The Good

The Bad

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those movies that holds up so well today, it almost seems like an insult when there are other films (made today) that cover similar ground. The tale of good hearted, lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), raising 2 kids could have been a story all it’s own. However, it chose the high ground and made this tale a social one by having Atticus agree to defend a black man on a rape charge. From there, it delves into the effects this has on the Finch family because it seems like everyone in the town is convinced of the black man’s guilt. While today we might look at this tale a little differently, and see it more as an idealistic portrait of “the way things should be,” I think that that view ultimately does this wonderful film a disservice.

Shouldn’t we aspire to the idealism that pervades To Kill A Mockingbird? Isn’t that the point of America? Isn’t that what we are known for? All too often it seems like we can get caught up in the cynical nature of the things happening around us. It’s easier to stand back and judge, then it is step forward and stand for something. Rewatching To Kill A Mockingbird after all these years, really allowed me to put these thoughts and these ideas into perspective. Yes, there are many things about this world and about my country that I think are not right, yet at the same time I believe in my country and in people’s innate nature to want to do the right thing.

Features

Best Actor Acceptance Speech, AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony, Academy Tribute to Gregory Peck and Scout Remembers

These extras are the reason why DVDs are so special. To be able to watch this film and then hear Gregory Peck give an Academy Award speech, or see him at an AFI Lifetime Achievement award ceremony gives this two disc set a true sense of immediacy. Fans of Gregory Peck are going to really enjoy all of the extras that have been put together for this. I particularly thought the “Scout Remembers” featurette was something interesting, because I was curious to hear what it was like for Mary Badham, as a young girl, to work with someone like Gregory Peck. All of these extras have been put together with the same deftness of craft that it seems like the original was.

Commentary, A Conversation with Gregory Peck and The Making of To Kill A Mockingbird

This informative commentary track is done by director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula. While it is certainly something I think it is interesting, it might be better suited for film students than the general public. I could be wrong though, but I just found that it was something my father (someone I use as a barometer for the general DVD public) most likely wouldn’t sit through. “A Conversation with Gregory Peck” was actually produced by Peck’s daughter and gives us a glimpse into Peck away from the cameras. I think I overloaded myself with the first disc, because by the time I got to this feature I felt a tad “Pecked” out. The making of To Kill A Mockingbird featurette was pretty standard. People recount what it was like bringing this movie to life, but I think maybe it should have been placed on the first disc and one of the other extras could have been sent to the second one.

Video

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1. It is probably because I am so used to way things look today, but there is something about how the older films looked that adds something to them. This film is so rich and the look of that time is captured so wonderfully, it appears effortless. Now on DVD this really translates well. The way the homes look, the courtroom setting, the town in general... everything seems so solid without beating the viewer over the head. Clocking in at 2 hours and 10 minutes this film is not an easy watch in the sense of just putting on a movie and screening it. You have to invest yourself in what is happening. It’s hard not to watch the film and get caught up in the emotional drama that is laid before you.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1- English, French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. I love the sound in older films. It almost crackles because it’s so sharp. Sure, there are moments where the music swells and we as viewers are supposed to feel this or that emotion, but I think that I can forgive that in a film like To Kill A Mockingbird. It is so well done and so rich, both in how it looks visually, how it sounds and what it’s saying that I can think of very few flaws with this DVD. This movie functions a lot like a play, and as such it is highly dependent on dialogue. Without good sound to get this across, one might not get all they should from a film as weighty as this.

Package

This is top notch stuff here. Packaged like a novel, this two disk set has a bronze-like feel with Gregory Peck featured on the front cover. The back even shows the layout of this DVD, has a brief description of the movie, a large bonus features listing, a cast list and some technical specs. Inside, there are 11 reproductions of the original theatrical posters that are striking in their use of color. Each of the DVDs is housed in it’s own plastic tray with more pictures of the cast and locations spread around it. While packaged up, this set may feel a bit bulky, it is very easy to navigate through and find exactly what you wish to watch. Film buffs and fans will be very pleased.

Final Word

This is one of those films that steps up the level of anybody’s DVD collection. Just having this movie in your collection says something about you as a DVD owner. I know that people might shy away from this movie, thinking that it is something that is only relevant to them in the high school setting in which they most likely first studied it, but that is simple thinking and To Kill A Mockingbird is anything but simple.

There is a level of acting here from all the players, that seemed to serve notice to the viewers and the film industry as a whole that these people knew they were doing something special and important. I know that this is just a movie, but I think anyone who has seen it knows that this is an instance where a film transcends all of that.

To Kill a Mockingbird was released December 20, 1962.