By Steven Suskin
29 Jan 2012
After 50 years, To Kill a Mockingbird [Universal] still looks pretty good. Or better, thanks to an excellent new Blu-ray transfer. This 50th Anniversary Edition of Robert Mulligan's classic, issued as part of the Universal 100th Anniversary Collector's Series, somehow seems even more impressive as the years pass. Back in 1962 it was dangerously provocative, yes, at a time when segregation was still alive and well and legal in the deep South. That overlay of controversy is gone, thankfully so; few viewers today are likely to argue in favor of the sadistic villain Bob Ewell. Thus, we can concentrate on the moral questions posed by novelist Harper Lee and screenwriter Horton Foote without being sidetracked by what was then a contemporary political discussion.
Gregory Peck stands out in his Oscar-winning role of Atticus Finch. It is simple enough to call this the performance of his career, although that might be disputable if you stop to consider his full body of work. In any case, Peck is wonderful here. (Some of this excellence, I suppose, has to be credited to Ms. Lee and Mr. Foote.) Peck is joined by a fine array of actors, with six of the nine featured players coming direct from Broadway.
The new release is filled with worthy bonus features that will enhance the viewing experience for the film's many fans. These include "Fearful Symmetry," a documentary on the making of the film; "A Conversation with Gregory Peck"; Peck's acceptance speech when he won his "Mockingbird" Oscar, along with his acceptance of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award; a segment of the Academy's tribute to Peck, featuring daughter Cecilia; Mary Badham reminiscing about playing Scout opposite Peck's Atticus; and feature commentary from director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula. These appear on both the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are "U-Control," which takes you behind the scenes with Peck's children Cecilia and Anthony Peck.
Universal has wrapped this "Mockingbird" in a handsome package. The 44-page hardcover slipcase contains an introduction by Peck's wife Veronique, who tells us that her husband's one request when he was dying in 2003 was that Brock Peters give his eulogy; a selection of posters, window cards, news clippings, and telegrams received by the star when he won his Oscar; storyboard samples; and assorted sheets from Peck's shooting script — with the words "fairness," "stubbornness," "courage," and "love" scrawled on the final page. There is also an introduction from novelist Lee, who became a long-time friend and shares with us Gregory Peck's secret: "When he played Atticus Finch, he played himself."
Visit PlaybillStore.com to check out theatre-related DVDs for sale.Continued...