One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest DVD Review
2-Disc Special Edition (1975)
So I watched this gem of a two-disc special edition last night and loved it more than the first time I viewed it probably five years ago. Apparently it managed to sweep all five major Academy Awards in 1975 (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay) and was very well deserved.
A crook manages to get off a work farm and sent to a mental institution for evaluation. R.P. McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson endeavors to shake things up around the ward and show the men there that they aren’t nearly as crazy as they think they are. Some of his shananigans include gambling, watching a fake world series game, hi-jacking a bus with inmates on it to go fishing, and sneaking girls and booze into the ward at night. When he discovers that antagonizing Nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher, could get him committed and only permit him to leave on her time instead of his own, he decides to plan an escape. The constant battle for control on the ward is very entertaining and at times heart breaking.
Jack Nicholson’s energy and improvised antics never fail to entertain and engage your attention throughout. When he isn’t performing for the others, he manages to be quite an sympathetic fellow trying to better the lives of people around him through his crude techniques. The Nurse is amazingly calm, strict, and has a never-ending tact for digging to the core of the patients’ defenses to maintain control and keep them miserably docile. She rarely raises her voice and yet it’s obvious she doesn’t need to in order to get people to listen to her.
The supporting cast is also amazing featuring Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd among others. They deviate back and forth from being vacant, hysterical, and occasionally have sane moments that make them very human. In particular, the Chief (Will Sampson) who has convinced everyone that he is deaf and dumb goes on a journey back to communication and the real world with McMurphy’s help. The ending is happy and tragic all at the same time, but I won’t say why for those of you who haven’t gotten to view it yet. Let’s just say this movie gets an A from me.
The restored picture really makes a big difference in viewing. The Behind-the-Scenes documentary is very interesting talking about the time period, the themes from the book, the casting, and the time members of the crew spent at a similar facility to prepare for their roles and how they refused to drop character during the shoot. The Cast/Director Career Highlights don’t give you much more information than if you used IMDB, but the audio commentary by the director is again very interesting, though the documentary is better.