To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Scary | 0 comments

Mockingbird1

Disclaimer: Some foul and racially charged language.

People will always remember To Kill a Mockingbird for the same reason the Harper Lee book garnered such a reaction – because of its radically progressive and inspiring stance on racism in the Depression-era South.

People remember the towering figure of Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) and his moving closing statements in the courtroom alongside Tom Robinson (Brock Peters). Meanwhile, people tend to forget that this is a story as seen from the eyes of a young girl, Scout (Mary Badham), and told from the voice of her older self (Kim Stanley).

The film tracks the misadventures Mockingbird3of Scout, her brother Jem (Phillip Alford), and their neighborhood friend Dill Harris (John Megna), who Lee modeled after Truman Capote. These misadventures vary from a rabid dog to schoolyard fights, but one adventure involving a mysterious neighbor seems to overwhelm the rest and recurs throughout the film until a shocking climax.

“Well, for one thing, he has a boy named Boo that he keeps chained to a bed in the house over yonder,” Jem explains of the neighborhood legend. “Boo only comes out at night when you’re asleep and it’s pitch-dark. When you wake up at night, you can hear him. Once I heard him scratchin’ on our screen door, but he was gone by the time Atticus got there. … Judgin’ from his tracks, he’s about six-and-a-half feet tall. He eats raw squirrels and all the cats he can catch. There’s a long, jagged scar that runs all the way across his face. His teeth are all yella’ and rotten. His eyes are popped and he drools most of the time.”

Most kids had a fabled character like this in their neighborhood and, like the trio in the film, at some point build up the courage to take it upon themselves to investigate their abode. This usually means staking the house out from dozens of feet away and never actually coming close enough to see or hear anything. Yet, it’s enough to deduct something and spin the yarn further.

“Let’s go down to the courthouse and see the room they locked Boo up in,” Dill says. “My aunt says it’s bat-infested and he nearly died from the mildew. Come on, I bet they got chains and instruments of torture down there.”

Their musings work extremely Mockingbird2well in painting a scary picture that never directly delivers because it’s a mere concoction from a child’s mind instead of a series of green-screen images. It’s something kids and parents alike can connect with. As is usually the case, the monster ends up being a shy person with a heart of gold (Robert Duvall in his debut), while the overly nice member of the PTA down the street drowns kittens just for fun. Sorry, I’ve seen too many David Lynch (Blue Velvet) and Todd Solondz (Happiness) movies.

Whatever you’ve heard about the poignancy of this film, that is if you haven’t seen it, I can attest that every bit of it is true. But as much as To Kill a Mockingbird is an iconic and inspiring American classic that deals with the bulky topic of racism, it’s also a family film about three kids and the lessons they learn of courage and morality.

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