To Kill A Mockingbird (Blu-ray)
Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning book (that I’m sure most of you all read in high school), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a classic piece of American literature and American film. The film (that I’m sure most of you also watched in high school) has the ability to teach and inspire by turning taboo subjects such as racism, rape and bullying into positive themes such as bravery, integrity, character, wisdom, respect and kindness.
During the 1930’s a black man is wrongfully on trial for raping a white woman. Despite negative outside pressure from the town, Atticus Finch is the only lawyer willing to defend the innocent man. The story is told from the point of view of Finch’s daughter, who along with her older brother are quite young and naïve in understanding the racism and hatred that comes with the case. Their youth and innocence keeps the film light but also is what propels the dark nature of the story to a necessary reality.
Atticus Finch is a wonderful character. As a single father raising two kids, Atticus balances his love for his children with the necessity to fight for another’s life despite the potential danger. Gregory Peck has famously said this was his favorite role and favorite film he was ever a part of. That is some high praise from one of the most famous and talented actors in history with a long resume of great films. But the praise, I believe, is well deserved as Peck slips into the part effortlessly. Always giving thought and meditation before his words are spoken, Finch is fearless with his kind heart and best intentions. When Rev. Sykes tells Scout to stand with the rest of the balcony because her father’s passing, I find myself inspired by such a selfless act and yearning to fight for the wronged.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD has some of the greatest characters in film that the rest of the cast rounds out nicely. There is always a gamble when relying heavily upon children in a film but Mary Badham as Scout and Phillip Alford as Jem do a terrific job. They bring a humor and lightness that balances out some of the heavier themes. Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, the unfortunate victim of racism, is absolutely amazing. In his short screen time, your heart will break for a man wrongfully accused of such a heinous crime because of the color of his skin. Then of course there is Boo Radley, victim of another type of prejudice, played by a nearly unrecognizable Robert Duvall. These characters are all very unique with different outcomes that help understand some of life’s lessons that are frankly not understandable.
With eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and winning for Best Actor, Best Art Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one that I highly recommend for all to see. Not only because nearly all high school graduates have already seen it, but because it says something more about people, morals and making the choice between the right thing and wrong thing.
Video: (1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1) The old black and white film looks cleaner, clearer and better than ever.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) A wonderfully restored sound quality.
Feature Commentary with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula: A technical and personal commentary with some interesting tidbits about the making of the film. Interesting but they tend to have some long pauses of silence.
Fearful Symmetry (1:30:00): A hugely in depth look at every scene full of interviews from cast, crew and historians talking about their experience on the film. You can pick the scene you’re interested in or simply hit the play all button. A definite must for fans of the film.
A Conversation with Gregory Peck (1:37:37): This is really good! A very old Gregory Peck fields question from a packed house in a very large auditorium. We even are treated with some behind the scenes of him and his home life with his family. This is a fantastically interesting and entertaining documentary style look at clearly a very loving, funny and down to earth man.
Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech (1:31): A pretty basic acceptance speech.
American Film Institute Life Achievement Award (10:01): A longer acceptance speech that is more interesting for the different stars in the crowd that attended. Spoiler alert: Henry Winkler AKA The Fonz gets a nice closeup.
Excerpt from Tribute to Gregory Peck (10:00): His daughter talks to the crowd about him as a father. It’s kind of like attending a funeral of someone you don’t know.
Scout Remembers (12:01): Mary Badham, the actress who plays the young daughter Scout, is all grown up and talks about how wonderful it was working with Gregory Peck.
100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (9:12): This discusses the process of preservation and restoration for some of the classic films from Universal. It’s fun to see scenes from your favorite films and the before and after shots are pretty impressive.