But I'm no expert on literature, so let's turn the spotlight onto the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee's classic story. And what a wonderful translation it is. Respect for the source material and a palpable sense of honest nostalgia seep through every single frame of Robert Mulligan's To Kill a Mockingbird. Producer Alan J. Pakula, screenwriter Horton Foote, leading man Gregory Peck, composer Elmer Bernstein, and all of the various actors, costumers, set designers, and what-have-you... It only takes about 15 minutes of running time before you realize what an earnest and heartfelt labor of love this project was.
And I suppose that's a good reason why, over 30 years later, the movie is still considered one of the finest ever made. It's a story about honor and bravery, memory and regret, decency and determination. Basically it's the very best courtroom drama I've ever seen; the "surface drama" is effortlessly engaging, while the social commentary and the sobering subtext gives the film a heart and soul that most filmmakers would kill to replicate.
Plus, if nothing else, you're getting Gregory Peck at the very top of his game ... and that's saying something.
Gregory Peck's 1962 Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech for To Kill a Mockingbird, his 1989 American Film Institute Life Achievement Award acceptance, a 10-minute excerpt from the Academy Tribute to Gregory Peck in which the actor's daughter reminisces over her father's legacy, and a 12-minute featurette entiled Scout Remembers, in which former child actress Mary Badham looks back over her time spent making To Kill a Mockingbird.
Also included on disc 1 are the original theatrical trailer and some printed production notes, but the highlight of this platter (aside from the main feature, that is) has got to be the audio commentary with To Kill a Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J. Pakula. Recorded several years ago (and also available on the previous "Mockingbird" DVD), this is a mellow, informative, and frequently fascinating chat-track. The filmmakers offer a lot of insights and anecdotes on their classic film, and fans will most definitely want to give it a listen.
Moving on to disc 2 we have what's (easily) one of the finest "making of" documentaries ever created. It's called Fearful Symmetry, and this thing is an absolute beaut. (Those who already own the original DVD will undoubtedly share my enthusiasm for this documentary.) Presented in a perfectly fitting black & white "retro" fashion, this 90-minute piece of cinematic bliss covers To Kill a Mockingbird from stem to stern, leaving no stone unturned while paying tribute to a truly beloved movie. Screenwriter Horton Foote, director Robert Mulligan, producer Alan J. Pakula, composer Elmer Bernstein, actors Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Brock Peters, Collin Wilcox, Robert Duvall, and several others contribute to this supremely satisfying feature-length documentary.
The last piece of supplemental material is the 97-minute documentary A Conversation with Gregory Peck ... which offers a helluva lot more than just one conversation! Produced in 1999, this film is an absolute feast for the Peck fans. Comprised of interview segments, Q & A sessions, and copious footage of Mr. Peck's globe-trotting activities, this is a warm and sincere love-letter to Mr. Peck, but it never gets too sappy, thanks mainly to the actor's no-nonsense nobility.
Also worthy of mention is the very handsome fold-out DVD, inside which you'll find an envelope packed with a bunch of "poster postcards" and a letter from author Harper Lee herself. A classy little touch from Universal, and I think it's pretty cool indeed.