To Kill A Mockingbird appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a largely satisfying presentation.
For the most part, grain felt natural. Some shots used zooms created in post-production, such as the scene when Mayella lashed out at the courtroom.
Because they felt this magnified grain would create a distraction, the Blu-ray’s producers opted for some noise reduction for those shots. This didn’t eliminate the grain, but it reduced it.
Otherwise, the grain seemed appropriate. If the disc featured grain reduction in other scenes, it seemed tasteful and modest,
Sharpness was usually tight and well-defined, without many obvious examples of softness. A few wider shots offered a less than concise presentation, but much of the movie provided appealing delineation.
Jagged edges and shimmering didn’t mar the presentation, and I witnessed no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to appear.
Black levels appeared good. These usually looked deep in an image that offered some positive contrast.
Shadow detail became iffier, as I thought the image could seem a little too dark at times. As a result, the disc’s HDR didn’t add as much as expected, since the semi-dim qualities tended to negate the potential improvements in terms of whites and contrast.
Though I found the movie to come across as a bit too dense, it still looked fairly good. This ended up as a “B” presentation.
In addition to the film’s original DTS monaural audio, the Blu-ray tossed in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. Frankly, I continue to prefer the original mono, but I found little about which to gripe when I listened to the multichannel track, as it maintained a subdued soundfield.
Music boasted gentle stereo spread across the front, though the instrumentation wasn’t particularly well-defined. I got a vague impression that strings favored the left side of the spectrum, but otherwise the mix didn’t delineate the elements with particular clarity.
Effects mostly stayed with general neighborhood ambience such as the chirping of birds. A few scenes featured elements like cars as the moved from one side to the other, and the occasional piece popped up in one spot.
For instance, when Atticus shot the rabid dog, the rifle fire came from the front left. Overall, though, the mix lacked a lot of activity. Surrounds echoed the music and effects in a minor way but failed to play an active role.
Audio quality was fine and resembled the sound heard on the original mono track. While I did have more trouble than usual comprehending dialogue during To Kill A Mockingbird, that resulted from the accents and delivery of the actors, not from the quality of the audio.
Speech really sounded natural and warm for the most part. A smidgen of sibilance appeared on occasion, but not enough to cause real concerns. Effects also seemed nicely rounded and relatively deep.
Only the score sometimes came as a slight disappointment, as it occasionally appeared a bit thin and dull. However, Elmer Bernstein’s music also could present more dynamic tones at times.
I thought the score varied a little too much, but I found it to satisfy through most of the flick. For a 60-year-old movie, this film's audio mix seemed pretty good.
As I noted earlier, I didn’t prefer the 5.1 track to the mono version. While I didn’t encounter any real problems with the multi-channel mix, it simply seemed unnecessary.
Occasionally a 5.1 remix of a mono film adds spark. Mockingbird didn’t need that extra pizzazz and didn’t benefit from it. I’m not sure why anyone bothered to remix such a quiet film.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the remastered Blu-ray from 2022? Both came with identical audio.
Visuals became a different matter, as I thought the 4K seemed darker and a bit softer than the Blu-ray. Some of the latter may have stemmed from 4K’s increased resolution, as it may have made inherent softness more obvious.
As for brightness issues, I can only report on what I saw, but your mileage may vary. Even after five years, 4K UHD remains an imperfect format, and that means the different discs can look different on different displays.
On my setup, the 4K seemed darker than the Blu-ray and I preferred the latter. However, because a lot of others praised the 4K, I wanted to toss in this caveat.
The vast majority of the 4Ks and BDs I compare offer similar brightness, so this one became an exception to the rule. Nonetheless, you may experience alternate results.
With that, we head to the set’s extras. The first attraction comes from a running audio commentary from director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J. Pakula.
It's a pretty flat affair that seems spotty with not a lot of substance. Their remarks usually fall firmly in the "he's great, she's great, they're great" camp with little insight into the production or analysis of the film.
Early on, we hear some good discussion of working with the kids, and they also touch on the less-than-pleasant personality of one of the actors, but that's about it. The rest of the comments tend toward blunt praise.
It also doesn't help that a lot of dead air mars the proceedings. This commentary isn't without merit, but it's a very lackluster experience, and you’ll learn much more from the documentary that appears next.
Called Fearful Symmetry: The Making of To Kill A Mockingbird, this one-hour, 30-minute, 14-second piece features interviews conducted in 1997 with director Robert Mulligan, producer Alan Pakula, screenwriter Horton Foote, composer Elmer Bernstein, Threatening Boundaries author Claudia Durst Johnson and actors Gregory Peck, Phillip Alford, Mary Badham, Collin Wilcox, Brock Peters and Robert Duvall.
