One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (SE)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
R.P. McMurphy aims to avoid a lengthy prison term by posing as a goofball lunatic, though he finds that life in an asylum comes at a terrible price. Although the free-spirited newcomer befriends and inspires his newfound wardmates, McMurphy ultimately dooms himself by instigating the cold-hearted Nurse Ratched (sounds like 'wretched').
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Shit YEAH it’s a good movie. This is one of the movies that burgeoning movie freaks learn about when they’re around fifteen years old (much like A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey) before learning what all the well-deserved hoopla is about. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey and directed by a young filmmaker named Milos Forman (Amadeus, Ragtime), Cuckoo’s Nest was a pet project of producer Michael Douglas (whose legendary father acted in the stage play) and helped to jump-start the careers of Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Lloyd. Taken as a straight drama, or as a deeper metaphor about the cost and value of freedom, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an absolute masterpiece. The ensemble cast of colorful actors delivers a movie that’s simply a lot of fun to watch, and the witty-yet-sobering adaptation by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman offers easily a dozen memorable scenes. Nicholson and Fletcher butt heads in some of the most memorably confrontational movie moments, and both actors deliver flawless work throughout. I always feel a bit ‘lacking’ when it comes to reviewing true classics like this one, but if you’ve never seen Cuckoo’s Nest because you think it’s some stuffy old drama – you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. There aren’t many movies that I can guarantee you’ll enjoy, but this one comes pretty damn close.
To say that this new 2-disc set is an improvement over the previous bare-bones edition would be a massive understatement. Producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, along with director Milos Forman, contribute to a full-length audio commentary, one that should absolutely thrill fans of the film. The three participants offer anecdotes about a difficult shoot, the history of the novel and subsequent stage play, casting decisions, the hospital locations, and myriad interesting tidbits. Though the three participants were recorded separately (Forman’s track comes from the LD), this commentary should be required listening to any Cuckoo-philes.
Next up is a fantastic featurette entitled The Making of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Though I’ve read that this 50-minute documentary was whittled down from an even more impressive 80-minute version, I’ve only seen the truncated version and it earns a hearty thumbs up. Forman, Douglas, Zaentz, Goldman, Lloyd, DeVito, Fletcher, and a few others chime in with their thoughts on the film, as some fascinating behind-the-scenes footage is presented. I’d love to see the longer version of this documentary, but this one’s pretty damn solid. You’ll also find eight deleted scenes which I’ll leave you to discover for yourself (nothing too flashy, but wonderful additions to the DVD), some cast/crew bios, a listing of the awards the film earned, and the original theatrical trailer.
If you have the cheesy old bare-bones edition, hawk it on eBay. This superlative 2-disc set ranks among my favorite DVDs of 2002, and I absolutely recommend it as a purchase. Save your rental dollars for the horror flicks. Cuckoo’s Nest deserves a spot on your DVD shelf.