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Robert Mulligan
Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford
Writing Credits:
Horton Foote

In Depression-era Alabama, widowed attorney Atticus Finch defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge - and his children against prejudice.

Box Office:
$2 million.
Domestic Gross:

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/11/2022

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan J. Pakula
• "Fearful Symmetry” Documentary
• “A Conversation with Gregory Peck” Featurette
• Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech
• American Film Institute Life Achievement Award
• Excerpt from Academy Award Tribute to Gregory Peck
• “Scout Remembers” Featurette
• “All Points of View” Featurette
• “100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics” Featurette
• Trailer


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To Kill A Mockingbird: 60th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1962)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 26, 2022)

Back when I was a kid, there was a house on our street that had an elevator added into it. That was a big deal in our 1970s suburban community, and while I don't think any of my friends ever went into the house - I definitely didn't - we all knew about it.

Almost inevitably, the presence of this elevator in an otherwise ordinary abode caused us youngsters to engage in gossip. We all speculated about the need for this form of transport.

The common consensus was that someone in the house had a disability that required it, but while that may sound ho-hum today, it made for all sorts of wild fodder back then. This house with an elevator became strangely mysterious and foreboding place, and we all skipped it on Halloween because it freaked us out in a vague way.

Why am I telling this story? Because I hadn't thought about it for years, but the experience of watching To Kill A Mockingbird brought it all back to me.

While I don't find the film to be terribly fascinating as a whole, it does nail the essence of childhood. I can't recall ever having seen a movie that creates as convincing a recreation of the fears, attitudes and preoccupations of kids.

Set in Depression-era Alabama, widowed attorney Atticus Finch raises his two young kids Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) with the aid of his housekeeper Calpurnia (Estelle Evans). When they meet visiting lad Dill Harris (John Megma), the kids experience a summer of antics around town.

Matters turn darker over time, though, primarily because Attitus accepts the assignment to defend local Black man Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) against accusations he raped white woman Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox). In the heavily bigoted South, Atticus faces a lot of opposition, and his kids witness the repercussions.

As noted, I think the film evokes childhood well, and much of this comes through the spooky atmosphere that the film's kids see in the Radley house, where a mentally disabled man becomes elevated into an inhuman monster. However, many other facets of the picture deliver this side of the equation as well.

Lots of films purport to offer realistic views of childhood, but Mockingbird is one of the very few that really does. Don't be surprised if you rediscover long-forgotten childhood memories while you watch it as well.

As far as the other aspects of the film go, I find Mockingbird to be a well-crafted and literate piece of work but not one I think has aged terribly well. There's something dated about all those earnest, well-meaning dramas from the 1960s that relate to civil rights.

Flicks from the early part of the decade hold up better than those from the latter half, as they seem less silly because they don't include all of the "hip" styles of the period. However, they still appear vaguely paternalistic and heavy-handed, so these films all bear the unmistakable mark of their era.

I do like the fact that Mockingbird doesn't take an easy road. It arrives at a relatively happy ending, but the movie confronts some tough issues along the way and it doesn't flinch from presenting unpleasant outcomes.

The film seems well-acted, with a solid though vaguely ponderous turn from Peck. Badham and Alford also present strong performances and capture the "kid-ness" of their characters.

Both come across as somewhat amateurish at times, but the fact their work bears no signs of the glossiness of typical Hollywood kids makes those flaws easily forgivable.

To Kill A Mockingbird remains a much beloved book and film, and there's much to relish about it. It's been so long since I read the book that I can't honestly conjure an opinion of it, but I do find the movie to be a decent but erratic piece of work.

It gets enough right to be interesting, but I don't agree with the general regard for the film as a classic. It's very good but never approaches greatness.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

To Kill A Mockingbird appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a largely satisfying presentatiuon.

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, as they usually looked deep and dark in an image that offered some positive contrast. Shadow detail also looked fine. This became a strong rendition of the source.

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 remastered 2022 Blu-ray compare to the original BD from 2012? Both came with identical audio.

Visuals showed improvements via the 2022 disc, mainly due to a change in the use of grain reduction. The 2012 BD tampered with grain more and that gave it a slightly unnatural vibe at times. The 2012 version still looked good, but the 2022 presentation brought superior quality.

The 2022 Blu-ray replicates most of the 2012 disc’s extras and adds a new one. 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.

Note that the 2022 Blu-ray drops an interactive “U-Control” feature from the 2012 disc. Frankly, I don’t miss it, as it required a lot of effort for little unique information.

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 Blu-ray delivers good visuals, solid audio and a fine roster of supplements. This becomes the strongest home video representation of the film to date.

To rate this film visit the Legacy Series review of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main