GREGORY PECK Centennial Collection – To Kill a Mockingbird & Cape Fear + Extras, Blu-ray (1961 & 2/2016)

by | Oct 19, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

A fine remastering of one the most important films ever made.

GREGORY PECK Centennial Collection – Remastering of To Kill a Mockingbird & Cape Fear + Extras, Blu-ray (1961 & 2/2016)

Cast: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Brock Peters, Robert Duvall, Phillip Alford
Studio: Universal Pictures 61181322 (10/11/16) 2 discs
Directors: J. Lee Thompson & Robert Mulligan
Producers: Sy Bartlett & Alan J. Pakula
Writers: James R. Webb & Horton Foote
Music: Bernard Hermann for both films
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 screens, black & white
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 & 2.0 & mono, French DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: French, Spanish, English for the hearing impaired, All regions
Extras:  A Conversation with Gregory Peck, Fearful Symmetry: The Making of To Kill a Mockingbird, Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech, American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, Excerpt from Tribute to Gregory Peck, Scout Remembers, Feature Commentary Track with Director Robert Mulligan & Producer Alan Pakula, 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics, Theatrical Trailer, BD-Live, My Scenes, Pocket BLU App
Length: TT: 236 min.
Rating: ***** 

The big thing is not only the wonderful remasterings of both great motion pictures, but also the many extras concerning the terrific contributions which Gregory Peck made to the first film,  and as a person.  The American Film Institute hailed him as the Greatest Movie Hero of All Time. “Fearful Symmetry” is a fine and very poetic look at the film and the book it was based on by Harper Lee – which is considered by many to be the second most-read book in the world after the Bible. (Although the idea of making a film of it was rejected by most of the movie studios.) And Peck’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards is most appreciated for its shortness. The grown-up “Scout” comments are really fascinating. I found the extra on “Restoring the Classics” to be most interesting technically too.

In many of the extras, the talking heads – including one of his daughters – speaks to how Gregory Peck’s general personality was similar to that of the lawyer that he played in the film. He was a fine father and instilled in his children a feeling for right and wrong and being strong in your convictions.

Cafe Fear is a great film, but it’s not To Kill a Mockingbird. This is the original black and white 1961 one (about a year before To Kill a Mockingbird), with Robert Mitchum as the villain. In the later “homage” version shot in color by Martin Scorcese, Robert De Niro plays the villain. Both are very good and very fearful.  They continue the practice of a remake being about as good as the original (though some – like Psycho – were a complete disaster). Scorcese even used most of the very appropriate film music score by the late Bernard Hermann.  The other, somewhat lesser role, is again Peck, playing the father, husband and great humanitarian that he was. He again faces almost unbelievable threats of fear and revenge as a family man who is forced to put his family at risk to trap a deadly and very smart criminal. Mulligan said Mitchum told him he lived the part and was much like that, and the director was ready for Mitchum to blow up on the set occasionally.

The book the film is based on was titled The Executioners, but Peck wanted to use a less give-away and more geographic title, so he used Cape Fear. He was also the producer on this film, with his own movie company. Director Robert Mulligan wanted to shoot in black and white to emphasis the contrast in fearful segments, and it works beautifully. He had studied with Hitchcock and got good words from the master thriller filmmaker about Cape Fear.

In addition to the two Blu-ray remasters and the many useful extras, the package comes with four 5 x 6 1/2-inch cardboard photos of Peck and others in the films and reduced-size theatrical posters for each film.  A fine collection honoring a great Hollywood actor. And it’s price is quite low on Amazon too.

—John Sunier

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