One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Ultimate Collector's Edition Review

In 1975, filmmaker Milos Forman adapted to film Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the result was a stark, realistic portrayal of adjustments at a mental hospital to the newly committed Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson); as patients of the hospital adjust to the newcomer's eccentricities, the staff, headed by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), do their best not to adjust, and do as much enforcing as humanly possible to keep McMurphy in line.

McMurphy, after all, is under an extra amount of supervision, as the hospital administrators have doubts as to whether McMurphy suffers from any sort of mental illness that would allow him to stay at the hospital, rather than fulfill his obligations as mandated by the judge's sentence; he has quite a rap sheet, consisting mostly of assaults, and one of statutory rape from a girl who lied about her age. In a single interview with the hospital's head doctor, Dr. Spivey (Dean R. Brooks), the audience can easily discern that McMurphy has had a troubled past and on a Sunday morning probably find him in a bar rather than a church. But he's likable and could be charming if he ever combed his hair and stopped cursing.

As McMurphy is integrated into the group therapy sessions, he gets to meet all the interesting individuals who make up the small ward of the hospital, both patients and staff. Keeping all of the patients in line is Nurse Ratched. She seems incapable of flinching at any disturbance, which presents itself as a challenge to McMurphy. The two become unofficial nemeses, and being the natural leader that he is, McMurphy befriends the patients of the ward, which becomes an increasingly difficult obstacle for Nurse Ratched. The two make perfect foes as they are exact opposites: one a guy who lives life according to his own rules, and the other a cold, seemingly joyless woman who instills a rigid system of rules upon her patients.

Performances are key in this film; the pace at which Milos Forman directs is a slow one, allowing the actors maximum flexibility. The performances are top-notch in this movie; they inspire pity, sympathy, joy and discomfort, all at the appropriate times. The growing conflict between Ratched and McMurphy is shown through McMurphy's explosive and seditious rants, while Ratched's seldom-changing expression pushes back. The manner in which Louise Fletcher plays Nurse Ratched is perfectly intimidating; she, the calm, cool and collected Nurse manipulates, and knows how to twist the knife into every patient in the ward. The character of Ratched is interesing in that she is fairly one-dimensional, but still a very effective villain. The audience is never given a glimpse into any sort of humanity that might exist within her, and that's because there isn't any.

By the end, things get ugly. The last scene itself is way up there on the list of "Ending Scenes That Will Haunt You For Life". But the movie in its entirety is way up there on the list of "Great Films You Should See", and because of the extra material, buying this Blu-ray box set is a good start.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

As you can imagine with a box set, the extras are bountiful. There's a commentary from the director Milos Forman along with producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz. There's a bit called “Asylum: An Empty Nest for the Mentally Ill?” which is an informational piece on the status of mental health hospitals and the problems therein. There's a very extensive behind-the-scenes called “Completely Cuckoo,” in which you can learn pretty much everything there is to know about the story. You get to hear it from Ken Kesey, the author of the novel, as well as cast and crew. There's a trailer, and several deleted scenes.

Apart from what's on the actual Blu-ray, the box set comes with fun stuff like some headshots of the main cast, a deck of playing cards with pictures of the cast, and a small book loaded with information on the making of  the film. For a list price of $50, this is a very, very good buy.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Ultimate Collector's Edition" is on sale September 14, 2010 and is rated R. Drama. Directed by Milos Forman. Written by Ken Kesey (novel), Lawrence Hauben (screenplay) and Bo Goldman (screenplay). Starring Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Dean R Brooks, Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher.

Ryan Katona

I grew up in the Midwest and couldn't be prouder of it. There wasn't a whole lot to do though, and since not being athletic was one of my favorite pastimes, watching movies became a hobby. The hobby turned into a career pursuit, which led me to the east coast. I'm now excited that I get to share my two cents on movies.


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