To Kill A Mockingbird

WSR Score5
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Universal Studios Home Entertainment
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Not Rated
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-50)
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Black & White
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Not Indicated
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Robert Mulligan
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Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, DTS HD Lossless 5.1, DTS 2.0 Mono
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Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird received three Academy Awards®, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck's brilliant performance as the upstanding southern lawyer Atticus Finch. The film's nostalgic perspective and well-presented child's viewpoint of a racially charged rape trial during the 1930s struck a chord with audiences just as the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum in the early 1960s. As Finch strives to minimalize the traits of hatred and prejudice in his two small children (Badham and Alford), their lives are disrupted when he is assigned to defend Tom Robinson (Peters), a Negro farmworker accused of raping a white woman. Confronted by intimidating threats, increasing malice by the woman's bigoted father, Bob Ewell (Anderson), and a guilty verdict by the all-white jury, Finch's courtroom actions inflame the murderous wrath of Ewell—a vengeance that places his children's lives in danger. (Gary Reber)

Special featurettes include commentary with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula, the documentary Fearful Symmetry (SD 90:13), a conversation with Gregory Peck featured in a documentary (SD 07:37), the Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech (SD 01:31), the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award (SD 1:01), an excerpt from A Tribute To Gregory Peck (SD 10:09), Scout Remembers (SD 12:01), the theatrical trailer, the 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics featurette (HD 09:13), BD-Live functionality, and a digital copy—packaged in a hardcover 44-page book featuring exclusive movie memorabilia, including script pages with Gregory Peck's handwritten notes, storyboards, poster art and much more.

First reviewed on LaserDisc and DVD in Issue 30, the black-and-white imagery was impressive. The picture was bettered on the anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 DVD reviewed in Issue 101. The gray scale was improved and images were sharp and detailed. Still, some dirt, film grain, and minor scratches were noticed in the source element, but nothing that was too much of a distraction. This newly restored 50th anniversary edition has been digitally remastered and fully restored from a high-resolution 35 mm original film element. The picture appears very filmic and has never looked better, with greater detail and well-balanced gray scale, with a slight grain structure at its foundation. This is definitely the reference release for this classic. (Gary Reber)

The release in Issue 30 had an undistinguished monaural soundtrack. Issue 101's DVD release included new Dolby® Digital and DTS® Digital Surround™ 5.1-channel soundtracks, in addition to the original Dolby 2.0 mono track. Both multichannel soundtracks really showed how a classic soundtrack can be restored, as background hiss and distortion was cleaned up well, and the dialogue tonality sounded pretty good, very good considering the original master's age. The low end of the frequency spectrum was all but ignored, which hurt the tonality of Gregory Peck's voice. The mix was enjoyable, complete with split surrounds and a front stereo spread that creates a pleasing stage for on-screen action. The DTS track added a small enhancement in fine detail, but the downfalls of the presentation could still be heard. Coming from such an old mono track, this really was a standout presentation. The newly remastered DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack is clean and full sounding with a rich, deep bass foundation that sounds natural. The music score is nicely presented with good, though dated, fidelity. Dialogue is integrated spatially and always engaging. The soundtrack perfectly supports the dialogue-focused storytelling and is the best that the soundtrack has ever sounded. (Gary Reber)