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HTF Blu-Ray Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist


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Posted July 16 2008 - 10:07 AM

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Warner Home Video
Rated: R
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1; Dolby Digital 1.0: French, Spanish, German, Italian.
Subtitles: 13 different subtitle options.
Time: 133 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray disc.
Case Style: Booklet
Theatrical Release Date: 1975
Blu Ray Release Date: July 18, 2008

R. P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) has been ordered into the local psychiatric hospital from prison to undergo evaluation to determine if he truly has mental problems or if he is simply a behavioral problem. Once McMurphy gets into the hospital, he meets the other patients and he quickly tries to make light of his situation by his constant joking and flaunting of authority. The authority in this case is the stern Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) who views McMurphy as a special case that only she may be able to tame. McMurphy inserts himself into the group of crazies (played by Brad Dourif, Danny Devito and Vincent Schiavelli among others) and tries to confuse just who is crazy and who is not. The impish actions McMurphy takes ultimately seems to do as much harm as it does good, and his challenging nature may not be enough to change the prevailing authority.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the last great counter-cultural pictures that may have signaled the end of that generation, the one that came angrily, with fist upraised, from the 60’s. McMurphy signifies an archetype of the rebel who fights the world, the one who constantly picks at the flaws in society to not only upset the status quo but improve his own state as well. Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched, a model for how to play (or be) a stone cold bitch stands on par with Nicholson’s equally dyed in the wool trickster persona, leaving me to wonder who was the true star of the picture. Then you have the direction of Milos Forman and the screenplay by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben factored in to make this a multi-faceted threat to cinema and society alike. Seeing how the patients are treated in the movie in comparison to how they are treated now may make even the most conservative of viewers stray a bit left. By the time McMurphy has gotten his cause almost to the point of winning, those who support him realize they like their comfort zones regardless of the potential for a better way. Once Ratched sees the destruction McMurphy causes, her subsequent decision on how to deal with one patient, and its devastating outcome, both positions re-evaluate and reconfigure the playing field, getting nowhere in the process. The final scene and shot in the movie give us a clue as to who may have actually won in the end.

This picture took the world by storm upon its release in 1975. Adapted from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel of the same name, the original stage play (starring in and funded by Kirk Douglas, whose son Michael later went on to produce the movie) did middling box office and it closed after five months. The book and the limited stage release may have left readers, theater goers and society in general unprepared for such material and unready to even consider such radical thoughts and actions. While I cite 1975 as being on the end of the societal revolution instigated by the mid- 60’s, Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest could be seen as a call to arms for the agents of change in society. The movie may be the dénouement and last words of those who supported such change, leaving this story to neatly bookend a changing society.

This release is in Warner’s “book format” disc cases. It’s basically, just that, a regular size disc package that is a hardcover book containing a 36 page booklet with information on the film, the cast, the film makers and more.

Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is in the VC-1 codec presented at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There is not a trace of dirt or debris to be found. Color fidelity is good showing distinct differences between each of the actors skin tones. The indoor sets of the hospital look suitably drab, with the stark white outfits of Nurse Ratched and the orderlies standing out against the dinginess of the walls. The outdoor scenes seem to have a softer focus, but that appears to be more of a stylistic choice on the part of the film makers. The indoor scenes and close-ups show excellent detail and sharpness, the latter just slightly dull reminding us this is indeed film. I was disappointed in the black levels as they come off more as dark gray, leaving the image a little flat and without any depth or detail. I did not notice any edge enhancement or video noise.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Sony Playstation 3 to the Denon 3808CI.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack utilizes only the front channels and there was literally no surround information. The movie itself really doesn’t need 5.1 channels, nor does it really care if it has it. I found it surprising there was no English 1.0 track when there is a selection of other language mono tracks. LFE was not noticed either. What we are provided with is clear and free from any debris or hiss.

Bonus Material: all of these pieces are in SD.

Commentary by Director Milos Forman and Producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz: The three trade off their comments with minor pauses in between. It is a great commentary that allows Forman to delve not only into the story, but film making in general. Douglas goes through the events that transpired to get the movie started and through production. As good as the next piece is, this goes into detail on a lot of what’s mentioned there.

The Making of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (47:19): this is a pretty good piece on the origins of the play and movie, with interviews with Kirk and Michael Douglas, Saul Zaentz, Forman and members of the cast. There are behind the scenes shots and the actors go into some depth on their characters. Nicholson does not contribute, unfortunately. This doc was made in 2002.

Deleted Scenes: Approximately twelve minutes of deleted scenes. Most everything shown here was covered in other ways in the feature. These scenes aren’t in the best condition with a lot of film dirt and debris marring the image.


A counter-cultural manifesto comes to life stunningly in this story and picture. It is no wonder why five Academy Awards were earned by those involved. Outside of a great feature commentary by Forman, Douglas and Zaentz, the Blu-Ray itself is good but not great, but still a very worthy addition to your cinematic library.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted July 17 2008 - 03:40 AM

There is actually dirt and negative density throughout the film.

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   RobertR


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Posted July 17 2008 - 04:41 AM

These days, one must ask how fine detail and film grain is handled. Is it scrubbed away, or is it intact?

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted July 17 2008 - 08:22 AM

The grain is intact. In fact, this is a VERY grainy film.

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted July 17 2008 - 09:00 AM

"...it's medication time..." I'm picking up a copy when I see it for a few dollars less, hopefully, in the next few weeks.
Rachael, the big disc cat is in real life Dot Mongur, Champion of the International Pacman Federation. You better be ready to rumble if you play Jr. Pacman with me. This is full contact Pacman and I don't just play the game, I operate it!

#6 of 6 ONLINE   Bryan^H



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Posted July 17 2008 - 09:07 AM

Even though I love the movie, I've never owned this on dvd before. Glad I waited.

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"She always does that, she just wanders away"




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