They cover the basics of making the flick such as the adaptation of the novel, why various primary participants were interested in the project, casting, locations and sets, the score, shooting the film and development of characters.
In addition, the program spreads its focus more broadly than that and also examines both the 1960s civil rights-oriented society in which the picture was made and the Southern culture of the 1930s time period of the film. We hear from a variety of folks who lived through each of those experiences, and their stories add a lot to the impact of the program.
This roster includes Alabama attorney Cleophus Thomas Jr., and Monroeville residents AB Blass, Norman Barnett, and Ada Gaillard. They provide a feel for the South in this time period and reflect on that era. The two sides of the program combine neatly and add up to an excellent documentary.
After this we get A Conversation with Gregory Peck - and it’s a long chat too, as the program runs one hour, 37 minutes, 35 seconds. It partially presents live stage appearances during which he discussed his life and career.
During the Q&A, Peck addresses what film of his he likes best, his feelings toward Audrey Hepburn and work with her, his family and religious upbringing, his experiences related to various flicks like Duel in the Sun, Mockingbird, The Boys from Brazil, Moby Dick and Cape Fear, how he met his wife Veronique, early acting parts and his approaches to roles, winning the Oscar, the impact of Gentleman’s Agreement and his political views, his family, and general memories.
“Conversation” mixes the live appearances with footage of Peck with his family and friends as well as some other interviews. This combines to give us a good look at his life, though I think I’d prefer more of a focus on the live pieces.
The presentation makes these bits a little disjointed and occasionally redundant, so it’d have been nice to get a true evening with Peck. The program works pretty well anyway, and it shows us once more what a charming class act Peck was.
A one-minute, 31-second Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech comes next. We see Sophia Loren announced Gregory Peck’s victory and hear his simple 40-second set of thanks.
Wow – a big-name star who gets on and off in 40 seconds? I think Cuba Gooding leapt about for longer than that before he even bothered to speak!
More honors come down on Peck in the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. This 10-minute, three-second clip shows Peck as he chats about his long career.
He gives this a very personal and charming touch as he provides a tribute to others and many entertaining stories. It’s a great little segment.
The plaudits keep on keeping on during the 10-minute, 10-second Excerpt from Academy Award Tribute to Gregory Peck. This consists entirely of a speech made by his daughter Cecilia. She tells a few nice stories about her dad, but this isn’t nearly as interesting as Peck’s own comments in the AFI piece.
After this we shift to a 1999 featurette called Scout Remembers. As one might expect, the 12-minute, three-second piece presents a chat with actor Mary Badham.
She talks about her casting, working with Peck, and her reflections on the flick. Badham simply tosses out happy happy joy joy remarks here with little of interest. I don’t doubt she did have a great experience, but her comments don’t add up to anything very compelling.
New to the 2022 disc, All Points Of View spans 25 minutes, six seconds and includes remarks from SMU Dean of Humanities and Sciences Thomas DiPiero, Vassar College Professor of Film Mia Mask, film critic Leonard Maltin, film historian Donald Bogle, Vassar College Professor and Chair of Drama Shona Tucker, AFI president Bob Gazzale, actor’s grandson Christopher Peck, and Columbia University Professor of English and Comparative Literature Shana Redmond.
“View” looks at the social environment of the film’s era as well as cast/crew and interpretations of the movie’s story and characters. While fine on its own, “View” doesn’t add a lot that we don’t get elsewhere.
In addition to an interesting theatrical trailer for Mockingbird - complete with a circa 1962 introduction from Peck – we end with a featurette titled 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics.
In this nine-minute, 13-second reel, we hear from Universal Studios Vault Services VP of Image Assets/Preservation Bob O’Neil, Universal Studios Technical Services VP Peter Schade, Kodak Pro-Tek Media Preservation VP of Preservation Services Rick Utley, Universal Studios Digital Services engineer Henry Ball, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Phil Defibaugh, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Ken Tom, and Universal Studios Technical Services supervising sound editor John Edell.
They cover all the procedures used to bring Mockingbird and other movies to Blu-ray. It’s a reasonably informative take on the subject.
The package also includes a Blu-ray copy of the film. It comes with the same extras as the 4K.
My feelings about To Kill A Mockingbird remain fairly mixed. It has some strong points but lacks much focus and seems like a fairly pedestrian effort at times. The 4K UHD delivers generally good visuals, solid audio and a fine roster of supplements. Because I thought the image could seem a little too dark, I preferred the 2022 Blu-ray, but this one held up well nonetheless.
To rate this film visit the Legacy Series review of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD