One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
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A nice rest in a state mental hospital beats a stretch in the pen, right? Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a free-spirited con with lightning in his veins and glib on his tongue, fakes insanity and moves in with what he calls the "nuts." Immediately, his contagious sense of disorder runs up against numbing routine. No way should guys pickled on sedatives shuffle around in bathrobes when the World Series is on. This means war! On one side is McMurphy. On the other is soft-spoken Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), among the most coldly monstrous villains in film history. At stake is the fate of every patient on the ward. Based on Ken Kesey's acclaimed bestseller, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest swept all five major 1975 Academy Awards: Best Picture (produced by Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas), Actor (Nicholson), Actress (Fletcher), Director (Milos Forman) and Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman). Raucous, searing and with a superb cast that includes Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd in his film debut, this one soars.
One of the key movies of the 1970s, when exciting, groundbreaking, personal films were still being made in Hollywood, Milos Forman's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest emphasized the humanistic story at the heart of Ken Kesey's more hallucinogenic novel. Jack Nicholson was born to play the part of Randle Patrick McMurphy, the rebellious inmate of a psychiatric hospital who fights back against the authorities' cold attitudes of institutional superiority, as personified by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). It's the classic antiestablishment tale of one man asserting his individuality in the face of a repressive, conformist system--and it works on every level. Forman populates his film with memorably eccentric faces, and gets such freshly detailed and spontaneous work from his ensemble that the picture sometimes feels like a documentary. Unlike a lot of films pitched at the "youth culture" of the 1970s, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest really hasn't dated a bit, because the qualities of human nature that Forman captures--playfulness, courage, inspiration, pride, stubbornness--are universal and timeless. The film swept the Academy Awards for 1976, winning in all the major categories (picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay) for the first time since Frank Capra's It Happened One Night in 1931. --Jim Emerson
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Top customer reviews
Jack Nicholson starts as R.P. McMurphy-- a Veteran/vagabond card gambler with a criminal record of rape and battery charges. He is described as a slacker who is faking mental illness in order to escape imprisonment. The year is 1962, McMurphy gets admitted to a Salem Mental Institute for an observation. Soon after, he gains the trust of the patients and changes their lives...as a result of his shenanigans, he gets on the bad side of the strict and tyrannical senior nurse on the staff by the name of Ratched.
The film contains many hidden messages about life, sanity, institutionalization, and perhaps the meaning behind society.
- Commentary by director Milos Forman and producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, and a theatrical trailer, both of which appear on the 2002 two-disc DVD and all current Blu-ray releases.
- Deleted scenes, which appear on Blu-ray.
- New 87-min. documentary, 'Completely Cuckoo,' which can be found here and on the Collector's Edition Blu-ray. This is essentially an expanded version of the 47-min. documentary put out with the two-disc DVD, recut with input from novelist Ken Kesey (who was notably absent from the earlier piece).
- New interview with Michael Douglas, again common only to the Collector's DVD and Blu-ray.
- Transfer looks to be the same as that taken from the 2001 restoration and is, contrary to Amazon's claim of a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, anamorphic widescreen.
- Also included are a hardbound book filled with extensive production notes, stills and behind-the-scenes photographs; a reproduction of the original pressbook; lobby cards featuring poster artwork; character photo cards; and a deck of cast-inspired playing cards.
While certain of the components here are superfluous (playing cards, I'm looking at you), it is a very attractive package for completists, and for those who agree that 'Cuckoo,' as a unique and valued contribution to American cinema, deserves the royal treatment. 5 stars for the film, 4 1/2 for presentation.