on May 13, 2004
Okay, it might feel slow and it can seem dull, but this movie has a heart and soul like almost no other. Life in a pre-Civil Rights Era, deep South town is not exactly an amusement park experience. Children live in the moment, and that's where perspective resides in this story. It's only later that meaning, lessons, and heartache are really processed (narrator provides the nostalgic adult view). Scout is self absorbed like children are, her older brother Jem longs for manhood, and every adult in town seems to realize their father, Atticus Finch, is a uniquely dedicated man. Story is immensely simple, echoing languid mood of a small town, pre-television, pre-suburban isolation, and very much in the midst of ignorance and prejudice. Racism is the issue that stands out in the end, but story is more an exploration of a time and place that most of us will never--and might never hope to--know. What action exists is observed by a mysterious neighbor and a stoic dad (who just might be the good guys). Don't be fooled by the pace; there are joys and hopes to be found in this small Alabama town.
Collector's Edition DVD includes Fearful Symmetry, a wonderfully illuminating documentary about the making of the film and the basis for its story and characters. It starts slow but the messages (some rathy wordy) are poignant. Narration includes many quotes from the book, details that are left out of the movie in effort to translate to screen. For anyone unsure of the value of movie and its story, this feature-length documentary is a wonderful introduction or alternative.
on June 14, 2010
Not that anyone could touch the Harper Lee novel, but the movie version--which was pretty much rushed to the big screen within about a year of the release of the book--stands up pretty well.
The choice of black and white format is a good one, obviously, even if this may seem a bit heavy-handed in its symbolism for some.
Gregory Peck is so perfect as Atticus that you will have a hard time trying to remember what else he could possibly look like. Jem and Scout work well too. Whatever happened to the child actors who played them? Who knows? Perhaps it's just as well; they can be Jem and Scout forever. Too bad about the casting for Dill, but you can't have everything, obviously.
Speaking of which, the clipping of the novel by Horton Foote is painful but necessary, considering it would otherwise be longer than The Return of the King, but I do wish that there were more scenes to savor. That's what the novel is for, I suppose.
Things not to love: the music for the scene in which Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout. Totally wrong. You might expect Thumper to emerge from the trees (trees? what trees?) but certainly not white trash Mister Ewell. Also, the melodramatics with the hands clutching and grasping at nothing in the same scene are really way over the top. If you are trying to go for drama, don't elicit a laugh. That's just deadly.
Another laugh arrives at what should be the most touching moment of the movie: Scout's recognition of Boo Radley. Unfortunately, it's blocked so Robert Duvall's Boo is literally hidden behind the bedroom door and he emerges like Freddy Krueger. Not very touching at all. Sorry.
But really, all the way around, weighing the flaws against the moments of brilliance, the movie comes out a winner and should be viewed as a separate text from the novel, against which no movie could ever be successfully compared.
on August 20, 2003
Mockingbird killing revisited
Some classic movies remain relevant long after the era they portrayed passed into memory. Some should be left untouched. Except for the acting of Gregory Peck and Brock Peters, the movie version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird seems like a slow moving story going at 33 rpm in a world that's on warp speed 40 years after the movies release.
The movie set in Black and White cinematography moves slowly with its plot introducing all the characters especially the children in little vignettes. Yet for a movie about the mistreatment of African-Americans in the 1930's rural south, there is little exposition about the key figure, Tom Robinson, the man accused of rape by a spinster white women or the lives Blacks lived in that era.
The movie glorified the courage of Atticus Finch, played stoically by Peck, who took to the unsuccessful defense of Robinson, who dies off-screen, much as the activities of the blacks in this movie are used to highlight Finch's lack of prejudice. Where the Whites in the movie are portrayed in shades of gray from unrelenting bigotry to middling tolerance, all the black characters are presented as noble savages with great dignity and idol-like appreciation for the attorney's defense. 40 years ago there was a lump in my throat, when the Black community seated in the balcony of the courthouse, stood silently to honour attorney Finch, now there was a look to my watch to see when this tale would come to an end.
Some parts of this drama still work, the attack on Finch's children by the wronged spinster's father and defense by recluse Boo Radley played by Robert Duvall, still works well as well as the sheriff's(played by Frank Overton) failure to prosecute Radley. However, even that ending is marred by the reverential liberalism that the racists death cancels out Tom Robinson's. But every black character even the Finch maid and nanny, Calpurnia, is shown with respect and anonymity. Its as if the movie's creative team were afraid to show three dimensional African American life, proving once again in the words of Nat "King" Cole, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark."
