One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: 35th Anniversary Ultimate Collectors Edition
Directed By: Milos Forman
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif, William Redfield, Will Sampson, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Sydney Lassick
| Studio: Warner Bros |
Film Length: 134 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, German SDH, Italian SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Spanish (Castellano), Portuguese (Brazil), Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish
Release Date: September 14, 2010
With this release, Warner gives arguably the best 1970s film in their library the super-deluxe "Ultimate Collectors Edition" Blu-ray treatment. Unlike some previous UCE's, they have not simply repackaged the existing Blu-ray release of the film in a prettier box with physical extras. They have also increased and improved the on-disc extras, creating something of a dilemma for fans who already purchased the previous Blu-ray released only two years ago.
The Film *****One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a cinematic adaptation of Ken Kesey's celebrated first novel of the same name. Jack Nicholson plays Randall P. McMurphy, a hell-raiser convicted of statutory rape who attempts to ease his incarceration period by convincing the justice system that he is mentally ill. He is sent to a state hospital where, after an initial period of adjustment, his free-spirited nature begins to win over his fellow psychiatric patients. This ultimately puts him in the passive aggressive crosshairs of Nurse Ratched (Fletcher), who is used to dominating the other patients and resents the way McMurphy is constantly undermining her authority both through overt acts of rebellion at her attempts to wield her arbitrary power and indirectly through his swaying of the hearts and minds of the previously cowed patients.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is about as close to a universally revered example of 1970s cinema as exists aside from Coppola's first two Godfather films, and I am certainly no contrarion in this regard. It deserved every accolade it received inclusive of an Oscar sweep in acting, writing, directing, and producing categories. The clever adaptation of Kesey's novel by screenwriters Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman reworks the novel in visual terms, and works effectively on a literal level as an indictment of the mental health care system circa the time the film is set, on a metaphorical level as a parable of the human spirit, on an allegorical level as a tale of an individuals struggle against "the system", and as an empathetic character study.
The movie is perfectly cast with many of the lead and supporting actors giving career-defining performances. Jack Nicholson's professional reputation was approaching its zenith coming into the project with four Oscar nominations to his credit including consecutive nominations in the previous two years. The part of R. P. McMurphy would not only result in his first Oscar win, but it would cement his devilish rebel movie star persona, which was arguably first established with 1973's The Last Detail, permanently in the hearts and minds of the public. The charismatic hell-raiser with the impish grin on-screen would become inseparable from the off-screen Nicholson, looming to a greater or lesser degree over every subsequent role he has played. Louise Fletcher's turn as Nurse Ratched is no less impressive. Her personification of peremptory authority takes a character that existed primarily as an abstract concept in the source novel, completely humanizes her, and yet in no way undermines her effectiveness as an antagonist or an allegoric symbolic. At no point in Fletcher's performance does one get the impression that Nurse Ratched believes that she is motivated by anything but the best interests of her patients. Her absolute belief in the nobility of her purpose deepens the sense of tragedy when the unacknowledged pride and jealousy that motivates her takes a destructive turn.
Director Milos Forman cleverly filled out the supporting cast with actors with distinct physical appearances, which helps tremendously in a film where most of the cast is wearing a wardrobe consisting of hospital-issued convalescent pajamas. Forman also draws universally outstanding work from his actors who give nuanced performance that are every bit as "in the moment" when they are reacting as when they are speaking. Forman reportedly ran into friction with cinematographer Haskell Wexler because the multi-camera techniques he used to shoot scenes (especially the group therapy sessions) would not allow him to do his normal deliberate lighting set-ups. The film is probably a few percent less pretty than it could have been, but it is hard to argue with the results on screen.
The Video ****The VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer of the film approximates the film's original aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. While not the most visually beautiful film simply because of the way it was shot, I could not imagine it looking much better on home video than it does with this release. Because of the previously discussed lighting challenges with the multi/moving-camera set-ups, this is a rare film where the exteriors actually look more professionally shot and "controlled" than the interiors. Overall, it has a very natural film-like appearance with only minimal signs of element wear and tear and no obvious signs of digital manipulation.
The Audio ***As with the previous Blu-ray release, sound is courtesy of a 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Truth be told, there is so little activity in the surround and LFE channels that it is effectively more like a 3.0 track with almost all activity occuring across the front three channels with centered dialog and some stereo spread to sound effects and the film's unusual and effective musical score. As lossy Dolby Digital tracks go, fidelity is outstanding as one would hope from a digital rendering of a well-recorded and mixed magnetic track. The lack of actvity in the surround channels likely improved the overall fidelity since the codec could dynamically allocate more bits to channels in use. Alternate language mono dubs are available in French, German, Italian, Spanish (Castellano), Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Thai, and Turkish.
The Extras ****½Video-based extras are presented in VC-1 encoded standard definition video and all extras are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio unless otherwise indicated.
First up is an Audio Commentary from Director Milos Forman and Producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Dougkas.
Completely Cuckoo (4:3 video - 1:26:19) is the feature-length documentary directed by Charles Kiselyak about the making of the film. A version of this documentary abridged by 40 minutes appeared on previous DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film. This is the first appearance of the documentary in its full-length form since it originally appeared on the 1997 special edition laserdisc. The documentary is a wonderfully thorough look at the film and the book from which it was adapted. It is a must see for fans of either since Kiselyak is the only film scholar to ever secure the direct cooperation of Author Ken Kesey as well as the filmmakers for the same project. Beginning with an account of how Kesey came to write the novel, it then traces the adaptation of the novel into a Broadway play starring Kirk Douglas followed by the circumstances surrounding the unexpectedly tortuous path it took to becoming a feature film which was ultimately accomplished by Producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz with Director Milos Forman. The documentary is not just a happy people telling happy stories puff piece, and it does not shy away from covering topics such as the falling out between Kesey and the filmmakers from the perspectives of all parties. The film goes on to cover the film's pre-production, casting, active production, post production, and popular and critical reception. Talking head interviews are interspersed with film clips, archival behind the scenes stills and footage including on-set interviews, excerpts from deleted scenes, and vintage clips such as Academy Award footage.
