Do you know who the American Film Institute listed as the #1 film hero of all time? Was it Superman? Maybe Luke Skywalker? How about Indiana Jones? Nope. None of them. It was Atticus Finch. If you know who he is, then you're a true old school film fan (you might even have read classic a book or two). If not, then it's time to get educated. In the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird, legendary actor Gregory Peck portrays Atticus Finch, a southern lawyer and widowed father of two, raising his children in a small Alabama town when he becomes involved in defending a black man accused of a crime he didn't commit. This timeless tale of honor, fairness, racial tolerance, and justice is Peck's most iconic performance and stands as one of the greatest films of all time. How Hollywood has resisted the temptation to remake this classic is beyond me. Of course, it might have something to do with even coming close to Gregory Peck's performance, one that many close to him considered having less to do with acting and more to do with a man simply distilling his own moral and ethical beliefs through the guise of his character. To many who knew the man, Atticus Finch and Gregory Peck are one in the same.
There not many films that deserve a high definition upgrade, but when it comes to classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, there should be no hesitation. Universal has digitally remastered and fully restored the film for its 50th birthday, making it pristine both in picture and sound. They even through in 3 and a half hours of bonus material, including footage of the actor receiving his Oscar for best actor in To Kill a Mockingbird and his acceptance speech for the AFI Lifetime Achievement award. There are interviews with actress Mary Badham, who played Scout in the film, and recollections from his daughter at the Tribute to Gregory Peck that took place after he died in 2003. And if you’re a fan of Peck or Mockingbird, the feature length documentary, Fearful Symmetry, on the making of the film and a Conversation with Gregory Peck are not to be missed.
One other item that I have to mention that is not directly associated with the film itself is a feature on Universal’s efforts to restore their massive classic film library, improving both picture and sound quality, so that these treasures will not be lost to the ravages of time. From To Kill a Mockingbird to Dracula to Jaws and hundreds more, the caretakers of Universal’s film library go over the painstaking steps they take to keep these classics alive. I’m sure it’s going to appear on all of their Universal 100th Anniversary releases, but I’m mentioning it now as it’s the first I’ve seen it. If you’re a movie buff, especially when it comes to behind-the-scenes stuff and classic film preservation, this is definitely worth checking out.
Honestly, while quiet at times and riveting at others, this movie would probably bore some kids to death today, but it’s the type of movie schools should be showing students on those days that they decide to not teach (Too many kids are coming home with stories of seeing Cars 2 instead of learning something – no offense to Pixar). This is the type of film that would open their eyes to an era we hope is long gone, but should also be seen and understood so that it stays gone. And while there isn’t much on this DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Copy combo set that adds to the educational aspect (yes, I know, even mentioning the educational impact makes it sound boring), it’s the film itself that needs to be seen by every man, woman, and child for that very reason. That said, I’m really not sure why the movie required a Digital Copy version, but I suppose it’s the thing to do these days. I just can’t imagine someone clutching their iPod on the bus to watch and rewatch To Kill a Mockingbird. However, if they have the means to digitally present it on their home big screen tv, then that’s definitely the better option. Mockingbird is meant to be savored in a big moviehouse with a packed audience of equally enthralled movie lovers. And, if possible, at home curled up on the couch with your family. This 50th Anniversary Edition goes a long way to making that possible, breathing new life into a still very relevant American classic for everyone to enjoy…
To Kill a Mockingbird is available online and in stores on January 31st from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.