One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has endeared because of its multiple interpretations, each viewer taking something a little different away from this story of voluntary mental institution patients beginning to rebel against a strict, hard-edged nurse who is so un-American as to hate baseball.
Then again, maybe she’s doing her job. Nurse Ratched (Lousie Fletcher) keeps her patients heavily medicated, whether or not that’s simply to make her life or their lives easier not very clear. Maybe that’s protocol, or maybe it’s how she manages things.
Whatever the case, rebellion is not on the books, and a single loose cannon is enough to unwind her into a rage. This is not a screaming anger, but the deep resentment for anyone that doesn’t follow her orders. This is enough for the audience to join in with R.P McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) as his clearly not mentally unstable character begins to get loud, begging for an escape from the closed-off white walls and metal-screened windows.
The early ’60s are the backdrop for this drama/comedy, more or less focusing on the drama before it’s over. These people are looking for help, and simply not getting it in the form they may need. McMurphy takes this into his own hands, breaking the crew out for a fishing trip that almost goes terribly wrong, and throwing a Christmas fling filled with booze and woman.
There’s a lot to be said about McMurphy’s actions, which in his own way seem to be intended to help these patients, give them a spark they’ve been denied. What initially seems to be more of a plan to keep himself out of jail slowly changes him. He has a chance to escape, an elaborate plan involving two woman, bribes, finding keys, phone calls, and more. The window is unlocked, yet he stays.
His reasons are rather open to interpretation, possibly finding there is a still a need to help these people come out of their shells, or maybe it’s even fate that he stays institutionalized. His reasons are his own, and his punishment more severe than he probably ever considered. It’s an emotional end, certainly not the comedic high the film seems to be associated with at times, but a proper, even beautiful send off to a flawlessly acted and directed piece.
Warner re-issues the same encode they used back in 2008, and it’s age is showing dearly. This is a VC-1 effort that when still, seems fine. The grain structure moves naturally, looks decently resolved, and the source is in excellent shape. Mild damage is present, a few specks scattered about at their worst.
In motion, things are not as clean, causing a significant amount of smearing while the compression completely fails to keep up. It happens in lighter scenes, darker scenes, and everything in-between. Slight movements are the worst, the faster they go the harder it is to notice, or maybe it just appears like typical motion blur. Whatever the case, it’s irritating, and needs a significant re-encode to stay up to date.
Everything else is generally fine. In close, facial detail tends to be prevalent, Dr. Spivey (Dean R. Brooks) carries with him some fine definition during the admittance scene 13-minutes in, while late in the film Chief (Will Sampson) produces some high-fidelity texture even in low-light at 1:32:16. There are some focal issues that tend to create some softness, and even a bit of smoothness. Nothing seems to be wrong with the encode here; it’s all part of the source.
Colors are flat by design, little of anything going on with the standard white clothing worn by the inmates and nurses, all against plain white walls. Only Nicholson ever stands out, wearing some denim a deep navy cap. Flesh tones are fine, slightly elevated over any DVD release. Of bigger concern is some rather hefty black crush, some of the doctor’s with their black suits appearing to have no arms at times. Outdoor scenes, such as the bus escape or fishing trip, provide reasonable clarity to the photography.
As an older Warner release slapped into a new fancy box, this one features only compressed audio, a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that sounds dated. Dialogue is certainly the sticking point, varying between muffled and scratchy, neither of them positives. There is also an echo coming from the hallways and barren rooms adding to the rather coarse effect, maybe even elevating it slightly. The echo is appropriate, not a fault of the audio mix. Still, a better audio track would have handled it far better than this.
There is little point in making this a surround mix. Bass is non-existent since the film doesn’t need it, and the only rear speaker effect comes as a helicopter passes overhead at 1:05:00, moving front to back cleanly. There’s no real necessity to it, more or less a distraction in a film that sits so squarely in the center for the rest of its running time.
The minimal score has a few moments where it reaches its peak, providing the only real ounce of clarity for this entire mix. It remains slightly subdued without the free reign of uncompressed audio, although in comparison to what else is here, this is certainly tolerable.
Extras carry over, like everything else, from the 2008 Blu-ray, with one exception. The majority of the added extras are in the box itself, which we’ll get to in a minute. A commentary comes from director Milos Forman and producers Michael Douglas & Saul Zaentz. Completely Cuckoo is exclusive to this set, a superlative making-of running nearly 90-minutes, featuring interviews with a variety of people responsible for bringing this to the screen, minus Jack Nicholson. Asylum looks at actual insane asylums, and their current, rather awful, state. Eight additional scenes and trailers are left on the disc.
Inside the thick, cardboard box (the size of a DVD height-wise), you’ll find the disc housed with some replica lobby cards and press booklet. A 50-page hardcover book is inside, followed by some personal files, which are really just glossy stills of the cast. A thick piece of cardboard houses a deck of playing cards, unfortunately not a replica of any of the sets included in the movie. They just have the actor’s faces on them. All in all, not a bad set, especially considering the lower price compared to the other Warner box sets.