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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired, Romanian, Bulgarian
  • 8 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - By Director Milos Forman, Producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz
  • Digitally remastered
  • Awards/Nominations

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: SE

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 129 mins . M15+ . PAL


It is exceedingly difficult to know where to begin when reviewing a title that is as outstanding as this. I could begin by talking about the inspirational acting, which has been almost unparalleled since the film’s release. Or maybe the brilliant direction by Milos Forman, who shows that even on a tight budget it is possible to make one of the finest films of all time. Or perhaps I could begin by describing the simple, yet so very powerful story. But instead, I think I will simply make this statement: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the finest and most important films ever created.

Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is a petty crook who is sent to a state mental institution from a prison work farm. He is very energetic, wise-cracking and has an obvious contempt for authority. The doctor in charge of the hospital is Dr. Spiver (played by the actual head doctor in the asylum where the movie was filmed, Dean Brooks). He explains to Randall in their first meeting why he has been sent there: for mental evaluation to decide whether or not he is ill. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) is the head nurse in his ward. She is very cold with the patients, keeping them all under her thumb at all times. She rarely smiles, but at the same time is rarely angered. Randall takes an instant disliking to her.

We meet many of the ward’s inmates. The Chief (Will Sampson) is a huge, towering native American who is deaf and dumb. Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif) is a shy, stuttering and very paranoid young man. Harding (William Redfield) is a very smart, but unstable man who can’t get over his wife’s betrayal. Martini (Danny DeVito) is a small man with a very immature mindset. He is a very loveable character. Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassick) is a very insecure man with little self confidence. Taber (Christopher Lloyd) is a trouble maker who likes to pick on Harding in particular.

Randall instantly makes an impact on the group, and becomes the leader of the ward. He shows the Chief some attention, something no one has done before, and shows him how to play basketball. He introduces gambling to the inmates (and wins most of their cigarettes). He breaks out of the hospital and takes them on a fishing trip on a boat. Most importantly, he shows them there is more to life than the inside of the asylum walls.

"But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamn it. At least I did that."

Nurse Ratched and Randall butt heads throughout the entire film, each one trying to assert dominance over the other. The struggle is intriguing; both are very strong willed. In the short time that he is there, the life and vigour that McMurphy brings into the drab and sterile world in the asylum changes the lives of the inmates forever.

The performances are truly some of the best in any film. Jack Nicholson, without doubt one of the finest actors of the past half century, if not the finest, gives one of his greatest performances as Randall P. McMurphy. He seems so natural in the role; at times it seems as though he is not just acting the character but has literally become him. He has a never ending energy and vibrancy, and he is who the audience identifies with. He is the normal one, entering a world of the unknown.

Louise Fletcher is almost as good as Nicholson in her Oscar winning performance as Nurse Ratched. She has a cold, almost lifeless aura about her. She fits into the role so well, and is completely convincing. There is an interesting section of the documentary supplied on the second disc where Fletcher recalls how she wishes she was playing one of the patients rather than the nurse. She said she was envious of them because they became such a close group and had such a good time.

There is honestly no weak link in the cast. The production crew were on a very tight budget ($US4.4 million) with which to make the film, and apart from the lead role they wanted all the cast to be cheap, and thus relatively unknown. The supporting cast includes Danny DeVito, who at that time was not a recognised star. He gives a beautiful performance as the shy Martini. The same applies to Christopher Lloyd, who plays Taber. This was his debut movie role, and established him as a major talent. Sydney Lassick is truly fantastic as the polite but neurotic Charlie Cheswick. He generates a lot of sympathy for his character, making you feel sorry for him but happy for him at the same time… you need to see the film to understand what I mean really.

The direction by Milos Forman is well deserving of his Oscar. This was only the third American film that he directed, which adds even more respect for this piece. The adapted screenplay, written by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, is simply superb, in fact one of the finest scripts ever written. The Oscar nominated cinematography by Haskell Wexler and Bill Butler is outstanding. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won the 'big five'; Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay (adapted) and Best Picture. In many people's opinion it is the only film to deserve it.

