More frightening than any horror movie, and more disturbingly tragic than any tearjerker, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains a great film classic of any time. Shot mainly in a mental institution, and not remembered for pretty scenery, the blu-ray quality is nonetheless wonderful. This film has never looked so good. In terms of extras, there are additional scenes, commentary, 45min. making-of, and the original trailer. I think the only new or exclusive to blu-ray item, may be the 35 page in-case booklet of photos and notes. I'm happiest however, just to have this great quality presentation of a very deserving film.
This has been buzzing around my ears among my friends and without a doubt; it is one of the best films of all time. Mixing mental health with humor is a tough brand to sell; come to fine out it took several years for this movie to be made. Kirk Douglas had bought the rights hoping to star in it himself, but struggled to find a studio who would produce it; his son Michael eventually did it, but had the foresight to stay off the screen. When you watch it, it's not hard to work out why no-one would touch it - it's subject matter was just too quirky and controversial for Hollywood in the 60s. The film was ideal for representing a burgeoning discontent with society during the post-Vietnam malaise; its audience, like its characters, was feeling enormous dissatisfaction with rules, authority, government and the stupefying way it was treating its people. No wonder that it struck such a chord with cinema-goers.
Many liberties that we take for granted are explored within the narrative of the film: communication (in therapy sessions, where the nurse leads the discussion) freedom (during the 'escape') alcohol (during the party) sex (Billy's turn with the hooker McMurphy imports). The reactions of Nurse Ratched and the orderlies symbolize the reactions of authority when we digress from its designated path; the response of the inmates is to return to the routines and drudgery they entail. The analogy with the restrictive nature of society is glaring.
Enter Randle McMurphy, no respecter of rules or routines, a man who is riotous but also unselfish. Brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson (a masterly piece of casting) McMurphy challenges the established norms and routines of the hospital in pursuit of fun, which irks and then aggravates Nurse Ratched. The positive impact on the other patients is clear and noticeable; it suggests that there is value in breaking away from social expectations, in being spontaneous, in occasionally pursuing personal pleasure or individual goals beyond those authority grants to you. The conclusion suggests that those in authority will do anything to silence those who challenge the social order, but that freedom *is* ultimately accessible, whether by death (McMurphy) or escape (Chief Bromden).
Social analysis aside, the movie is great fun: there are a lot of laughs, a lot of thought-provoking moments, and a few tears. It's certainly one of the finest moments in cinematic history - it came at a time when it was drastically needed by the viewing public, but its content and themes are no less relevant and interesting to us today.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Drama, 133 minutes
Directed by Milos Forman
Starring Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif
Jack Nicholson is one of my favorite actors and he can pull off anything from serious drama, to horror, or even comedy. I loved his portrayal of Melvin Udall in As Good as It Gets, but I think R. P. McMurphy is my favorite Nicholson character.
McMurphy is placed in a mental institution for evaluation, but he's really just trying to avoid prison and hard work. We know that he's faking it the whole time. His fellow patients are a weird mixture of oddballs. Some are dangerous, others merely insecure. McMurphy discovers that most of the patients are there on a voluntary basis and he observes that they are no crazier than the average person on the street.
There's a great scene when McMurphy arranges a road trip of sorts and we see how some of the others function when they are in the real world. It does raise an interesting point about mental illness. How much is a result of our environment? Can some of the problems be remedied simply by being placed in the right environment?
The characters have plenty of depth and we gradually learn some of their hopes and fears. The best moment in the entire film involves Juicy Fruit, but I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen the film. If you have, you'll know exactly what I mean.
McMurphy is perceived as subversive and potentially dangerous. When Nurse Ratched (Fletcher) refuses to show the World Series on TV, McMurphy whips the other patients into a frenzy by acting out an imaginary game.
The acting talent on display is seriously good. You can see early performances from the likes of Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito, as well as Brad Dourif's breakout performance as Billy.
The film contains a lot of humor as Nicholson pushes his role to the limit, but there are sad and frightening moments included in the mix. The mood can turn from peaceful to chaotic in the blink of an eye, and reflects the true nature of mental illness. The ending is particularly moving and can be considered both hopeful and desperately sad.
According to IMDB, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest became the first film in 41 years to sweep the major categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best (Adapted) Screenplay. The accolades were thoroughly deserved.
on June 22, 2004
THE MOVIE ITSELF:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the one authentically great movie Milos Foreman has ever made (and he has been imitating it ever since). Anyone familiar with the book will recognize that Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher do not look anything like the descriptions of their characters, and yet they capture the spirit of those characters perfectly. The action has been moved forward in time fifteen years to 1975. This is one of Nicholson's best performances. The movie has an objective, documentary feel to it. We miss out on some characterization because of this (especially the Chief's) but instead we get a sense of what it would be like in a real institution. Despite the subject-matter, it is very funny and has moments of true joy. It is a marvelous piece of 70's filmmaking and ranks as #12 on the IMDB Greatest Movies list. Definitely worth owning.
The DVD's were made from a new transfer so they look and sound terrific. Unfortunately, it is a 2-DVD set, but all of the information could have easily fit on one disc. The only things on the second disc are some deleted scenes and a making-of documentary. The documentary is good, but not great. It tells of how Kirk Douglas first discovered the book and tried to make a movie out of it, but not of the friction when his son Michael (the film's producer) told him he was too old to be in it. There is also no mention of the film's success and its sweep of all the top Oscars. They don't even talk about novelist Ken Kesey (who supposedly was so against the film he still hasn't seen it).
on November 8, 2014
This is an excellent movie, and one I will enjoy revisting in my collection. But its reproduction in this generation for Amazon is decidedly cheap. This is my first bad experience with Amazon's product and it comes after a recent stellar experience with a Criterion purchase of another favourite film, 12 Angry Men. (I now know everything I could ever want to know about that film and the artists behind it.) The "Special Features" here are very lame: a dry list of SOME of the characters and a selection of their resumes. Then, an option to turn on a commentary with Milos Forman and Michael Douglas which, once turned on - just by scrolling down to it - could only be turned off by removing the disc and re-inserting it. Also, within the Special Features, there is a clear indication that there SHOULD be another disc with additional, probably more impressive, ACTUAL special features. But there was no second disc in the package. I gave this two stars because the movie itself is so good. But this is not a worthwhile purchase from Amazon.
on June 18, 2004
Czech director Milos Forman has a fixation for America. Almost all his films, RAGTIME, MAN IN THE MOON, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLINT, focus on what he perceives as essential American qualities: its talent, its racism, its perversions, its freedoms, its inventiveness, and, in the case od ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, its strength of spirit. Jack Nicholson's McMurphy is a criminal, and Forman doesn't hide or sweeten this fact. It's his original sin, so to speak. But the world he is cast into is filled with darker sins: brutality, prejudice, ignorance, and inflexibility. McMurphy initially tries to serve just himself, but in his own way, he reaches out to the other inmates. Maybe not with the greatest of patience, he tries to inform the others that they are not crazy and that all is not lost. And he gives them some strengths that they didn't know they possessed
Phenomenal performances are all over the place: Nicholson will forever be inseparable from McMurphy, as Louise Fletcher will always be Nurse Ratched. But the supporting performances were equally stellar. Will Sampson as the sad-eyed hulk, Chief, was exceptional. But for my money, Brad Dourif's Billy Bibbit is the overlooked gem of a performance. He is the pathetic and forlorn stutterer who befriends McMurphy, and, perhaps for that reason, suffers the most. Dourif would turn in any equally powerful performance in Forman's later film, RAGTIME.
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is an unforgettable film that no film lover's collection can be without. This set, complete with lots of give-me's (I especially enjoyed "The Making of..." portion), is a value at any price.
on June 10, 2004
This movie is far more deserving of the Oscar Grand Slam than "The Silence of the Lambs".
The cast excels in their portrayal: Martini ogling the nude on the card McMurphy shows him, Cheswick shaking his head during the 'therapeutic' Harding-related talk or speaking out to Nurse Ratched (apt name, probably even more apt if spelt W-r-e-t-c-h-e-d) for his cigarettes, the dialogue between the male nurse and McMurphy when the latter is trying to teach the Chief basketball, the Chief's studied expression, McMurphy stirring up the ward while pretending to watch the World Series on a TV that is off, Harding getting picked on by Taber and Sefelt, Taber getting a burning cigarette in his trousers' cuff, the fishing trip with the doctors from the State Mental Institution, Turkle getting bribed into a fine mess, the secret bonding between McMurphy and Chief Bromden.... __SUPERB__ cast, story, pace.
The poignant end makes the movie itself therapeutic and all the more worthy of acclaim.
on February 9, 2004
It has taken me nearly 30 years to get round to watching this film, and I genuinely think I appreciate it more for being that much older. It has had accolades for everything -- plot, direction, filming, casting, acting. It deserves them all. It is nothing short of compulsive. The bad guy who has not lost his soul (much less his spirit) is pitted against the embodiment of sanctimonious righteousness who never had a soul to lose.
I wonder whether Nicholson has even yet had full recognition for the truly great actor he is (how many people have even seen The King of Marvin Gardens, for instance?) His screen presence is enormous, magnetic and menacing. He combines outsize testosteronic individuality with the ability to get inside a character, and an electric sense of threat with a real power to tug at the heart-strings. Bad he may be, but unsympathetic never. He is a very big little guy, but he is still the little guy against the system. It must be impossible, surely, to upstage that?
