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To Kill A Mockingbird - Collector's Edition

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 124 mins . PG . PAL


Primary school seems like a long time ago - in fact over a decade and a half for me. At that time, the curriculum consisted of Shakespeare and classic American literature - almost a Bob Carr style education yet he was nowhere to be seen.

One of these mandatory texts and subsequent movies was Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize winning 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. It is a semi-autobiographical story of a small town Alabama lawyer defending a black man accused of the sexual assault of a white woman. However the backdrop to this story seems to overwhelm what is at face value, a study of race relations. Gregory Peck won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of that mild mannered, widower defense attorney.

However the story of his children and the town 'boogieman' overshadows the trial itself. Robert Duvall plays the boogieman in his debut performance. It also shows the townfolk turning on Peck and his children begin to respect and love him more.

The setting is presented in a very idyllic fashion; the streets are dusty, unsealed dirt roads travelled by buggies and Model T Fords. Houses are unlocked at night and blacks are portrayed as dirt farmers or servants. Yes this is depression era Alabama.

It also won Oscars for Screenplay and Art/Set Direction.


This film is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic. There's not that much to say - generally great contrast and detail on closeups which deteriorates as the camera pans out to distances.

You know how we express B&W as 256 greyscale in computerese? Well in this case I doubt there is more than 32 or 64 shades here. You can tell when modern colour has been converted to B&W and you can tell when the original silver halide film stock belongs to another era. Clearly this film looks older than it truly is.

There is evidence that the original film stock has seen some wear with circles and flecks in certain places. There are also some characteristic vertical scratches that runs for several frames - obviously where the projector head caused abrasions on the film surface as it was running. There's slight grain in some places as well.


Sound is mono 96kb/s on all tracks. Ummm... what can I say... you either leave your processor on 5.1 and have it stream thru the centre or put it in stereo and have it spread across the wall.

The sound shows not much fidelity at all - you can only hope for vocal clarity and it exhibits that quite admirably except for some times when the accent or the dynamics overruns the capability of the mag tape. This is never when Peck is speaking of course, only when people or children shout.

The score is unobtrusive but the mono track never elevates it to anything more than background although in some places it is quite evocative.


There's a 90 minute documentary presented in the same quality as the main feature. It's presented almost as an educational critique of the film.

There's also a running documentary by the producer and directory made in 1998 some 30 years after the event. This might seem to be quite interesting but not so - it will resist even one running.

There's the usual cast bio, notes and an unusual trailer where Peck speaks directly to the camera.


I can see why this film ends up on so many Top 100 lists. Like 'Casablanca' and 'Gone With The Wind' and other classics, it has qualities that belie its age. If one were to guess its age, one would be likely to assume some time in the late 40's or early 50's.

In fact it is 1962. The same year as 'Lawrence of Arabia' and another six years to '2001: A Space Odyssey'. The fact that it looks so old is a deliberate step to make it seem aged.

I can't see this disc selling big time but I can see many film students add this to a burgeoning classic catalog.

Maybe it'll even wind up as a permanent part of the school curriculum.

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