on 23 August 2006
To those who judge a book by its cover, Gregory Peck in spectacles looks like too serious a film to dig up - but this film is not about serious old Gregory Peck. It is quite a simple story from the vantage of two motherless children who play around and are intrigued by an unknown fearful character in their neighbourhood reputed to be mad, and the events surrounding Gregory Peck, their father defending a black worker unjustly accused of raping a woman - during the 1930s when segregation was the norm in the south.
Gregory Peck comes across as a very dignified, handsome, moral character - who abounds in justice and strong paternal qualities. The true star of the show is Gregory Peck's daughter and her tomboy antics along with her brother and their friend. Peck's character is a admirable lawyer defending a case which in all probability he will lose. But the unfairness meted to the black defendant though forming a core aspect to this film is not centre stage. What is centre stage is the children and their vision of the proceedings and the danger they are placed in from those who hate Peck's advocacy of a black man's justice.
The music and overall atmosphere of the film describing quiet southern town life evokes a bygone age of innocence, friendliness and charm - along with the grosser aspects of intolerance at the time. The music if very special.
This film got several oscars including best actor for Gregory Peck.
This DVD comes with one version of the film with a producer/director commentary and a 90 minute documentary about the whole project with critical exploration of what the film and book convey.
Truly an American classic and the best aspects of humanity from a south US heartland.
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 BLU RAY 'COLLECTOR'S SERIES' BOOK PACK VERSION ***
In April 2012 Universal Studios is 100 years old - and to celebrate that movie-making centenary - they've had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. But it doesn't stop there. As many as 80 other titles will be given re-launches across the year each featuring distinctive "100th Anniversary" gatefold card-wrap packaging - and in some cases a host of new features. Most of the AMERICAN issues (non-region coded so they play on all machines) will be two-disc sets containing the BLU RAY, the DVD and also means to obtain a Digital Copy via download. It appears that the UK issues will contain ONLY the BLU RAY in a Book Pack.
1962's "To Kill A Mockingbird" is one of the thirteen singled out for full restoration (see list below) - and an absolute peach it is too.
Released 10 January 2012 - it comes in a gorgeous limited edition 'book pack' (Barcode 5050582881844). The outer hardback holder has a card-pouch wrapped around it at the base and a 45-page booklet contained within. The book has interviews with Veronique Peck (his wife of 40 plus years), Harper Lee (author of the 1960 novel), pictures of the Shooting Script, Original Storyboards, Original Posters and Lobby Cards (from around the world), Press Book Excerpts and even Correspondence surrounding the movie (telegrams of congratulations from Fred Astaire, Betty Bacall and Charlton Heston). It's a visual feast with loads of photos peppering the wonderful memorabilia. Universal are to be praised for this because it absolutely looks the part. But the real fireworks comes in the other two elements at play here - the extensive extras - and the glorious new print...
Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements - Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration - and the results are BEAUTIFUL. Even from the opening logo and credits of a child drawing - there are no lines or scratches of any kind - and the black and white cinematography of 1930's Alabama is fantastically clear. Stand-out clarity - the scene where the accused black man Tom Robertson is sweating in the courtroom as he relays his side of the story (a superlative Brock Peters - he read the Eulogy at Peck's funeral in 2003 at Peck's request), Atticus's son Jem is in his dad's car outside the family home of the black Robertson family as the hateful Bob Ewell looks on, the three children watching from the bushes as the mob try to take the jail with Atticus guarding the doorway, Atticus explaining what happened to Tom Robertson after the trial as the moonlight shines on his suit, the young girl Scout pointing out the simpleton Boo Radley behind the bedroom door (Robert Duvall's stunning cinematic debut where he doesn't utter a word but leaves an indelible mark) - it's all suddenly gorgeous. And the sound is rounded and clean too. An exemplary job.
