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"To Kill A Mockingbird" -- A Personal Review (1 Viewer)

David Von Pein

Senior HTF Member
Feb 4, 2002



  • NUMBER OF DISCS -- 2 (Single-Sided; Dual-Layered)
  • VIDEO -- Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
  • AUDIO -- English DD 2.0 Mono, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; French DD 2.0 Mono
  • FEATURE FILM RUNNING TIME -- 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • SUBTITLES -- English, French, Spanish
  • SPECIAL FEATURES -- Tons of them (details below)
  • MOVIE RELEASE DATE -- December 25, 1962
  • DVD RELEASE DATE -- September 6, 2005 (Universal Home Video)

"To Kill A Mockingbird" premiered in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day 1962. Those who were lucky enough to see this movie on the big screen that December 25th came out of the theater with another Yuletide gift of sorts -- they had just watched one of the finest motion pictures ever produced.

There probably aren't enough glowing adjectives in the dictionary to describe the loveliness of this film. A truly fabulous piece of American cinema -- all the way through -- with a tender and bittersweet ending that always leaves one of those "trying to hold it back" lumps in the ol' throat.

The cast is ideal, with each actor seemingly molded for each of their individual roles. There's "Scout" (Mary Badham), "Jem" (Phillip Alford), "Dill" (John Megna), "Boo Radley" (Robert Duvall), and "Tom Robinson" (Brock Peters).

And "Atticus Finch" (Gregory Peck), one of the truly most memorable characters ever brought to the screen. And it's hard to think of how Mr. Peck's Academy Award-winning portrayal of that southern lawyer and father could have possibly been any better than we see it here. Peck always seemed to have that "controlled" quality in his movie performances that are always a pleasure to watch. And never more so than as the low-key "Atticus" in this film.

I doubt that it's possible to watch this movie and NOT admire the strength of character and unwillingness to stoop to such levels of vulgarity after Atticus is spat upon by "Bob Ewell". It's one of several scenes in the film that illustrates the type of man Atticus is, and the type of example he's setting for his young children. Some might be apt to call Atticus a coward in that scene. But they'd be wrong.

This film offers up many highly-memorable moments indeed --- Atticus sitting in front of the jail reading by the light of his living-room stand lamp. .... The mystery of Jem's ripped pants. .... Boo Radley's spooky house. .... Atticus impressing his children when he shoots the rabid dog. .... That old hollowed-out tree that keeps filling itself up with all kinds of cool stuff. .... "Stand up, your father's passing." .... Plus, that beautiful and stirring Elmer Bernstein music score. Utter magic.

There's also a good deal of humor residing in this screenplay. I always get a good healthy laugh when viewing the scene which has Dill drenching his dinner in syrup, to the shock and dismay of Scout ("Look, Atticus! He's gone and drown-ded his dinner in syrup and now he's pourin' it all over!"). A true LOL moment that's always good for at least two replays.

And possibly the most memorable quote comes at the end of the film, when Atticus says to Scout: "Miss Jean Louise -- Mister Arthur Radley". With these few words, Scout's fears of "Boo" vanish forever. The dignity with which Atticus "introduces" Arthur ("Boo") to Scout is what makes this quote memorable for me.

Universal Studios Home Video, on September 6, 2005, issued a beautiful-looking new Two-Disc DVD version of "To Kill A Mockingbird", which comes with a bountiful helping of bonus supplements, as well as the very first "enhanced" (Anamorphic) Widescreen transfer of the film on DVD.

Packaged under its "Legacy Series" banner, this 2-Disc Special Edition sparkles in virtually all respects, especially the video quality of this iconic black-and-white film. It looks very nearly perfect to my eyes. Very few distracting artifacts can be observed during the running of this 130-minute main feature (which is presented in its intended 1.85:1 Widescreen framing here). And the nighttime scenes are rendered in fine fashion, with next to no video annoyances visible at all. The film passes the "Freeze Frame" test as well -- i.e.: you can "pause"/"still" an image on screen in virtual perfect clarity, without the image blurring at all, which I usually take as a pretty good sign that what I'm seeing is a darn-good transfer of the material to DVD.

There's a choice of five separate audio options for the feature film on Disc 1 -- with one of the five being a Commentary Track with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula, which was recorded for the first DVD edition of "TKAM" in 1998. Tragically, Pakula was killed in a freak auto accident in November of 1998, not too long after he recorded the commentary track for the DVD. He was 70 years old.

Other audio options for this two-disc edition include the original English Mono (in 2.0 Dolby Digital), a French 2.0 DD Mono track, and two newly-created multi-channel 5.1 Surround English tracks (a Dolby Digital 5.1 plus a DTS 5.1). The DTS track, however, isn't listed in the specs on the packaging. It's not listed on the specs sheet that came with my copy of this DVD anyway; but it does show up on some reprinted copies of the specs sheet, like this one.

