TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD  [50th Anniversary Edition] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray]
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 November 2013
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD  [50th Anniversary Edition] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] The Most Beloved and widely read Pulitzer Prize Winner Now Comes Vividly Alive on the Screen!
Experience one of the most significant milestones in film history like never before with ‘To Kill A Mockingbird' [50th Anniversary Edition]. Screen legend Gregory Peck stars as courageous Southern lawyer Atticus Finch and the Academy Award® winning performance hailed by the American Film Institute as the Greatest Movie Hero of All Time.
Based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel about innocence, strength and conviction and nominated for 8 Academy Awards® and this beloved classic is now digitally re-mastered and fully restored for optimum picture and sound quality and boasts hours of unforgettable bonus features. Watch it and remember why "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Narrated by Kim Stanley.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1962 Academy Awards®: Win: Best Actor for Gregory Peck (The award was presented to Gregory Peck by Sophia Loren). Win: Best Adapted Screenplay for Horton Foote. Win: Best Art Direction and Set Decoration in Black-and-White for Henry Bumstead, Alexander Golitzen, and Oliver Emert. Nominated: Best Picture for Producer Alan J. Pakula), Nominated: Best Director for Robert Mulligan. Nominated: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for Russell Harlan. Nominated: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Mary Badham. Nominated: Best Music Score for Substantially Original for Elmer Bernstein. 1962 Golden Globe® Awards: Win: Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for Gregory Peck. Win: Best Original Score in a Motion Picture for Elmer Bernstein. Win: Best Film Promoting International Understanding for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ 1963 Cannes Film Festival: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was selected for the 1963 Cannes Film Festival in feature film category, winning the Gary Cooper Award. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ marked the film debuts of Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Alice Ghostley.
Cast: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy, Ruth White, Brock Peters, Estelle Evans, Paul Fix, Collin Wilcox Paxton, James Anderson, Alice Ghostley, Robert Duvall, William Windom, Crahan Denton, Richard Hale, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, John Breen (uncredited), Jess Cavin (uncredited), Frank Ellis (uncredited), Jack Clinton (uncredited), Steve Condit (uncredited), David Crawford (uncredited), Jamie Forster (uncredited), Charles Fredericks (uncredited), Jester Hairston (uncredited), Kim Hamilton (uncredited), Kim Hector (uncredited), Ethan Laidlaw (uncredited), Nancy Marshall (uncredited), Paulene Myers (uncredited), Charles Perry (uncredited), Hugh Sanders (uncredited), Barry Seltzer (uncredited), Ray Spiker (uncredited), Jay Sullivan (uncredited), Kelly Thordsen (uncredited), Arthur Tovey (uncredited), George Tracy (uncredited), Bill Walker (uncredited), Joe Walls (uncredited), Dan White (uncredited), Guy Wilkerson (uncredited) and Kim Stanley (Scout as an Adult) (Narrator) (uncredited)
Director: Robert Mulligan
Producers: Alan J. Pakula, Gregory Peck (uncredited), Harper Lee (uncredited) and Robert Mulligan (uncredited)
Screenplay: Horton Foote and Harper Lee (based on her novel "To Kill a Mockingbird")
Composer: Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English: DTS Mono; French: DTS Mono; Italian: DTS Mono; German: DTS Mono; Spanish: DTS Mono and Japanese: 2.0 DTS Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 124 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: 1962 was a rather remarkable year for films featuring stellar performances by young actors. Patty Duke took home a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her iconic work in `The Miracle Worker,' but Patty Duke's was hardly the only notable performance that year. Duke was joined in the Best Supporting Actress category by another young girl whose performance has entered the annals of the near legendary, namely Mary Badham's beautifully rendered work as Scout in `To Kill A Mockingbird.' There were a slew of other films that featured standout younger performances like `Lolita,' `Sundays and Cybele,' `Cape Fear,' `The Music Man' just to name a few, but no other film that year and arguably any year actually captured the viewpoint of children as magically yet realistically as `To Kill A Mockingbird' did. What's perhaps so incredible about this beautifully heartfelt film is how effortlessly it manages to sum up an entire generation's experience of one distinct region of the United States, namely the American South, dealing with all sorts of issues from the epochal, like race relations, to the seemingly picayune, like sibling rivalry and loyalty). While a major subplot of the film casts a rather unseemly light on the American South, the incredibly noble and moral character of the focal children's father, one Atticus Finch [Gregory Peck], an attorney who is hired to defend a black man accused of raping and beating a white girl, gives this film a strong ethical centre which further helps to distinguish it and which adds inestimably to the film's allure.