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew East,
And one flew West,
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest.


Warners have outdone themselves with this; the video transfer is absolutely superb. About two months ago I hired the original DVD version of this film. It had a few problems, mostly with regards to film artefacts and bursts of grain. Colours were a little washed out, and shadow detail was lacking also. This new Special Edition fixes all these problems, and more.

The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The restoration work done for this transfer is brilliant. There are virtually no instances of film artefacts, which is a tremendous achievement when comparing it to the earlier transfer. The problem of grain is fixed; there is no grain present in any scene. The colours are very skilfully restored and nicely saturated, though muted at times through artistic choice by the producers. The few outdoor scenes are vibrant and accurate.

Sharpness is consistently good throughout the whole film. One would not expect to see such a sharp and detailed image on a film of this vintage. Every single detail on camera is beautifully presented and well defined. Shadow detail has been greatly improved upon. Details are easy to pick up in the evening and night scenes now, whereas in the past DVD offerings it was often more difficult.

Skin tones are spot on for the entire length of the film. There are no instances of any edge enhancement, aliasing or any of those irritating video artefacts. Black levels are rich, and there is no low level noise at all.

The disc is single sided and dual layered, with the layer change occurring at 67:49. It is at a change of scene, but it is very noticeable since Jack Nicholson is swimming at the time and he freezes mid stroke for a second. There are many subtitles available. I viewed the English ones, and they were very accurate.

To sum it all up, this is some of the finest restoration work I have ever seen on a DVD.


The sound restoration is just as impressive as the video. There are three audio tracks available: English in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, French and Italian both in Dolby Digital mono. Just like the video, the audio presentation is vastly improved over the previous DVD release which was a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo affair.

The new remastered 5.1 mix is superb. This is a dialogue driven film of course, so there are no explosions or prolonged action sequences in which to give the sound system a thorough work out. However, the audio offering presented here is as good as it gets for dialogue films.

The Oscar nominated original score is from Jack Nitzsche, whose credits include The Exorcist and An Officer And a Gentleman. It is superbly understated, and does not really show up very often during the film. It has the feel of folk music, with lots of guitar and tambourine accompanied by some light orchestral backup.

The channel separation is very well done. The surrounds are most often used for background chatter; you often feel like you are in the middle of the therapy sessions. They are subtly used throughout the film with great effect, creating nice ambience in the outdoor scenes. The subwoofer is constantly alive, and cleverly supports the film well. It is very subtle for the most part, but when there is a need for it to become active, it does its job well. The surround and subwoofer use is much better than in the original DVD release. There are no problems associated with audio synch.


Thankfully this Special Edition release comes with some exceptionally interesting extras:

The Making Of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest - Running for just under 50 minutes, this is one of the finest film documentaries I have seen. It contains many interviews with the director Milos Forman, producer Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Louise Fletcher, and more. There is a veritable wealth of information available in this making of documentary, and it is very worthy of repeat viewings. One small problem I did notice though is there are a few issues with audio synch. Some of the interviews, particularly with Michael Douglas, seem to be a little out of synch. The documentary is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Feature Length Audio Commentary - Presented by director Milos Forman and producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz. The commentary by Milos Forman was recorded at a different time than Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, and they are merged together. Just like the documentary, there is a heap of information presented here. You will need to listen to it more than once to catch everything that is being said. There are no real slow spots, and this is most definitely one of the better DVD commentaries available.

Additional Scenes - A collection of eight scenes that were chopped from the film. They are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and in Dolby Digital 2.0. It seems there has been very little to no restoration work performed on these scenes.

Theatrical Trailer - Running for 2:34, this is the original theatrical trailer release for the film. It is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Like the additional scenes, the trailer has had only minimal restoration work.

Cast and Crew Credits - A one page list of the lead actors and crew.

Awards - A few pages of text listing all the awards that the film received.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is essential viewing. This is a film that shows how a movie is meant to be. There is no facet that lets it down in any way. The transfer is glorious, and the extras add a lot to the experience. Buy this, you won’t regret it for one second.

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