Participants interviewed for the documentary include Dr. Dean Brooks (Dr. Spivey), Danny DeVito(Martini), Actor Kirk Douglas, Producer Michael Douglas, Louise Fletcher(Nurse Ratched), Director Milos Forman, Screenwriter Bo Goldman, Author Ken Kesey, Mel Lambert(Harbor Master), Christopher Lloyd (Taber), Vincent Schiavelli (Fredrickson), Assistant Director Irby Smith, and Producer Saul Zaentz. Many of the above also appear in archival interviews from the film's set. The on-set archival interviews also include comments from Sydney Lassick (Cheswick) and William Redfield (Harding).
Asylum: An Empty Nest for the Mentally Ill (VC-1 1080p video - 30:59) is a newly produced featurette from director Charles Kiselyak that looks at changes in the mental health profession since the time of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest both for better and for worse, using the state of Oregon as a microcosm of the rest of the country. On-camera comments are offered by Michael Douglas, Retired Superintendent of Oregon State Hospital (and "Dr. Spivey" in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) Dean Brooks, Daughter Dr. Ulista J. Brooks, Grandaughter Dr. Ulista Hoover, Oregon State Hospital Patient Rex Gorger, Oregon State Hospital Director of Clinical Services Dr. Atrhur E. Tolan, Oregon State Hospital Renovation Project Administrator Linda Hammond, and Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health Board President Hazel Patton.
Additional Sceness (4:3 letterboxed video)
- McMurphy and Dr. Spivey (1:59) - extends the conversation between the two characters from the opening of the film quite a bit. This scene was largely improvised as Dr. Dean Brooks, who played Spivey, was not comfortable delivering memorized lines.
- Chief Captured Between Mops (1:10) - two orderlies harass Chief until Miss Ratched arrives on the floor.
- Shaving Chief (:52) - the same two orderlies from the previous deleted scene restrain and shave chief while making a comment that harkens back to the previous deleted scene.
- "Who's the Top Looney Here?" (:59) presents McMurphy's introduction to his fellow patients and the beginnings of the peacocking between McMurphy and "top looney" Harding that would continue through the film.
- McMurphy Meets Nurse Ratched (1:43) Is an introductory scene that includes the first meeting between the film's two pivotal characters. In the finished film, viewers join the relationship "in progress" in the middle of an exercise session.
- First Group Therapy Session (2:40) features greatly extended scenes and dialog from the first session
- "A bunch'a chickens at a pecking party" (2:20) - post-group therapy scene in which McMurphy has some back and forth alpha-male with Harding involving a lot of exposition of the consequences for disobedience.
- "Mr. McMurphy, where are your clothes?" (1:54) - mealtime scene in which McMurphy arrives in a towel, boxers and leather jacket having not been issued his convalescent clothes yet.
Theatrical Trailer (4:3 letterboxed video - 2:45) is a long promo consisting entirely of clips from the film with no subtitles or narration aside from indications of the film's credits and title
In addition to the substantial on-disc extras, this Ultimate Collector's Edition also comes packaged with some interesting physical extras:
A 52 Page Commemorative Hard-Bound Book features numerous well-reproduced vintage photographs accompanying and in-depth essay by Kiselyak tracing the genesis from the book to the play to the film. While it does re-tread some ground from the commentary and documentary on the disc, it also goes into more depth on a number of topics inclusive of the feuding between Kesey and the filmmakers. The essay is followed by a fold-out film production time-line and subsequent biographical blurbs and key professional credits for Nicholson, Fletcher, Redfield, Sampson, Dourif, DeVito, Zaentz, Michael Douglas, and Forman.
A Reproduction of the original Press Book is included in digipack book that also houses the disc.
Four Mini-Reproductions of Original Worldwide Theatrical Posters are enclosed in the disc case along with the press book replica.
A 52-card deck of Cast-Inspired Playing Cards is enclosed in a large cardboard insert in the larger box. I am sad to report to the HTF's male readership that the cards have images of the cast of the film in character rather than replicating the graphics from the deck of cards McMurphy carries with him into the State Hospital during the film's first act.
Six Cast/Character Glossy Photo Cards appear in a simulated "Randall P. McMurphy Medical File" envelope. They feature Nicholson, Fletcher, DeVito, Sampson, Dourif, and Lloyd.
PackagingAs with previous "Ultimate Collector's Editions" from Warner Bros., the contents listed above are all contained in a sturdy cardboard box with a simple, but straightforward design on the outside with foil enhancements. The box is only slightly taller than typical disc cases, and will look good either on a shelf next to other titles or displayed prominently on its own.
Summary *****The One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray set improves over the 2008 Blu-ray release of the film by expanding the on-disc extras, most notably by restoring the Completely Cuckoo documentary to its full feature length, adding a number of interesting physical extras, and tying it all together in attractive premium packaging. I would not hesitate to recommend this release for fans who do not currently have this title on Blu-ray. It is a great film done justice in high definition with an impressive amount of non-trivial supplemental content (and a little bit of completely trivial supplemental content). It is a slightly tougher value judgement for those who own the earlier release, but probably still worth a purchase for anyone who would enjoy a deeper immersion in the films' interesting production genesis.