The extras are equally superb - the centrepiece of which is a near one and half-hour documentary called "A Conversation With..." It's a feast for Peck fans - interviews with Barry Norman in 1974, Terry Wogan in 1979 and other notables throughout the years are peppered with home movies and footage of Peck giving a one-on-one show to a Virginia audience in 1999. It's a raconteur tour-de-force a la David Niven - an 83-year old Peck is generous, charming, witty, responsive - full of anecdotes about Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Harper Lee. We get stories about meeting his wife in Paris just before shooting for "Roman Holiday" began - there's footage of dinner with the President of France Jacques Chirac and his family - a visit to Niagara Falls with his daughter Cecilia (handshakes with an adoring public) - US President Bill Clinton giving Peck the National Medal Of Arts and dropping it! But most of all as the minutes pass by you 'get' why Gregory Peck was greeted with such staggering affection everywhere he went in the world - he literally exuded 'good guy' from his every pore - that old style Hollywood class - a talented giant who didn't have a mean bone in his body. It's joyful stuff to watch.
The movie itself has entered into folklore - released in 1962 and filmed in Black and White - it primarily centres on a black man accused of raping a white woman and the trial that follows. Such was the power of the story - and especially Peck's central performance as the principled lawyer Atticus Finch (his only Oscar win) it literally inspired members of the public to take up the law as a profession and even impacted on America's turbulent and changing racial landscape of the time. The performances by the children as innocents are particularly superb too - but it's Peck who dominates the whole thing with a gravitas and sincerity that few actors could match. His stand against bigotry is magnificent and filled with a quiet decency that has touched audiences for decades. As if sensing the importance of the part, Peck's scrawl is all over the shooting script - to the point that it often obliterates the text - the four words he scribbled on the last page describing the character he plays title this review - and describe the great man himself.
To sum up - with the 1930 anti-war masterpiece "All Quiet On The Western Front" also being amongst the first vanguard of these 'restored' releases - it's heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of its movie legacy - and be proud about doing so too. I for one will collect the whole series - and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.
An absolutely first-class release - and then some.
BLU RAY Specifications:
1. "Fearful Symmetry" - A feature-length documentary on the making of "To Kill A Mockingbird" with cast and crew interviews and a visit to Harper Lee's home town
2. "A Conversation with Gregory Peck" - an intimate feature-length documentary on one of the most beloved actors in film history with interviews, film clips home movies and more
3. "Academy Awards Best Actor Acceptance Speech"
4. "American Film Institute Life Achievement Award" - Gregory Peck's memorable remarks upon receiving the AFI Life Achievement Award.
5. "Excerpt From Tribute To Gregory Peck" - Cecilia Peck's heart-warming farewell to her father given at the Academy in celebration of his life
6. "Scout Remembers" - Actress Mary Badham shares her experiences working with Gregory Peck
7. "Theatrical Trailer" - Original Theatrical Trailer of the film
8. "Feature Commentary" - with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula
9. "100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics" - An in-depth look at the intricate process of preserving the studio's film legacy
10. Blu-Ray Exclusive - U-Control
11. Pocket Blu - download content to your Smartphone and Tablet
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese DTS Mono 2.0
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Traditional Mandarin
PS: UNIVERSAL RESTORED CLASSICS ON BLU RAY
If you search Listmania on Amazon UK for "Universal 100th Anniversary - Restored Films To Blu Ray"
It will give you my visual list of the following 20 titles. The list also contains fuller details on the releases, region coding, packaging etc.
As noted below - some are reviewed too...
1. Abbott And Costello in Buck Privates (1941) BOOK PACK
2. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) BOOK PACK
3. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) BOOK PACK [see Detailed Review]
4. The Birds (1963) [no individual release as yet - but the restored version is part of the "Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection" Box Set]
5. The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
6. Dracula (1931)
7. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
8. Frankenstein (1931)
9. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
10. The Invisible Man (1933)
11. Jaws (1975) [BOOK PACK version is USA-only - see visual list]
12. The Mummy (1932)
13. Out Of Africa (1985) [US-ONLY BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
14. The Phantom Of The Opera (1943)
15. Pillow Talk (1959) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
16. Schindler's List (1993) Release date to be advised...
17. The Sting (1973) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
18. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
19. Universal's Classic Monsters - The Essential Collection
Released both USA and UK (non-region coding so will play on all machines) in October 2012 - this superb 8-disc box set contains Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), The Phantom Of The Opera (1943) and The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954). There's also a 'Coffin' shaped version of this box set that is a limited edition. Both come with booklet and poster prints for each of the movies.
