To Kill a Mockingbird Blu-ray Review
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ arrives on American Region free Blu-ray with a very good looking 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
It looks as if a significant amount of restoration work has been done here and the result is very pleasing to the eye. We get proper black-and-white with excellent contrast throughout. In the night shots, we’re treated to deep blacks without loss of detail. There’s not much in the way of film grain on show, which makes me suspicious that someone (at the Film Lab) has had to match up original camera negative and dupe material. A smoothing seems to have been applied, resulting in less grain than you’d expect. But the important thing is that, as a whole, the image looks very good so there’s nothing to complain about. The picture is sharp without appearing clinical. If all of the Universal restorations are as good as this one, then Collectors should be rubbing their hands in anticipation.
The audio on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ comes in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround flavour, but it’s a soundtrack full of subtlety rather than brashness. Dialogue is good and strong, mainly front centre locked, but you do sometimes have to tune your ears into what some of the children are saying due to their broad Southern accents. It’s not that there’s a clarity issue in the sound, you just have to listen in much the same way as you would to someone in everyday life with an accent.
The surrounds aren’t used a great deal, but there is a low level ambience if you focus in on it. The main stereo pair deliver Elmer Bernstein’s delicate score as well as leaves rustling and twittering birds. This isn’t a soundtrack that wants to be the star of the show. Like a real star, it knows how to deliver a performance without drawing attention to itself – so it scores by being unobtrusive and concentrating on doing its job well.
Audio Commentary - Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan J Pakula give us a wonderful insight into the production of the movie. Most interesting is their memories of casting the children’s parts where they deliberately avoided ‘Hollywood kids’ and chose unknowns. They praise Gregory Peck for his performance and the relationships he built up with the children on set. These two guys show great intelligence, sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Good for film buffs.
Fearful Symmetry (SD, 90 mins) - Now this is what I call a really chunky ‘Making of’ documentary. It not only looks at the production but it also examines real small town American values that were reflected in the film and the book. The narration is a bit cringe worthy, but it provides a leisurely ‘in depth’ piece of research with input from cast and crew.
A Conversation with Gregory Peck (SD, 98 mins) - This is a nice look at Gregory Peck as he tours with his one-man show and meets his public. It reveals a fairly self effacing sense of humour and a modesty that characterised many of the roles he played on film. Most touching is where he talks about the suicide of his son. Very human.
Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech (SD, 1 min 30s) - Sophia Loren hands Gregory Peck his Best Actor Oscar which he accepts with a very humble speech.
American Film Institute Life Achievement Award (SD, 10 mins) - Mr Peck accepts the award amid an audience full of well known faces as he remembers various points in his career.
Excerpt from Tribute to Gregory Peck (SD, 10 mins) - Mr Peck’s daughter, Cecilia, praises her Dad with a speech where she likens him to Atticus Finch with regard to his human qualities and recalls many personal memories.
Scout Remembers (SD, 12 mins) - Mary Badham, who played Scout, remembers her audition and how well she got on with Mr Peck on set.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3 mins) - The original preview trailer for the movie. A very sober affair compared to many with intro by Mr Peck and quotes from several newspapers.
100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (HD, 10 mins) - An interesting look at the restoration work being done on Universal’s titles where the Techies explain the problems associated with film grain, flicker, jitter and tears. Audio restoration is also covered with hiss removal. Very nice and it whets the appetite for titles yet to be released.
The classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ flies on to American Region free Blu-ray with a handsome looking 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The black-and-white photography shines with excellent contrast, detail and filmic appeal.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio features a very subtle mix with dialogue being prioritised while discrete effects are used sparingly. The surround sound wisely does not try to be the star of the show.
Some nice bonus material has been ported over from previous DVD releases and there’s an interesting commentary from director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J Pakula.
It’s a stunning movie based on the Harper Lee novel with a standout performance from Gregory Peck as the small town American Lawyer who defends a black man against a bigoted jury. If it doesn’t make your blood boil, you’re not human. See it soon.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.73
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