Harper Lee was a largely unknown quantity when her first novel "To Kill A Mockingbird" was published in July 1960. Lee had been encouraged by her childhood friend and neighbour Truman Capote, upon whom the character of Dill in the book is based, and Truman Capote wrote a brief blurb on the dust jacket of the first edition hardback espousing Harper Lee's talent. Harper Lee had no great hopes for the book, and in fact the publisher had warned her it probably wouldn't do very well, so Harper Lee, and also not to mention the publishers, when the book was sold to the public, became something of an overnight sensation.
Similarly, director Robert Mulligan wasn't exactly a household name, either, though he had had the extreme good fortune to have partnered with producer Alan J. Pakula, who would also become a director of some considerable note, and did have a handful of features, as well as a long television career, under his belt. But Mulligan's quiet, deliberate approach turned out to be absolutely perfect for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ especially with regard to coaxing absolutely realistic performances out the film's central trio of children, Mary Badham as Scout Finch, the six year old from whose viewpoint and memory of the film is told; Phillip Alford as Jem Finch, Scout's older brother and erstwhile protector; and the colourful neighbour Dill Harris [John Megna], who joins the siblings in a series of adventures, many of which revolve around ferreting out information about the Atticus Finch 's mysterious neighbour, Boo Radley [Robert Duvall]. As the children exploits play out, Attorney Atticus Finch, finds himself caught up in simmering racial tensions when a local black man Tom Robinson [Brock Peters] is falsely accused of having attacked a white girl Mayella Violet Ewell [Collin Wilcox Paxton]. Robert Mulligan resolutely refuses to ever let the film lapse into melodrama, staging things simply and without sensationalism, and that approach gives the film much of its indelible emotional power.
In the trivial but fascinating department,`To Kill A Mockingbird' has one of the oddest concatenations of "famous relative syndrome" with regard to its cast and crew of any major motion picture. Just a brief listing includes these gems: Mary Badham [Scout] is the little sister of director John Badham [Saturday Night Fever]; Dill Harris [John Megna] is the half-brother of actress Connie Stevens; director Robert Mulligan was the brother of actor Richard Mulligan [Soap and Empty Nest]; and Estelle Evans [housekeeper in ‘Calpurnia’] was the sister of actress Esther Rolle ['Maude' and 'Good Times'].