Audio tracks cannot be changed "on the fly" (as the saying goes) while watching the movie (unfortunately). You must go to the "Languages" Sub-Menu to switch the audio. To switch to the Commentary Track, you must access the "Bonus Features" Menu on Disc 1. There's no "Commentary" option available from the "Languages" Menu (for some reason).

Subtitle options: English, French, and Spanish. .... These subtitle choices are also ALL available when viewing any of the Bonus Features throughout this two-disc DVD set (including even the movie's trailer).

A bonus item that was originally scheduled to be a part of this set, but was ultimately not included, is a replica of Gregory Peck's "working script from the film" (with handwritten notes by Peck). That bonus was evidently replaced by the eleven "Theatrical Poster Reproductions" that are included here.

The poster reproductions are very nice, being printed on high-quality paperboard stock, which have a glossy look to them. Included are a few USA poster copies, plus several from foreign nations, like Argentina, Japan, Italy, Poland, among others. The artwork's country of origin is printed on the back of each of these reproduction prints. A well-done extra bonus, IMO. (Although I would have loved to have had Mr. Peck's working "Mockingbird" script too.)

Also in the envelope with the 11 poster reprints is a signed message from "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee.



Disc 1:
  • Gregory Peck's acceptance speech after he won the Oscar trophy as "Best Actor 1962" (the only Oscar statue he was ever to take home, amazingly enough). This vintage 1963 black-and-white video clip runs for 1 minute and 28 seconds.
  • Excerpt from the "Academy Tribute To Gregory Peck", with Gregory's daughter Cecilia. This is a 10-minute bonus item.
  • "American Film Institute Life Achievement Award" presented to Gregory Peck. Run Time: 10 minutes.
  • "Scout Remembers", which is a 1999 NBC-TV interview with "Scout" herself (Mary Badham). This bonus runs 12 minutes. .... Mary Badham, for those who may not know it, is the sister of John Badham, who directed such motion pictures as "WarGames" (in 1983) and the enormously-popular and successful John Travolta film "Saturday Night Fever" (in 1977).
  • The Original Theatrical Trailer for "To Kill A Mockingbird" (Length: 2:53). The trailer is in Full Frame (1.33:1) format. Excellent sound quality too. Video quality is lacking a bit, but it's not too bad. Watch the "Mockingbird" movie trailer HERE.
  • Production Notes. (Text screens only.)

The only thing missing here are the "Cast And Filmmaker" bio text pieces that were included on the '98 disc. Too bad, too, because those biography notes were quite good (and extensive), and covered several of the various TKAM players and execs.

Disc 2:

There are two first-rate documentaries on the second disc of this set. These two extra DVD programs amount to 3 hours and 7 minutes of added "Mockingbird" entertainment, pretty much the equivalent of two entire additional movies.

The Disc-Two programs are:
  • "Fearful Symmetry: The Making Of 'To Kill A Mockingbird'" (90 minutes; B&W; Non-Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 Video; 2.0 DD Stereo Audio; 24 Chapter Stops). .... This is the same feature-length, behind-the-scenes documentary that was also included on the 1998 DVD release of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Wonderful stuff here. Lots of interesting details about how this classic film got to the screen. Includes many on-camera comments by Gregory Peck. Produced in 1998.
-- And: --
  • "A Conversation With Gregory Peck" (97 minutes; Color & B&W; Full Frame 1.33:1 Video; 2.0 DD Stereo Audio; 18 Chapter Stops). .... This sensational movie-length documentary was produced by Gregory Peck's daughter (Cecilia) in 1999. It is a very nicely-constructed presentation, with a good music score too, which delves in great depth into the personal side of the great Gregory Peck, who proves here that he was still more than capable of holding an audience's undivided attention at age 83.

    This documentary could very easily have been called "Gregory Peck's Life: In His Own Words". It's quite literally a biography on the personal life and movie career of Mr. Peck. It's certainly one of the best "bio" pieces I've ever seen on the life of any actor.

    This "docu-bio" contains video clips of many of Peck's films, plus old home movies, several talk-show clips featuring Gregory, and lots of other interesting stuff that help to give even more insight into the life of this amazing American actor (who was born in California on April 5, 1916).

    Gregory Peck takes center stage during portions of the program (literally), as he talks and jokes with large audiences around the United States, and conducts various Q&A sessions.

    There's lots of candid footage of Peck (and family) here too, including some impressive shots taken at Niagara Falls....and in Paris, too....and Ireland....and Washington, D.C., as Gregory gets an award from then-President Bill Clinton.