Joseph B. Rosenberg
on February 6, 2002
When a lawyer (Gregory Peck in a Oscar Winning Role) is defeding a African American Man (Brock Peters) is accused of Rape. While the Two Children (Mary Badham & Philip Alford) are fascinated and afaird of a man named Arthur Radley, better known as Boo (Robert Duvall).
This film is Based on a Novel by Harper Lee`s Best Selling Novel. Directed by Robert Mulligan and Produced by the late:Alan J. Pakula. This film is about family, color of race, truth and redemption. The Film also Win an Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also Nominated for Best Supporting Actress:Mary Badham, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Score and Best Picture. A well made drama. DVD has an fine non-anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) transfer and an clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Sound. DVD Extras are:An fine running Commentary Track by Director:Mulligan and Producer:Pakula. A 80 Minute Documentary, Tralier, and Production Notes. This film is leisurely Paced, flavorful film to others. Grade:A-.
on March 22, 2001
This wonderful adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel is a film of great dignity, a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. It effectively conveys the leisurely Southern summers and Tom Sawyerish feel of Lee's youth. Drawing parallels between the fears of children and adults, the movie shows us that we don't necessarily grow up when we reach adulthood. In the end, those of us who do mature find that there is often beauty on the other side of that mysterious door; and "To Kill A Mockingbird" shows us some of the possibilities.
Relying on the acting talents of several children doesn't hamper the picture's effectiveness one bit. On the contrary, it's one of the film's surprising strengths. Mary Badham as "Scout" and Phillip Alford as "Jem" are utterly convincing as the children that many of us got to know in school. Gregory Peck won a well-deserved Oscar for his depiction of "Atticus Finch"; his role is portrayed with profound character, and gives one the impression of the highest integrity. Peck's closing argument to the jury is riveting, and is a stellar example of on-screen presense. There is inspiration and hope to be found here, a transcendence of time that few films can match.
The collector's edition DVD is excellent. Besides providing lovers of this work with a clean, sharp video transfer, we are treated to a beautiful "making of" documentary and given a decent director's commentary. Also included are several "standard" amenities: production notes, cast and filmmakers, language options, and a theatrical trailer. The sound quality is rather wanting, but it does the job. In all, this DVD is sure to please fans of this American treasure.
on April 16, 2001
When we read To Kill A Mockingbird in English I last year, I found it to be terrible. However, maybe it was because I was being forced to read it and I hate being told what to do. Maybe it was just Harper Lee's style of writing. Maybe if I read it again after seeing the movie I would appreciate it. Or maybe I really do just hate it. But the movie is incredible. Gregory Peck's Atticus is completely admirable, and Scout & Boo Radley are two of the most innocent and adorable characters. They're a trip, especially Scout! The trial scene is absolutely moving and makes you want to stand up against the injustices of the world, and the scenes with hate crimes can be downright scary. If you're like me and hated reading the book, RENT THE MOVIE. It won't dissapoint.
on December 27, 2001
Excellent movie. I got the movie because my son had to watch it for his English class. He said the movie was just like the book, and he could follow it quite well. The characters were well drawn out. The courtroom scene was wonderful and showed the great skill of Gregory Peck as an actor. It also showed how the South used to be (and can still sometimes be.) I thought Scout was a wonderful character and how much she loved her father and her brother, Jem. She knew the difference between right and wrong but didn't understand the "class" that separated her family from the other families in town. Even though a wrong was done, eventually it was righted in the most extraordinary way.
on March 18, 2000
Gregory Peck, Mary Badham and Phillip Alford gives strong performances in this film. To some this film look like another court room drama but am surprise it`s not. It`s only haves one court room scene. Also this film tells in a children`s point of view, is very intersting to the film. The movie is uneven at the times, even at the court room scene. Thanks to the three leads make the film great. Is only the end of the film-Robert Duvall appears in the last five minutes of the film.
DVD`s has an fine non-anamorphic Widescreen(1.85:1) transer and an Clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Grade:A.
on September 9, 2001
I had loved the book of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and we were made to watch this film in English class. I found it very touching, owing to all the performances of the actors, particularly that of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. The Tom Robinson trial was handed with sensitivity, as was the reclusive Boo Radley. The moral messages still came through as strong as the novel, and though some essential parts were left out, it still was an exceptional film that tugged at the heartstrings and left a satisfied taste in the mouth.
on February 19, 2002
This is one of my favorite movies. I love the great preformeces by all the actors. It is a great follow up to the book or you can say it is a wonderful court-room drama, a picture about the old south, and a coming of age story. While I love this movie there isn't much else on the dvd only a making off. I would love to see a bit more. However it is great piece of any movie collection.