20. The Wolf Man (1941)
PPS: For a list of the 'USA' titles in the "100th Anniversary" series to date (Oct 2012) see the 'comment' section attached to this review (60+ BLU RAY and 90+ DVD).
There are a large number of great films available Stateside that have no UK or European release date as yet. However, most are Region Free so will play on UK machines - but check this first to be sure...
on 19 July 2009
Well-acted adaptation of the novel, paced just right to fit the setting of the Deep South. Still provoking enough to lose yourself in, and forget that it's old and in black and white (a very appropriate irony).
Gregory Peck is widely accepted as a fine actor, but the children in this excelled too - especially given that this was filmed at a time when the vast majority of child actors were too busy 'looking cute' to pay more than minimum attention to actually portraying a character.
The main plot centers around racism and a rape case, but there's strong coming-of-age and moral themes that make it a film relevant to all but the youngest of age groups.
A delight to watch; and a must for any parent that would like to teach their children of the inhumanity of racism without exposing them to anything too graphic (despite the plot centering around a rape case, this film is fairly sensitive in its portrayal).
I have to disagree with another reviewer on one point. Being of dual nationality (having both American and British parents), and having spent my life between the two countries, I've often heard complaints made in Britain about how unrealistic it is to have American accents in films set in Britain - so why complain about American accents in a film set in the Deep South? A British accent in the film would have been just as unrealistic by the same standards. I've lived in the Deep South and can verify that the accents, setting and pace of life portrayed are all realistic.
This is another rendition of an American classic. I had seen this movie and read the book in the past, so was there really anything new this time? We watched it as a school project for my daughter. She watched it as a teenager, my wife watched it as a teacher and I watched it as a lawyer and, for tonight, at least, a part-time tutor. We each saw something in it that we had not appreciated before. For me, the courtroom scenes were interesting, but I identified more with Atticus, the father, than Atticus the lawyer. No matter how often you have watched this in the past, you will find something new to admire when you watch it again. Never stop!
on 21 November 2002
This would be a wonderful film for parents to watch with children old enough to understand the depth of its message. Good and evil are clearly drawn, and the values of justice and humanity portrayed with rare and memorable strength.
Reading Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel had a huge impact on me as a teenager...I never forgot, as Atticus says to Scout, that you "never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them".
Horton Foote won an Oscar for his screenplay, which is so faithful to the book. Set in depression era Alabama, the story is seen through the eyes of 8 year old Scout, beautifully played by Mary Badham, and the sensitivity of director Mulligan's vision is remarkable.
Prejudice is the theme that runs through the story, from the harrowing court case of Tom (an amazing performance by Brock Peters), to the demonization of Boo (played by Robert Duval, in his screen debut...he is intensely moving as this innocent and silent man).
Russell Harlan's b&w cinematography is superb, and Elmer Bernstein's Americana style score adds so much to the film.
Gregory Peck's Oscar winning performance is magnificent. His Atticus is a hero of immense proportions, with compassion, integrity, and humility...and one of the reasons I think this powerful classic deserves to be in every film library.
on 4 November 2010
To Kill a Mockingbird is a very enjoyable movie with great acting though if you have read the book before seeing it you will probably, like me, be disappointed that some of the scenes in the book are changed or omitted.
For that reason I would recommend seeing the movie before reading the book, if possible. It is filmed in black and white, which is perfect for giving a sense of the time the film is set in.