    Near the end of this thoroughly-engaging bio/"Conversation", we see proud granddaddy Gregory holding his just-born grandson (who was named "Harper", after "Mockingbird" author Harper Lee). The scenes of Little Harper will make you want to reach into your TV and scoop up this adorable munchkin. He's one of the cutest little tykes I've ever laid eyes on. It's no wonder Gregory looks so proud here. These tender scenes with Gregory and his new grandson add the perfect sweet and sentimental finishing touches to the whole documentary.

    This "Conversation" bonus is a genuinely unique program. It was produced with an obvious large dose of love and affection by Mr. Peck's daughter (and all others who were involved in putting it together). After viewing it, you can't help but feel like you know (and admire) a man named Eldred Gregory Peck quite a bit better than you did just ninety-seven minutes earlier. And that might be the best compliment I can pay this very special and heart-warming documentary.

    Gregory Peck passed away in June of 2003, four years after he filmed this program. He was 87. He will be missed forever by multiple generations of movie fans who loved his work in the cinema for many decades. His talent is one that we'll likely not run across again, until we reach heaven. But thank goodness for fabulous documentaries like this one, plus all of his cherished films as well, which enable fans to retouch the magic and greatness that will forever be associated with Mr. Gregory Peck.

    Another talent that Peck possessed was that of a narrator, which he demonstrated admirably in a rarely-seen documentary film that he narrated in 1964 about the life and death of President Kennedy, entitled "John F. Kennedy: Years Of Lightning, Day Of Drums". You can watch that entire movie RIGHT HERE.



The packaging for this "Legacy Series" edition has a very solid and collectible feel to it. It's a three-panel folding "Digipak" type of a case, which sports an attractive "leathery" texture on the outside of the case. Unfortunately, there's no outer slipcase box (sleeve) included here, which will probably displease some collectors who wish to display this set "face out". That'll pose a small problem, because the case always wants to "spring" back open (due to the lack of a restraining outer slipcase). An outer box would certainly have been useful, but even without one, this package stands out as a "classy" DVD item on the shelf.

This "Mockingbird" set is not packaged the same as "The Sting" (another Universal 2-Disc Legacy set). "The Sting", which is also worthy of a purchase IMO, comes in a two-panel "book-like" pack, which "snaps" firmly closed on the outside -- just like the "Lawrence Of Arabia" 2-Disc Limited-Edition DVD release, which came out in April 2001.

For continuity sake, I would have preferred the "Sting" type of closeable Digipak for the "Mockingbird" release. The two sets would look better side-by-side if they'd been packed the same. But, no big deal really.

Both the "TKAM" and "Sting" Legacy versions lack any Chapter List inserts or paper enclosures (which is a bit of a debit). However, if you own the previously-released single-disc DVD "Collector's Edition" of "Mockingbird", I'd recommend hanging on to the excellent multi-page fold-out insert that came with that disc. It can be used with this new DVD set as well. It has a complete chapter list for both the movie and the "Fearful Symmetry" documentary, and the chapter breaks are in the exact same spots on this newer Legacy version, with the same chapter titles used as well (39 chapters for the feature film). There are also some interesting production notes and photographs printed on that 1998 TKAM insert.

Also -- Make sure to disregard the "Color" notation marked on the loose piece of paper on the back of the DVD case that lists this Legacy set's contents. The film is in black-and-white (as it should be), not color. That's obviously just a packaging misprint.



"To Kill A Mockingbird" is a masterpiece of personally-felt moods and memories. Who among us doesn't have at least one childhood memory that can be rekindled through the actions of Scout, Jem, or Dill? This is a motion picture you can watch again and again -- and each time take away something different when that incomparable final act fades to black (usually something that requires yet another hard swallow with which to combat that ever-present lump in the throat that this movie masterfully induces each and every time it's watched).

Any DVD collection of great American motion pictures is unquestionably incomplete if "To Kill A Mockingbird" does not occupy a prominent position on the shelf reserved for such magnificent movie treasures.

David Von Pein
September 2005
June 2009



To Kill A Mockingbird -- NNDB

To Kill A Mockingbird -- Wikipedia

To Kill A Mockingbird -- DVD Beaver Review

Edited by David Von Pein - 7/11/2009 at 10:08 am GMT


Stunt Coordinator
Jan 15, 2009
Real Name

Thanks for the review David, I never really got watch the whole movie seems totally worth it.

Vegas 1

Supporting Actor
Jun 23, 1999
Las Vegas, NV
Real Name
Alvin Kuenster
quite a review David, I totally agree a must for any movie buff to have in their collection, as I also have the Legacy Edition.

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