`To Kill A Mockingbird' is a quiet film, and in fact several studios passed on optioning Harper Lee's novel because they couldn't understand what possible allure it could have for audiences. "It's about a lawyer and his two kids," was all studio executives and never the most prescient bunch, could see in the book, obviously missing the profound truths buried in Scout and Jem's world, like the treasures Boo Radley secrets away in the neighbourhood tree cavity. But like a parent whispering to a beloved child, `To Kill a Mockingbird' speaks directly to the heart, never demanding attention, but commanding it nonetheless. If you've never seen this hugely affecting film, you're in for one of the most touching experiences of your cinematic life. If you're a long-time fan, rejoice that it's been revitalised now to rediscover all over again.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Universal Pictures, and the bane of catalogue title collectors, seems to have finally woken up and realised how to treat its asset treasures. Now this has happened with the release of `To Kill a Mockingbird' and is presented on Blu-ray with an awesome encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. The film is part of Universal's well publicised 100th Anniversary promotional push to revisit many of its storied films, restoring and re-mastering them for home video release and not all of these legendary films will receive Blu-ray releases, unfortunately. This new Blu-ray has been sourced from high resolution scans of original 35mm source elements and the results are simply gorgeous. The clarity and precision of the image is breath taking at times, with beautifully modulated grey scale, deep, rich blacks and piercing, though never blooming, whites. Though the film and all of the supplements and saved for the restoration feature, are in SD, and there are absolutely no compression artefacts to report. The restoration feature, which actually covers a lot of titles, actually spends a few seconds discussing one aspect of Universal's high definition releases which seem to create the biggest controversy: digital noise reduction of grain. In the case of `To Kill a Mockingbird,' there were a number of optical push ins, as opposed to zooms, which magnified grain to a really ugly degree, something shown quite clearly in the restoration feature. Rather than "erase" the grain, which the team of restorers quite clearly state is unthinkable, they used a new algorithm which "averaged" the grain over the entire sequence, including before and after the optical push. The results should please even the most pernickety videophiles. Several scenes which have been murky in previous home video releases have whole new levels of shadow detail on this new Blu-ray. Well done, Universal and please keep up the excellent work.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – `To Kill A Mockingbird' offers both a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix as well as a standard 2.0 DTS mix. This would not seem to be a film especially suited to a surround track, and the good news is the track hasn't been overly "tatted up" to provide a false sense of immersion. The best part of the 5.1 track is the fuller representation of Elmer Bernstein's glorious score, one of the finest scores of the composer's long and legendary career for Leonard Bernstein's ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.' Ambient sounds occasionally dot the surrounds and especially with the rustle of leaves in that final horrifying Halloween sequence is a notable example, but the mixers have wisely kept things largely front and centre, as they should be. The audio fidelity is excellent and the soundtrack bears no noticeable signs of age related damage.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula: This is incredibly informative, though Alan Pakula can be a little hard to hear at times. Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula, who were partners for such a long time, have an easy rapport with each other, and Alan Pakula coaxes a lot of anecdotes out of Robert Mulligan. This is totally excellent and highly enjoyable.
Special Feature: Fearful Symmetry  [480i] [91:00] This feature length documentary is by Charles Kiselyak, and is a loving if unshrinking look back on the cultural milieu from which `To Kill a Mockingbird' sprang. There are copious interviews with participants and contributors in the film, which includes Mary Williams (Narrator voice), Horton Foote, Robert Mulligan, A.B. Blass, Norman Barnett, Ida Gaillard, Alan J. Pakula, Gregory Peck, Cleophus Thomas Jr., Phillip Alford, Mary Badham, Elmer Bernstein, Claudia Durst Johnson (author of “Threatening Boundaries”), Collin Wilcox Paxton, Brock Peters and Robert Duvall. This insightful and interesting documentary also gets into some really interesting, if somewhat tangential, subjects like the importance of oral history in the American South.
Special Feature: A Conversation with Gregory Peck [American Masters]  [480i] [98:00] This is another totally fantastic feature length documentary. In 1999, Gregory Peck [1916-2003] visits the Barter Theatre, Abingdon, VA, where he had acted in 1940 and where this evening he tells stories and answers questions about his career. Interspersed are clips from Gregory Peck's films and from interviews recorded over the years and vérité contemporary footage of visiting with his daughter Cecilia Peck before and after the birth of her son, receiving the National Medal of Arts, chatting with Lauren Bacall, with Martin Scorsese, dining with Jacques Chirac [President of France], and always with his wife of forty-four years, Veronique Passani, beside him. We also get other contributions from Colleen Sheehy, Don Peck, Carey Paul Peck, Stephen Peck, Anthony Peck, Zack Peck, Thomas Jones, Mary Badham, Daniel Voll, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Throughout, Gregory Peck is informal, candid, and wry. Directed by Barbara Kopple. Produced by Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck, Kristi Jacobson and Linda Saffire. Music by Art Labriola. Cinematography by Don Lenzer, Sandi Sissel and Tom Hurwitz.
