The Gregory Peck Film Collection – DVD Review



Gregory Peck always looked like he was on top of the situation. He was an authority on a subject without saying a word. If a crisis broke out, you’d want Peck to be amongst the faces at the conference table. You knew he’d be the straight shooter who wouldn’t candy coat the facts to make him look better than the smug competition. With his professorial demeanor, Peck appeared to be deep in thought and not merely waiting when silent. He was an icon of intellect and stability. This attitude also made him extremely believable when people discovered he was completely out of his depths. The Gregory Peck Film Collection gathers together his prime moments. By the time you finish this box and its bonus documentaries, you’ll be an authority on Gregory Peck.

The World in His Arms (1952 – 105 minutes) sets Peck on the sea. He’s Captain Jonathan Clark. He’s more stoic than the normal sea dog. This film won’t be approved by Greenpeace and PETA since Peck’s crew deals in seal pelts from their journey to Russian-controlled Alaska. (Does Sarah Palin know that at one point her backyard was part of Russia?) Peck’s love for the ocean gets pushed back by his lust for a countess (Ann Blyth). She’s run away from her fiancée, a Russian prince. Things get extremely thrilling and complicated when she’s kidnapped. Peck has to race across the rough waves to get her back. It’s a romantic action pic that allows Peck to drop the restraint and come off as dashing.

Cape Fear (1961 – 106 minutes) is a legendary thriller. Robert Mitchum is released from prison. He’s determined to get revenge on Gregory Peck who was the key witness at the trial. He wants to destroy Peck emotionally by going after his wife and daughter first. The law is no help in restraining his taunts. Even Telly Savalas (Kojak) can’t help Peck. What will Peck do to save his family from this menace who knows where the law draws the line? Mitchum is the devil on the screen. If you’ve seen the Martin Scorsese version with Robert DeNiro, you must see the original.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 – 130 minutes) is an American classic. This adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel hits all the right emotional notes. Peck rightly won the Oscar for his performance as the lawyer Atticus Finch. He’s a father trying to properly raise his two children right in a Southern town. He defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. His neighbors are none to pleased at this development. They feel he’s being a traitor by daring to suggest his client is innocent. It’s a tense battle of wills that takes Peck to the edge in the courtroom. This is essential viewing for a complete film education.

Captain Newman, M.D. (1963 – 91 minutes) deals with mental health during World War II. Peck treats soldiers that are overwhelmed by what they did and saw during battle. What gets to Peck is the thought that once his patients become sane, they’re shipped back off to the front. The film has the same tone as M*A*S*H* in mixing the serious medical moments with comic highlights. The film is star studded with Tony Curtis, Anglie Dickinson Larry Storch and Bobby Darren. Robert Duvall reteams with his Mockingbird star. There’s even a cameo from Ted Bessell and his Impeccable Hair.

Gregory Peck’s early career was marked by working with Alfred Hitchcock. In the later part of his career, he would make two films that are Hitchcockian without Alfred in the director’s chair.

Mirage (1965 – 109 minutes) creates pure confusion as Peck is a man who swears he’s an accountant only to realize he’s a different person. Is he suffering from a trauma that induced amnesia? He knows something is wrong since total strangers are bent on killing him. He hires Walter Matthau to uncover his true identity before George Kennedy plugs him. Arabesque (1966 – 106 minutes) places Peck’s university professor persona in the midst of an international intrigue. The situation gets more intriguing with Sophia Loren on the scene. Peck’s services are needed to decipher a hieroglyphic. Things get out of control as he becomes part of the espionage plot with the assistance of Loren. There’s a breathtaking close up shot of Loren’s lips that explain why Peck would go beyond his staid college life. Peck is hilarious when he’s doped up. Both films are fun although they could have been helped with Hitchcock calling the shots.

The Gregory Peck Film Collection is the perfect introduction to the American icon. Cape Fear and To Kill A Mockingbird show the master at his peak. He is the ultimate protective father. You also get lighter moments with Mirage and Arabesque. He wasn’t always a heavy dramatic star. But even in these lighter movies, you still want to trust Peck. He might not know what he’s doing, but he’ll remain certain about what he has done.

The video for most of the films are 1.85:1 anamorphic. The World in His Arms is 1.33:1 full frame. Arabesque is 2.35:1 anamorphic. All the transfers are sharp and detailed. The contrast on the black and white Cape Fear makes Robert Mitchum more fearsome. The audio on To Kill a Mockingbird is Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1. There are French and Spanish dubs in Dolby Digital 2.0. Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula contribute a very incisive commentary track. The film is subtitled in English, French and Spanish. Arabesque has a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track with Spanish and French dubs. The remaining films have Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks with Spanish dubs. The levels are proper. The sound mix is crisp and clean. The films are subtitled in English, Spanish and French.

Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech (1:28) has Sophia Loren present the award to Peck. In a few short years, they’d star in Arabesque together. Coincidence?

American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award (10:02) contains his acceptance speech from 1989. Henry Winkler was at the ceremony along with the cast of Blue Velvet.

Excerpt from Academy Tribute to Gregory Peck (10:09) is from a memorial service. His daughter remembers her dad.

Scout Remembers (12:00) is an NBC interview with Mary Badham from 1999. She remembers landing the role through a casting cattle call.

Theatrical Trailer (2:52) has Peck address the audience about the nature of Harper Lee’s book.

A Conversation with Gregory Peck (1:37:24) captures him live talking to audiences around the world. Barbara Kopple’s documentary allows us to understand the actor in his final years.

Fearful Symmetry: The Making of to Kill a Mockingbird (1:30:07) gets beneath the film through all the major contributors. This is much better than the lecture I heard in an Intro to Film History class. This is more textured than the normal talking heads chatting about the movie bonus feature.

The Making of Cape Fear (27:59) exposes the fact that Peck produced the film. He talks about how he developed the film. J. Lee Thompson remembers how Peck swore whomever gets cast as Max Cady will steal the picture. Peck shares several hearty stories from the set.

Production Photos (4:48) is a montage of still shots set to the soundtrack of Cape Fear).

Theatrical Trailer (2:07) sells the explosive suspense of Cape Fear. This is how to sell a film.

Trailer (1:48) sets up the historical context of The World in His Arms

The Gregory Peck Film Collection brings together several of his best films along with enough documentaries to give you a true sense of the measure of the man. To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic that must be seen by anyone claiming to be a film fan. The other five titles vary in tone, but aren’t second tier entertainments. They expose Peck as an icon of cinema.

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Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Gregory Peck Film Collection. Starring Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall, Sophia Loren and Walter Matthau. Boxset Contents: 6 movies on 7 DVDs. Released on DVD: November 4, 2008. Available at Amazon.

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