but if what you're really interested in is what's inside, and you're a fan of this Capra, Stewart, and It's a Wonderful Life, you'll want to add this to your collection.