PictureOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest comes to us at 1.85:1 1080p using the VC-1 codec. This is a film which is over 30 years old and if the transfer from Deliverance is anything to go by then you wouldn't immediately be looking for pristine demo material; that's what I expected and that's what I received. There's no doubt that the transfer is somewhat better than the last 2 disc DVD edition I had of this but it's not a major leap.
Colours are drab, predominantly clinical in nature and obviously suiting the nature of the film as a whole. Even the brief outdoor scenes, when the inmates go for their boat trip, the colours are somewhat muted; in saying that they are contained within their respective borders and there's no sign of any bleeding here. Contrast is again somewhat limited partially due to the nature of the scenes themselves; there's never really any extensive foreboding blacks and when the night shift does kick in the darker palette never becomes as deep as some finer examples. This lack of depth reduces that all elusive pop factor and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest still comes across as a rather flat affair. Whites on the other hand are pretty pristine only intentionally tinged slightly with some greys again heightening the feel of despair within the the institution walls.
Grain is prevalent throughout as is the nature of film stock at that period in time; this in itself is not really a major distraction however the actual encoding and transfer to disc is somewhat problematic. The image at times is incredibly soft and not consistent even within particular scenes. Nurse Ratched's face continually appears soft during the group discussions, similarly scenes on the boat, the bathroom and the corridors of the institution never appear as sharp as they could. There's some macro blocking to be found in those bleak institution walls but it's the ever present edge enhancement which is really the bug bear of this presentation. It's almost in every scene, not helped of course by the bright white backgrounds and although you do sort of get used to it the fact that it is extensive reduces somewhat the enjoyment of the film as a whole. Certainly the best I have seen on disc and I always hope for better but it seems that that hope may be in vain.
SoundThe English track on offer, like most of the other tracks, is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 affair and much like the audio mentioned above it's difficult to say how this could be improved with new codecs. There's no need for whiz bang effects from the surrounds, some ambiance is there on the odd occasion but you'll be straining to hear it. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a dialogue driven film and as such all of the action is going to emanate from your fronts and the track does a pretty decent job at this.
There is some panning between left and right although like the lack of surrounds this is never taken to any form of extreme. The score is haunting at times and floats well from the front stage but again really doesn't add any form of depth or width to the frontal stage. Tonal range is somewhat limited excessive highs and lows are never to be found as the film really neither demands nor needs it.
Dialogue though is pristine and that's really what this film is all about; the multi conversations of the inmates whilst playing cards or the group therapy sessions are easily understood and there's never any need to be rewinding to catch that lost syllable. In the end One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest does exactly what is needs to and no more, limited and not demo material by any stretch of the imagination but suited to the demands of the film itself.
- Commentary with Milos Forman, Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz.
This is an enjoyable chat for the entire length of the feature, never stifling, quietening or indeed becoming boring. All of the contributors have some good input from the initial rights purchased by Michael's father Kirk to the time the actors spent on real wards with people with real issues so they could immerse themselves in their roles. Certain scenes are discussed as well as the Oregon Mental Institution used for filming. If you enjoy the film then this adds some some excellent information regarding its transfer from book, to stage and finally to screen.
- The Making of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. - 0:47:27
Like the commentary track before it this is a superb making of short documentary and puts most other featurettes included on other discs well into the shade. It's a lively discussion with the main protagonists, Milos, Michael and Saul but also we get to hear from some of the actors; DeVito, Fletcher and Lloyd. At times it's a laugh a minute affair with Michael Douglas recounting the history of the presentation and trying to find the actors required, including the 7 foot tall chief, or Danny DeVito remembering the sea sickness which most of the actors suffered from whilst shooting on the boat. Alas Nicholson is nowhere to be seen and that's a pity, it would have been interesting to have some insight from himself on his Oscar winning role.
- Additional Scenes.
8 Additional scenes in total however there is no Play All function. Most of these scenes are worthwhile affairs but there are a few which immediately stand out and could be argued should have been left in the film. My favourites were the additional scenes involving the chief and how he is tormented by the orderlies at the institution. An additional scene at the start of group therapy is shown where McMurphy is trying to inform Ratched that one of the inmates has soiled himself; it falls upon deaf ears though as she's more interested in controlling her group than the welfare of her patients.
Yes there's not a great deal here but what is there has not one ounce of fat on its bones, as such it's score remains relatively high due to the pertinent nature of the content. On top of this, as well as a short original trailer, the disc comes packaged in one of the new Warner coffee book editions; included in this is some 35 pages of additional material from biographies, production notes and general themes.
VerdictBought initially by Kirk Douglas and turned into a stage play it fell to his son to produce the movie after the book Kirk had initially sent to Milos was confiscated by the Czech censors. So some ten years later Michael picks up the mantle and takes this incredible story to celluloid. Every player, every participant on top of their game meant that this film strode away with the top five Oscars in 1976; for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay. It really doesn't get any better.
Yes at times it's a difficult watch but that's only because the film demands your full attention, demands your emotional input and that is always high praise indeed for any film in my opinion. You warm to the characters, you empathise with McMurphy's bewilderment as he learns the stark, bleak nature of America's institutional system. You despise with absolute vengeance Nurse Ratched; it's an incredible film for dragging these feelings out of the viewer.
As a disc set the extras are what we have expected from the past and they're a very fine set indeed. The video has been given a boost if only minor and the audio remains as it is. It's certainly an upgrade for anyone who loves this film For those of you yet to experience it then I have no hesitation in recommending a blind buy, it's that simple; the film deserves to sit on your shelves for you to view as and when you choose.
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- Commentary with Milos Forman, Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz.