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 July 18, 2004
Before 1975 we had great violent epics like "The Godfather", "Mean Streets", and "Easy Rider". but later in 1975, director Milos Forman took a challenge on directing the famous novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". hiring top-notch actors, including the up and rising star Jack Nicolsin. With his amazing debut in Easy Rider, Milos Forman thought he would be the perfect person for this role. this incredible movie shocked the world. even better than the novel, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is easily one of the greatest films of all-time.
this movie has the stuff. memorable characters, amazing acting, hilarious jokes, shocking moments, and an ending to always be remembered till the day you die. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest easily has the most memorable ending to a film ever. enough talk of this incredible movie, as for the stuff on the special edition... its also great. with a whole extra disk of extras, deleted scenes, and a whole bunch more. I have tons of DVDs and this is easily one of the best purchases I've bought. No, not just because of the movie but the extra stuff on the DVD.
the Two-disk special edition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a great update to a great movie. by all means, you must have this in your collection.
on June 30, 2004
Ken Kesey's brilliant novel is perfectly adapted to the screen and expertly directed by Milos Forman. Within these friendly confines Jack Nicholson gave the performance by which I measure all his others. Randall Patrick McMurphy is a rebel. He's anti-establishment. He likes women and to have a drink and to watch baseball. In some ways he represents the absolute worst of men, yet at the same time he also represents much of the best in men, and at ALL times he is definitely a "man's man".
He has been sent to prison for statutory rape, but he's not particularly remorseful about it because the girl looked and acted older and wanted it. We should be appalled by McMurphy's attitude, yet Nicholson plays him pretty much the way Kesey wrote him, and we sympathize with him.
McMurphy has earned a trip to the state mental hospital by acting "a little nuts" and you recognize by watching that McMurphy is the kind of guy who would not hesitate to "act a little nuts" to get off of the hard manual labor of a state pen chain-gang. But at this mental hospital McMurphy runs up against his worst nightmare: Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched.
Louise Fletcher earned her best actress Oscar in one of the most methodically unsympathetic roles in silver screen history. Nurse Ratched pretends to have the best interests of the patients in mind, yet she is obviously subtly manipulating not only the patients, but also the remainder of the hospital staff to maintain an iron rod of control over her little corner of the universe. Crossing Nurse Ratched is a certain path to disaster for those who are in her sphere.
McMurphy and Ratched cross swords over and over. It could have become boring or depressing, but we are entertained repeatedly by McMurphy's ingenious or bravura attempts to one-up Nurse Ratched. Yet SHE is the one who has the power in this universe, and I could only marvel at her as she cold-heartedly crushes the life from McMurphy and the other patients.
If ever Academy Awards were given out for "Best Supporting Cast", this one would have taken that one as well.
A film for the ages.
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 May 2, 2004
Strong contender for best film ever, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is probably Jack's best role (won Oscar). However, the strength of the movie is in the supporting characters, including Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher.
There are many good films where you might skip a scene or two to get to the "good" part. Not so, here. Every scene is riveting.
The role of Will Sampson as "Chief", the big indian, was reduced in size from that in the book, but nevertheless, provides the axis of the movie, and the heart-breaking last scene (almost not included).
I remember this was shown on broadcast TV (amazingly enough) with a warning about the high level of swearing. Golly!
The DVD for this top-5 oscar-winning movie includes a commentary by director Milos Forman and producer Michael Douglas, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, etc. You too can find out what "instruments" were used to make the beautiful score.
If you have not seen the movie, you have missed a great one.