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Warner Two-Disc Special Edition DVD review

  • Jul 6, 2011
  • by
It's inevitable that a universally lauded motion picture - the crown jewel of the new Hollywood period and perhaps the most famous of all truly independent American productions - would be committed to numerous, increasingly lavish DVD and Blu-Ray editions. What's incredible is that every one of them is still in print!

For those truly obsessed fans out there, the Blu-ray and DVD Collector's Editions are the way to go: loaded with silly goodies and the oft-tedious documentary, Completely Cuckoo (uploaded and removed from YouTube at least twice), it's the best available option for those who don't know that they're crossing a line from admiring aesthete to slobbering fanboy.

Videophiles who demand an HD experience without all that consumerist excess will also be very well-served by the standard Blu-ray, the content of which is equivalent to this product's SD version.

Finally, for those of us too cheap or lazy (in the instance of this reviewer, both) to obtain a Blu-ray player, one can opt for the spare 1997 DVD or this handsome two-disc set. The former suffices for a casual viewing, but if you want to own a very good Cuckoo's Nest at a tolerable expense, this is your best bet.

It looks as good as it's ever going to in standard definition, a considerably better transfer than that of the '97 disc. Artifacts are all too visible via an HD screen or projection, but negligible at a healthy distance. What's really terrific is the sound of it, a perfectly crisp 5.1 Dolby mix far superior to its predecessor's muddled 2.0 stereo track, which was scarcely better than that of the old Republic Pictures VHS tape. Of the two mono dubbed dialogue tracks from the earlier edition, the Spanish one is not included here and the French option was cleaned up as a Dolby 2.0 track; the latter was performed well and is easy on the ears, though a bit boggy in the lower registers. It's also important that this disc's picture is anamorphic, as its yellow, verbatim English, Spanish and French subtitles appear within the boundaries of its aspect ratio. Feel free to stretch the picture across a 16x9 screen, because it was designed to cover every centimeter while ensuring that subs can be read.

I hoped that the commentary track spoken by Milos Forman, Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz would be engaging from the start, but the first twenty minutes of it drags. Information about the film's financing and location scouting isn't of much interest, and most viewers are likely to be distracted by on-screen activity. When the track's discussion shifts to the film's casting and production in the Oregon State Hospital, the director and producers have plenty of entertaining anecdotes to tell. As usual, Forman and Douglas tend to contradict one another regarding minor details; it's up to the listener to decide which of them is more honest or has a better memory. If you're expecting specific scene-by-scene recollections from any of the three, they're few and far between. More importantly, as the speakers were recorded separately, this track lacks the congenial warmth and cohesion of a group recording.

The second disc is mostly superfluous. Its featurette documentary, The Making of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, is merely a truncated version of Completely Cuckoo, cut to nearly half its length. Much of its interview footage of Forman, Douglas, Zaentz, Dean Brooks, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli and screenwriter Bo Goldman is interesting enough, but this shorter slog is still dull, and veers too often into that uncomfortably self-reverential zone inhabited by a few of the interviewees. Even worse, over half of what's stated by Douglas, Zaentz and especially Forman was reiterated in the commentary track, some of it so seemingly identical that I can't help but wonder if audio from the featurette was recycled for the commentary!

Of all the special features, the deleted scenes are the best - untreated bits of introduction and exposition that won't surprise anyone who's read Kesey's phenomenal novel, and which were more likely to have ruined a couple of crucial surprises than instill foreshadowing had they been included in the final cut.

Included in every edition, the theatrical trailer is a sloppy mess: an artless collage of notable scenes, sans context.

In spite of the complaints that I've lodged against much of this set's supplementary content, it really is the one to own for any budget-strapped admirer of this great picture. Its tri-fold presentation features an accessible scene index and immediately recognizable screen stills in gorgeous full color, most notable among them a wide shot of Chief Bromden's fountain-haul catharsis behind the transparent disc trays. Still fresh in an age when American individualism and liberty are falling away, Cuckoo's Nest is one of those films that's destined to last forever. Its quality is indisputable, its themes ageless.

On the other hand, if you're only interested in the story, forget about all these discs and read Kesey's book. Not only is it an indispensable moral story that'll be relevant for as long as modernity persists, but it contains some of the finest idiomatic American prose you'll ever read in a popular novel.

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Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
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Nicholson is good, but Louise Fletcher's Nurse Rachet made me hate her with a passion.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
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OUTSTANDING!!!! Every inch of this film is great. Jack Nicholson gives his best perfomence outside of The Last Detail.
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
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Quick Tip by . June 27, 2010
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review by . May 15, 2009
This is, without doubt, one of the greatest movies ever produced. Milos Forman won best director for his magnificent work on the adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel by the same name. But this movie is so much more than that. The acting was flawless - considering the roles, that is not an easy feat. In the beginning we meet Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) who was sentenced to prison for inappropriate relations with a fourteen year old, finds his way onto a work release program. He finds himself an …
review by . November 09, 2007
This has been buzzing around my ears among my friends and without a doubt; it is one of the best films of all time. Mixing mental health with humor is a tough brand to sell; come to fine out it took several years for this movie to be made. Kirk Douglas had bought the rights hoping to star in it himself, but struggled to find a studio who would produce it; his son Michael eventually did it, but had the foresight to stay off the screen. When you watch it, it's not hard to work out why no-one would …
review by . July 17, 2003
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If I recall correctly, Kirk Douglas tried for many years to produce a film based on Ken Kesey's novel. He failed but son Michael succeeded and as its producer, accepted the Academy Award for the best film of 1975. Nicholson and Fletcher also received Oscars for best actor and best actress, respectively. The focal point of the film is, of course, Randle P. McMurphy (Nicholson) who may or may not deserve to be confined in an insane asylum ruled (in effect) by nurse Mildred Ratched (Fletcher). When …
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Robert Buchanan ()
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I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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Milos Foreman's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, based on the novel by Ken Kesey and the play by Dale Wasserman, presents a biting and ultimately tragic satire about mental institutions and the human spirit. A disturbing, witty, and electrifying drama, the film won the 1975 Academy Award for Best Picture. R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a misbehaved con who shirks authority, finds himself in an asylum after faking insanity to get out of work detail in prison. The vivacious troublemaker soon finds himself in a worse kind of prison--one presided over by the repressed, terrifyingly quiet Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), whose set of rules and regulations are meant to suppress patients' psychotic outbursts, and their spirits. It's not long before McMurphy is reaching out to his new inmates, trying desperately to bring life to an otherwise dead atmosphere. To Ratched, however, Nicholson's free spirit is as dangerous as a schizophrenic impulse. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is brilliantly acted by an ensembl...
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