To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - Legacy Series Edition

Genre(s): Drama
Universal || NR - 130 minutes - $26.98 || September 6, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-09-13


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Robert Mulligan
Writer(s): Harper Lee (novel), Horton Foote (screenplay)
Cast: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Robert Duvall, John Megna, Ruth White, Paul Fix, Brock Peters, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy, Collin Wilcox


Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 1962


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Disc 1:
  • Director & Producer Commentary
  • Best Actor Acceptance Speech
  • AFI Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Excerpt from Academy Tribute to Gregory Peck
  • Scout Remembers
  • Theatrical Trailer


  • Disc 2:
  • A Conversation with Gregory Peck Documentary
  • Fearful Symmetry: The Making of To Kill a Mockingbird


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the top 25 classics in America (at least) and the message it sends applies today as it did back then; and as a film, it is certainly better than 95% of the stuff that wants to think themselves as "important". This movie I do believe is important and should be seen (if not already) by anyone who claims to be a fan of movies...

Atticus Finch (Peck) is a single father of two and a lawyer in the 1950s south. One day he's assigned to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of assaulting a white woman with her racist father gun-ho in backing the story up. Of course, this is merely a metaphor of equal rights for all -- as stated by Finch in the now memorable courtroom speech, a speech right up there with Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Mockingbird also presents other issues such as kids seeing the ugly side of the world (the loss of innocence).

Beyond the message, the film itself just has great direction from Robert Mulligan. As this was my first viewing (shocking, I know), I was surprised to find that this drama actually has some tense moments (even outside the courtroom). One example, the kids, Jem and Scout, do what kids do when there's a reclusive neighbor living down the street... they dare one another to knock on the door or look inside through a window. These scenes were, in my opinion, in the school of Hitchcock. There were no false scares, no false moments to speak of, just tension, plain and simple (a concept that goes unused today).

Gregory Peck, who won the Best Actor Academy Award, performs magnificently as both a lawyer sticking by his convictions despite the pressure, and as a loving father just trying to instill in them what it'll take to survive in the world and how to conexist with others who you may find to be at odds with your own values.

Also to take note of are the nice and solid performances from Phillip Alford and Mary Badham (nominated for best supporting actress) -- neither of whom had any film experience, and very little since with Alford appearing in a few TV movies and Badham in three feature films, one this year called Our Very Own (starring Allison Janney).

To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film and deserves to be with the other classics.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Universal's Legacy DVD Series did not get off to a good start with me as The Sting had much to be desired in the features category. Is Mockingbird an improvement? I think that's certainly better, though I do believe some of these features were made for the 1997 collector's edition (35th Anniversary).

First up is a decently informative commentary track with director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula. Those who enjoy a lively conversation might be bored by this one as the two (who seem like old friends) reminisce about how the film came to be; how the studios stayed away from it until Gregory Peck signed on; that the little girl playing Scout had never acted before. There's a little telestrating at some points, but nothing annoying or boring. The two talk about what a certain scene was trying to say and how the film's values and message still has meaning today. Interestingly, they also take minor jabs at the current state of Hollywood and the MTV generation it caters to. Note: This track was recorded in 1996 or 1997 for the Collector's Edition.

Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech goes for a few minutes showing Gregory Peck's Oscar speech. Fun to see something so "old" and what I came away from was not a great speech (though it's simple and humble unlike some you see now-a-days), it also displayed how simple the ceremony was. Of course, this is much more of a visual medium today, but I personally would like to see the ceremony toned down.

American Film Institute Life Achievement Award is a nice contrast to Peck's Oscar acceptace, showing him in his later years, honored with this AFI honor. It's interesting to watch this screen legend recount his past and remember why films were made, saying (I'm paraphrasing here) that an actor might have to a smaller paycheck in order to make an honorable film.

The disc also has an excerpt from Academy tribute to Gregory Peck features Gregory's daughter Cecilia (who also was a producer on the DVD) boasting about her father and the influence he had on all of them. This excerpt (runs several minutes of her speaking) was filmed using what looks like a basic camcorder so other than the speaker, you can't make much else out when the pan out to audience members (including Harper Lee who wrote the book). Nice and somewhat touching to see the love Cecilia has for her father.

Scout Remembers is an interview filmed for NBC News (or maybe Dateline) back in 1999 where Mary Badham, now all grown up, talks about her experiences working on the film to the memories of Gregory Peck and the impact he had on her. She recounts stories including spending time with Gregory's own children and feeling like a part of his family (which in turn translates very well to the screen).

The second disc has a great documentary entitled "A Conversation with Gregory Peck". This feature length documentary goes through some of Peck's life and includes footage of him (in the late 90s) in front of audiences for Q & A sessions. Through the 95-minutes, Peck talks about his kids from both marriages (with Cecilia who produced this), his role in the world and social issues (against Vietnam) and how he (posed from a question in the crowd) would want to be remembered. While some of this porbably is sweetened up a bit, it still had some touching moments and Peck himself came across as a down to earth guy, someone who didn't seem to look down on others.

Fearful Symmetry is a nice and interesting 'making-of' featurette/documentary with interviews with producer Alan J. Pakula, director Robert Mulligan, screenwriter Horton Foote, novelist Harper Lee, actors Gregory Peck, Mary Badham (Scout), Phillip Alford (Jem), Brock Peters (Tom Robinson) and Robert Duvall (Boo), as well as people who lived in the old South. The first part centers on racial issues of the 50s before moving into how the film got made (something I already heard on the commentary track), casting the roles (including the kids whom they wanted to get from the South) and the reception the film had. This is certainly more than a 'making-of' feature; a good portion of it telestrated by the interviewees talking about their part, which is fine as what they have to say isn't boring at all. The docu-featurette runs at a brisk 90-minutes, though I believe this, like the commentary, was on the Collector's Edition.

The set also has a theatrical trailer with Peck explaining what To Kill a Mockingbird is about (including that the novel is a Pulitzer Prize winner). Don't know well this would go today, but I guess it worked back then.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Starting with the picture (as this is the most important part of buying this DVD) looks very good. Of course, it's in black and white so I can't comment on how powerful it comes across the screen, but the picture itself looks fine with only minimal scratches or graininess.

The sound is also nice when the musical scores come in, but the background sounds seem to be a little toned down; the dialogue comes primarily from the center speaker. While the set includes both the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes, I'm not sure why the DTS is needed. In movies that are 25 years plus old, it doesn't seem to add much outside of the music. That said, I guess it doesn't hurt to have it... just didn't seem necessary.



.::OVERALL::.

Unlike the two-disc set for The Sting, To Kill a Mockingbird has many more feautures and it seems like whomever put it together had more respect for the film than those for The Sting (comparatively speaking). On it's own merits, this Legacy Series Edition is very good and given the film's 40 year age, they actuall included a nice amount of features making this worthwhile even to those who own the Collector's Edition.