To Kill a Mockingbird - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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To Kill a Mockingbird


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Movie: :5stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:



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Movie

It’s almost impossible to think that someone over the age of 20 years old hasn’t heard of To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee Harper’s novel of the same name has been a staple of grade school literature for the better part of 50 years, and the 1962 movie has been used in film classes and classic video critiques for nearly as long. It was one of the biggest movies of 1962 during the start of the civil rights era, and a HUGE box office hit for Universal Studios. I used to watch the film growing up during the 90s as my parents were very quiet and conservative back then, meaning my film introduction was on black and white classics that were deemed “safe”. However it wasn’t until my mid 20s when I revisited the film back in my DVD collecting days that I actually gained a much strong appreciation for the film, recognizing it for the slow paced genius that it was. I immediately bought the 2012 digibook edition on Blu-ray, and eagerly waited nearly a decade for Universal to release it in 4K, and much to my happiness, it’s every bit as glorious as we could have hoped for.

Back in 1960 Harper Lee was a nobody when she penned “To Kill a Mockingbird” (her one and only book every published), and never expected it to literally take our nation by storm as it did. She was a childhood friend of Truman Capote (who was also her neighbor) and encouraged by the prolific writer to pen her thoughts on race relations down. Well, even though her own publisher told her that the book would probably not amount to much, Lee became an overnight sensation as the quiet drama about an Alabama lawyer defending a wrongfully accused black man was soon sold out everywhere. It was such an immense and sudden hit that Universal quickly bought up the rights to the film process, and in two years from release put out heart throb Gregory Peck as the lead character.

Amusingly enough, the film adaptation became just as massive of a hit as the book, and literally took Hollywood by storm with best actor and best film nominations. Ironically, director Robert Mulligan wasn’t exactly a household name at the time either. He was a veritable nobody that producer Alan Pakula took a chance on, and it paid out marvelously. His slow paced and quiet approach to film making turned out to be the perfect tone for the film adaptation, and the casting of Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in the two lead adult roles was spot on. Thee rest is history with a film that has spanned 60 years without being any less relevant now as it did over half a century ago, and manages to awe and inspire the audience with some incredible performances.

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The story is told over the course of several months through the eyes of Atticus Finch’s (Gregory Peck) two children Jem (Phillip Alford) and “Scout” (Mary Badham) during the summer of 1962. Scout is a precocious tomboy without a filter on her mouth, and Jem is her spicy older brother who just wants to make mischief and play baseball (and of course ticked off that his father won’t buy him a gun). This summer turns out to be a growing experience for the two, as they’re witness to their father taking on an unpopular case in town. A wounded black man by the name of Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) is accused of raping a woman in town, and is up on trial. The scary part is, that it’s not just a black man accused of a heinous crime in early 1960s Alabama, but that he’s accused of raping a white woman, which is basically a death sentence for the poor man. Despite the unpopular opinion, Atticus decides to take the case and defend Tom against what is probably one of the most obvious hatchet jobs of that time.

While it may seem like that To Kill a Mockingbird is some incredibly over the top drama like La Amistad or other courtroom dramas like A Time to Kill (which actually shares a comparatively similar theme to To Kill a Mockingbird) it’s actually extremely low key, with the main focus actually being on the growth and perecption of the children, with the court room trial just being one piece of the puzzle. In fact the first 45 minutes or so are simply a story of Jem and Scout playing around town and listening to their father give them advice about how to deal with people. It’s not till about the 55 minute mark that we actually get to the trial itself. And this is the sheer genius of the film. EVERYTHING you see (if you pay attention) is told through the eyes of Jem and Scout. Everything that the audience is privy to is only privy is the two children know it, yet we’re allowed to watch their ignorance play out and view everything from the outside. To them their father is just another man, but to the audience we get to see how he pours his heart and soul into the trial and does his best to free a wrongfully accused man. But don’t get distracted by Atticus, he’s an amazing man, but the narrative theme of wrong and right is really the main focus. It’s a very carefully woven story about ethics, morality, and standing up for what is RIGHT, even when it’s easier to stand aside and let someone else handle it. Plus the focus of the story being on the growth of Jem and Scout as they actually LEARN those immutable code of ethics over the story is absolutely fascinating to watch.




Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :4.5stars:
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The 4K UHD disc sports a transfer from the same 4K remaster that the old Blu-ray release stems from, and it looks quite fantastic. There is plenty of textural details and fine nuances that make the 4K UHD a much better disc than the old Blu-ray. I’ve noticed that black and white films seem to show some rather marked improvements compared to colored films, and this is no exception. The inkier blacks really make the image pop, with high yield film grain and a lovely texture to the image. There’s not going to be any color saturation levels (duh), but it’s a very crisp and clean image that is near impeccable. I only noticed a few moments where black crush came into play (such as during the assault at the end), and the boosted resolution really shines in daylight scenes. The HDR application is judicious and mild, but certainly deepens the blacks to the point where I was marveling at just how amazingly inky and revealing they were. Depth is strong, with good white levels and clearly defined facial tones. I see no evidence of any major speckles or print damage either. All in all, an exquisite looking 4K UHD disc.






Audio: :4stars:
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Since the film was originally a 2.0 Mono track and given a 5.1 mix for the DVD and Blu-ray, I’m actually kind of glad they didn’t try to re-encode for DTS:X or Atmos. It’s a perfectly fine 5.1 track that really doesn’t even stretch the limitations of the format, so no need for something even more overkill. The track is fairly good, with spot on dialog and well placed fronts. The surrounds are actually VERY limited in range as they’re mostly a 3 channel track, and the LFE channel is nearly non existent. It’s still got some moderate surround activity with the court room and Atticus pulling up to shoot the rabid dog, but overall it’s a fairly quite and dialog heavy movie that doesn’t need to be massively immersive.





Extras: :4.5stars:
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• NEW! To Kill a Mockingbird: All Points of View (2160p, 25:06): A terrific, newly crafted piece which explores the original novel, the story's timeless message, its cinematic legacy, cast and performances, the film's narrative complexity and applicability, and much more.
• Fearful Symmetry
• A Conversation with Gregory Peck
• Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech
• American Film Institute Life Achievement Award
• Excerpt from Tribute to Gregory Peck
• Scout Remembers
• Theatrical Trailer
• 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
• Audio Commentary: Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula.









Final Score: :4.5stars:


It’s not hard to extrapolate that I absolutely adore To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s one of the most powerful films of our generation and impeccably acted. I’ve watched the film so many times that I can’t even count. My Blu-ray was my one of my favorite discs in my entire collection and I actually framed it in a protective case so that the digibook wasn’t marred. I can happily say that I’ve replaced that set with this new 4K UHD disc, as it’s visual quality is stunning and the black and white art cover is phenomenal. I can’t recommend the film enough and the 4K UHD is one of my highest rated packages of the year. Must Own in my opinion.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Brock Peters, Robert Duvall, Mary Badham, Richard Hale, Phillip Alford
Directed by: Robert Mulligan
Written by: Harper Lee (Novel), Horton Foote (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85.1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, Spanish, French DTS 2.0 Mono, Italian, Czech, Japanese DTS Mono
Studio: Universal
Rated: NR
Runtime: 129 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 11th, 2022

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Recommendation: Great Buy

 
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tripplej

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Thanks for the review, a great book and of course a great movie.

Hard to believe the book has been on banned lists over the years at various city, county and state levels as well as school districts.

In fact, even in 2022, the Burbank (CA) Unified School District superintendent removed this title from required classroom reading lists.

For me personally, the book was required reading in 7th grade and I have a copy of the book and movie in various forms to see over and over again.
 
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mechman

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Loved this movie back in the day!
 
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