Film Comment: Universal’s new digital remastering of To Kill a Mockingbird is simply stunning

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures, one of Hollywood’s oldest and most successful movie studios. To celebrate this, Universal are remastering a selection of their most iconic and famous films and releasing them on blu-ray and DVD.

One of these releases is Robert Mulligan’s 1962 picture To Kill a Mockingbird, an adaptation of Harper Lee’s much-loved novel of the same name. The film is widely, and rightly, regarded as one of the best American films of all time and deserves to be part of Universal’s centenary celebrations.

Gregory Peck’s performance as the white lawyer determined to defend a young black man is perhaps the best of his career. I adore Lee’s original novel, and read it many years before seeing the film. When I first watched it I was amazed how close his interpretation of Atticus Finch, the brave father of two who firmly believes in justice and decency, was to my own idea of how the character would look, sound and behave. Peck achieves a level of perfection many high profile actors never even come close to.

The blu-ray disc release of the film, which boasts a gorgeous array of extra material, is like a box of the rich Belgian chocolates to a film-lover. The transfer comes from a new high definition remastering of the film and it is simply stunning. It frequently frustrates me how dismissive some people can be of the idea of watching black and white films in HD. To me, they are sometimes the movies that benefit the most from this new technology. There is something magical about the clarity of old films presented in 1080p resolution on a big television screen. It is the closest we can currently get, short of buying a pricy projector, to the picture-perfect wonder-inducing feel of what it would have been like to experience these films when they were first shown in cinemas.

Once in a while, a film adaptation manages to match the strength, beauty and voice of the original source material. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a film, and Universal’s superb new release of it is one of the home entertainment highlights of the year.

A note on the disc: As discussed in the review, Universal’s high definition 1080p transfer, which preserves the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is stunning. Clarity is crisp and clear with a perfect balance of film grain.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), directed by Robert Mulligan, is distributed on blu-ray disc and DVD in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate 12. 

 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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