The story is about two young children in small town 1930's Alabama, learning about life mainly from their widowed father. Their widowed father, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), is the hero of the film. He is a quietly spoken lawyer but is determined to set a good example by how he deals with people.
The plot comes to a head when he is appointed to defend an innocent black man from an accusation of rape from a local white girl. The racial prejudices that were always just beneath the surface in the town come to the fore. The trial scene takes up a good portion of the film. This makes sense, as it is a perfect cinematic set piece and has some great acting from Peck and the supporting cast.
A great bonus on the DVD I purchased is an excellent 90 minute documentary titled "Fearful Symmetry". Made in 1999 it has interviews with Gregory Peck, the director Robert Mulligan, writer Horton Foote and producer Alan J. Pakula. There also interviews with other cast members such as Robert Duvall, who played the crucial character of Boo Radley, Brock Peters, Collin Wilcox Paxton and the now grown up child actors. There are some great insights and anecdotes about the filming. This film is also a documentary about Monroeville, the hometown of the author Harper Lee. In the book she used Monroeville as a basis for the town of Maycomb and there are interviews with residents who lived in the town in the period the film was set in. These have plenty of examples of the famous laid back Southern way of life we hear so much about. There also interviews that discuss the significance of the book and the film in highlighting the racial discrimination of the time.
At times the narration becomes quite wordy but overall the documentary is well worth watching.
on 19 December 2002
Harper Lee's award winning novel comes to life, starring the brilliant Gregory Peck as attorney/father/citizen Atticus Finch, in his Academy Award-winning role. "Mockingbird" seems to be about life in the '30's as ordinary people come to terms with their changing culture. On the surface, this is true. And more. It is also a coming of age tale for the children of the story; It is about racism everywhere, although set in the American South of 70 years past. "Mockingbird" also addresses quiet integrity, trust, prejudice, hatred, devotion--universals, wherever we find them. The film is true to Lee's novel in every respect, down to the shuffle in Boo Radley's gait.
on 11 November 2005
To Kill a Mockingbird is without doubt Gregory Peck's finest work. When the author of To Kill a Mockingbird first saw Gregory Peck she was not convinced that he was the man to play the central role of Atticus Finch, indeed she thought him too young. But when she first saw Gregory Peck playing Atticus she remarked that it was like seeing her beloved "Daddy". When you watch Gregory Peck playing Atticus Finch, he is so natural in the role, that you sense that he was born to play this role.
This film's screenplay adaptation of Harper Lee's book concentrates mainly on the courtroom scenes. But this film also considers other elements from the book too, including the relationship between the three children Scout, Jem and Dill with Boo Radley. Look out for the scene where the children decide to investigate the Radley home under the cover of darkness, the courtroom scene where Atticus appeals to the jury and the scene where Scout stops a murder intent mob in it's tracks. Though shot in black and white this does not rob the film of it's impact, indeed I felt the lack of colour gives the film a raw power all of its own. Furthermore, I guarantee that after watching this film you will want to read or indeed reread the book.
Both Gregory Peck's father and Harper Lee's father had sadly died soon after the end of production. Before Gregory Peck went to the Oscar ceremony Harper Lee gave him her father's gold watch for luck. It worked! At the Oscar ceremony Gregory Peck at long last received his highly deserved Oscar. A fitting tribute to a man that many people have come to view as Atticus Finch himself.
on 16 March 2009
This film is pure brilliance.I remember it as a child having to study the book for my english exams and 30yrs later i still love it.Gregory Peck is pure genius as are all the cast,a bit scary a bit sad and a slice of the deep south and all its predudice problems i would recommend it to anyone.
on 25 February 2004
I have to study this book for my GCSE English Literature, and I was finding it soooooo difficult to understand. This DVD brought the book to life and made my task easier. The actors portray Harper Lee's characters to a tee, and made them so easy to relate to (and to eventually disect!)I was able to understand the messages that Harper Lee wanted to send out to her audience fully. I seriously believe this may be the ticket to my A Grade.