Special Feature: 1962 35th Academy Award® Best Actor Acceptance Speech  [480i] [1:31] This is a model for all the longwinded, self-important award accepters nowadays that was said by Gregory Peck and went as follows: “Thank you, fellow Academy members. Thank you, Harper Lee, Alan Pakula, Robert Mulligan, Russ Harlan, all of my good friends and associates at the studio. Thank you, members of the press who cover the local scene, critics, and columnists across the country who approved of my work and said so. And I want to thank my family, my good, close friends, who have lent me inspiration and moral support and affection. Thank you very much.
Special Feature: American Film Institute Life Achievement Award  [480i] [10:01] This is a short snippet from Gregory Peck's AFI tribute, including a wonderful speech by the actor. First and last, however, it is the images on the screen that we remember and that we have come to celebrate. Gregory Peck reminds us that a star, ultimately, can be an idealization of ourselves, an image that not only mirrors our aspirations but fulfils them. At the ceremony they honoured Gregory Peck with the 17th Annual Life Achievement Award for allowing us and for so long and to see the very best in our world and ourselves.
Special Feature: Excerpt from Tribute to Gregory Peck  [480i] [10:09] This is another special Academy Award® tribute to Gregory Peck, including Gregory Peck's four children.
Special Feature: Scout Remembers [480i] [12:01] This is a really fun piece featuring Mary Badham remembering her experiences with being in the film ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird.’
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [2:52] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer of the the film ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird.’
Special Feature: 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics [1080p] [9:13] This is a special promo piece touting Universal's 100th Anniversary and their restoration and preservation efforts. The new slate of restorations is covered briefly, including some looks at the restoration efforts. Universal releases are regularly pilloried for over aggressive DNR [Digital Noise reduction], and there's a very interesting segment on this feature addressing that issue that all DNR-phobes really should watch. Other situations like flicker are also addressed. Audio restoration is also covered in this really interesting piece.
U Control: My Scenes offers Cecilia and Anthony Peck narrating different PiP snippets which offer a number of participants like Robert Mulligan, Horton Foote, Mary Badham and Phillip Alford.
BONUS: Universal 100th Anniversary Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook Blu-ray packaging includes a stunning 44 page booklet that includes “INTRODUCTION BY VERONIQUE PECK.” “INTRODUCTION BY AUTHOR HARPER LEE.” “GREGORY PECK’S SHOOTING SCRIPT.” “ORIGINAL STORYBOARDS.” “ORIGINAL POSTERS & LOBBY CARDS.” “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD PRESS BOOK EXCERPTS.” “PERSONAL LETTERS” and “GREGORY PECK’S LEGENDS OF HOLLYWOOD STAMP.”
Finally, I'm not ashamed to admit I was once again in a flood of tears as `To Kill A Mockingbird' drew to a close as I watched it to prepare for this review. I've seen the film countless times, but viewing it with this stunning Blu-ray disc, it now has the same overwhelming effect on me, certainly a good indication of just how emotionally powerful the film is. How many films can you think of that lose little if any of their emotional resonance upon repeated viewings? `To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of that rare breed of films which seems timeless even as it precisely recreates a very specific time and place. Classic film lovers have come to dread Universal catalogue releases, rightly or wrongly, but `To Kill a Mockingbird' sets a new standard for the studio, one which they hopefully will continue with as their 100th Anniversary Celebration takes centre stage. `To Kill A Mockingbird' instantly jumps to the front of the pack with this best release in 2013, and it comes 100% high praise. So all in all, I am so proud and honoured to now have this beautifully crafted classic film, they I will not tire of watching again and again. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
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