To Kill a Mockingbird, Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy – 50th Anniversary Edition (1962/2012)
Cast: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Ruth White, Brock Peters
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Studio: Universal Studios 61121056 [1/31/12]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD B&W
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS Express 2.0 mono, French DTS-HD 2.0 mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: “Fearful Symmetry” documentary, Conversation with Gregory Peck, Academy Award Best Actor acceptance speech, AFI Lifetime Achievement award, Except from Academy tribute to Gregory Peck, “Scout Remembers,” Feature commentary track with director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula, Orig. theatrical trailer, 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics, BD Live!, U-Control, Pocket Blu, 44-page illustrated hard-bound book with Gregory Peck’s script pages, personal letters, storyboards and more
Length: 2 hours, 10 minutes
The American Film Institute once named Peck’s role as the courageous Southern lawyer Atticus Finch as The Greatest Movie Hero of All Time. The film is second only to the Bible in the hearts and minds of U.S. readers, and is probably the most-shown film in the nation’s classrooms. We reviewed the DVD reissue of To Kill a Mockingbird in 2005 here. This Blu-ray edition is basically the same, with the addition of the fascinating Universal documentary on Restoring the Classics, and the impressive fully remastered and restored Blu-ray transfer from the original hi-res 35mm film elements. (There is a review online complaining about Universal’s over-use of DNR noise reduction which eliminated all the celluloid grain, but the transfer looked fine to me.) The participation in the documentary of the now-grown actors who originally played Scout and Jim in the film is also a plus.
I’ve already written about the major enhancement of classic black & white films in the Blu-ray format; that goes for the superb transfer and restoration of this milestone in film history. There are quite a few night scenes and the details that come up in the dark areas will be appreciated in this transfer. I did notice one telling example of the much higher resolution of Blu-ray which is not necessarily positive. It was the cropped closeups which Director Mulligan decided after the fact to use of the man’s daughter who was the supposed rape victim. The zooming in on the original larger frames caused a pronounced graininess and loss of sharpness not noticed on the DVD transfer or the film on the screen, but becomes extremely evident on the Blu-ray transfer.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.