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After faking madness to avoid prison, bad boy Randoph Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is committed to a mental asylum, but he doesn't seem to mind. He's an immediate disruption to the sedate, sterile mental ward, and the inmates are drawn to him. This earns the wrath of icy cold head nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who won't stand for disruption on her ward, despite McMurphy's antics actually causing some patients to seemingly improve. Yet when his relationship with a silent Indian (Will Sampson) and an insecure young man (Brad Dourif) leads to tragedy, Ratched sees that McMurphy is suitably punished.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
It's a privilege to write about One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, voted number 20 on the American Film Institute's list of its 100 Greatest Movies, and one of only three films to ever win all four major Oscars; Best Film, Best Director (Milos Foreman), Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Actress (Louise Fletcher). I have vivid memories of first reading the book in high school and the affect it had on me. The way it went into a secret world previously unknown to us and exposed the humanity and inhumanity within. The way the mental hospital represents a huge, well-oiled machine attended by nurse Ratched and driven by the crazed energy of R. P. McMurphy (note his initials RPM).

Okay, so that's a bit academic, but who would argue that Cuckoo's Nest isn't one of the most profound and tragic movies ever made? Put it down to two things; Kesey's award winning story, and the then-risky casting of Jack Nicholson, who went truly crazy in The Shining but did his time in the Cuckoo's Nest. As revealed by producer Michael Douglas in the excellent 48 minute making-of documentary, Nicholson was considered only after the role was offered to Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando, who both passed. At one stage, director Milos Forman wanted Burt Reynolds, currently hot in Smokey and the Bandit! We learn that Kirk Douglas bought the rights to Kesey's book and turned it into a semi-successful play, and that it took another ten
years to turn into a film. The documentary also features interviews with Forman, Kesey, and with Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli, who get nauseous just recounting the sickening fishing boat excursion. Amusingly, Louise Fletcher admits that playing an ice-queen got to her, and with so many men having fun around her, she simply whipped off her top and showed them she was a real woman after all.

The DVD commentary by Forman, Douglas and Zaentz is one of the best I've heard yet, revealing plenty of funny stories on the kamikaze making of this masterpiece. Eight additional scenes, however, are interesting but not essential to the story.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a must have special edition DVD. It's a vivid exploration of institutional life, an examination of male behaviour, an indictment of narrow thinking, and an unflinching tragedy. And it continues to disturb, amuse, and astound.

Published October 24, 2002

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(US -1975)

CAST: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Vincent Schiavelli, Danny DeVito, Will Sampson, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, William Redfield, Michael Berryman, Peter Brocco, Dean R Brooks

DIRECTOR: Milos Forman

RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes

PRESENTATION: Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby; Widescreen anamorphic format, New Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio; Widescreen format [16x9 1.85:1]

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Cast and Crew biographies; Awards; Commentary by director Milos Forman and producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz; Disc 2: Theatrical trailers; The Making of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Additional scenes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: October 23, 2002

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