Incredibly, no. The ultimate star in a film that has no shortage of up-and-coming luminaries as well as Nicholson (D de Vito for one) is Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. I am never going to forget that mask-like expressionless face and that ever-rational, implacable, ever-modulated voice mouthing those soulless, uncomprehending, the-system-is-right banalities. Above all, I am never going to forget that hair. Among the many touches of genius in this production, that hairstyle is the ultimate. I simply could not take my eyes off it. The name is effective too, and I shall continue to believe until someone proves me wrong that it was an inspired borrowing from Jane Eyre -- the dreadful and sadistic Miss Skatcherd brought up to date and given a 20th-century twist.
This film is never going to become dated as long as these polarities continue to repel each other. I saw it at all only because my son showed it to me. It is relevant to my generation, it is relevant to his, and I can't foresee when it is not going to be relevant.
on February 1, 2004
Jack Nicholson was born to play this role, a rebel incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital who realizes he won't get out at the end of his 'jail sentence' because he was committed, i.e., he didn't enter voluntarily - so he's stuck there until the high mucky-mucks determine that he's "cured." Nicholson is not the kind of guy to play by the rules, not even to get out of this place, and the more he acts out against the cold attitude of the authorities (Nurse Ratched, in particular, whose name has become synonymous with cruel and implacable persons in authority), the more his fate is sealed.
This fantastic movie, which swept the 1976 Oscars in every main category, is based on Milos Forman's book of the same name. Like the book, the film is filled with memorable characters, and it's hard to believe that they're even acting. In many places, the movie takes on the feel of a documentary; it's that realistic and well-acted.
An iconic and classic movie that will last forever. Its themes are timeless and universal: one man's reaction (with courage, pride, stubbornness, and sacrifice) to a repressive institution .
Marvelous. Ten stars.
on July 17, 2003
I remember first viewing this superb movie on a wide-screen in 1975 while living in Utah, and the electrifying effect of the final few scenes on everyone in the theater audience. Many people were openly sobbing, including my better half, and even I have to admit to having a few misty moments myself. Indeed, the final few frames made us all want to stand up and shout in exclamation, so powerful was the series of images on the screen. My wife and I talked about it for weeks, and finally went back to see it again. There is no way around it folks, this is a fabulous film, a modern classic that no one in Hollywood had the chutzpah to bring to the screen despite the fact that both the original late Ken Kesey novel and the stage play adaptation were both runaway successes. In 1972 we saw Al Pacino play McMurphy in a wonderful stage production of the work, and was amazed both by the material and the acting.
The play had opened on Broadway to rave reviews, with Kirk Douglas playing the lead part. He stayed long enough to win a Tony as best actor for his performance, and promptly bought the movie rights and began plans to bring this cautionary allegory of modern society to the screen. For years he attempted to gain backing, but despite his box office appeal and hi sown reputation, was unable to convince anyone that he was the man to play McMurphy. Finally, he dropped the script and moved on to other projects, including his work in the tragically ignored performance in Elia's Kazan's "The Arrangement", which also deals with both cultural alienation and mental illness, as does OFOTCN. It wasn't, however, until Kirk's son Michael blew the dust off the manuscript of the screenplay and employed the legendary Milos Foreman to direct it, and also convinced Jack Nicholson to commit to the project that the Douglas family production team were able to bring the project to fruition.
Why go through all this history? Simply to show what a wonderful gift this film is for the movie-going public. Randall Patrick McMurphy, malingerer and petty career mal-content, believes he has discovered the perfect way to spend his latest sentence, avoiding the drudgery of prison by feigning mental illness to get assigned for diagnostic workup and possible treatment in a state mental institution, not realizing that the time spent there does not count toward his sentence. Thinking he has the perfect place to hide, he soon begins to realize the institution is in complete control of his time, energy, and consciousness. Given his inability to submit or conform, he is soon locked in the battle of his life for his self-control, his self-hood, and his very sanity. The setting is an allegory of what modern society is like, and how it imposes its priorities, its view of reality, and its demands for how we participate both within it as well as with each other. As we come to care about what happens to McMurphy and the whole zany crew of loveable loonies, we also recognize McMurphy is on a dangerous and unavoidable collision course with Big Nurse Ratched (played magnificently by Louise Fletcher).
The movie is supported by a stellar cast, including Danny DeVito, Will Sampson, Scatman Crothers, and Christopher Lloyd. The scenery is gorgeous, as the primitive and open landscape of the Oregon coastline provides a contrasting world of order and beauty to the hellhole the mental ward seems to be. A turning point in the movie comes when McMurphy discovers he is the only involuntary in-patient, the only one who cannot walk out by simply signing some forms and collecting his clothes. Nicholson's amazing facial turns of expression graphically show what he is so desperately feeling, the final glimpse of land by a man going down into the water for the last time! The script is by turns hilarious, literate, plausible, and totally devastating. This is a modern classic, and one you should certainly have in your DVD library. Enjoy!