|Category||Western||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 2.35:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono|
|Year Released||1966||Commentary Tracks||None|
(not 161 minutes as per packaging)
Deleted Scenes (7)
Main Menu Audio and Animation
Fox Home Entertainment
Lee Van Cleef
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||2.0 mono|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The film has become such a classic that we can all probably fill in the three blanks, but I would be willing to bet that we would all come up with a different set of three. Mine? Well, just to annoy my sister, who happens to be a huge Clint Eastwood fan, the blanks would be: Clint Eastwood, Clint Eastwood and Clint Eastwood! Whatever you may think of dear old Clint, the sad fact is that here he is actually quite good, but no matter how good he gets he very rarely gets much above bad and he is definitely downright ugly.
Well, enough of taking the mickey out of my sister's liking of Clint Eastwood, and on with the film itself. Of course, you, like myself, are probably well-familiar with the film itself, as it is a classic that bears repeated viewing with ease and is the absolute defining film of the whole sub-genre of the spaghetti western. How many films can you name that you can enjoy even after many dozens of viewings? Star Wars, The Right Stuff, Notting Hill, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are amongst mine. But what makes it such a classic film? That's a very good question, and your reasons are bound to be different to mine. For me, it is some quite wonderful scenery, beautifully understated dialogue (has any film of this length been made with so little dialogue?), a couple of great performances and a terrifically annoying soundtrack that really bores into the brain with repeated viewings. Despite repeated viewings, there is still much to enjoy in this film, and this DVD provides another reason to revisit the film - this is the first time that I have ever seen this film in widescreen, and boy, is it an eye-opener!
The way the characters are introduced really sets the scene for the whole film. We start with The Bad in Tuco Ramirez (Eli Wallach), a man of very dubious character whose list of offences is longer than the rope from which he repeatedly finds himself dangling. Next comes The Ugly in "Angel Eyes" Setenza (Lee Van Cleef), your clichéd hired gun who is not averse to making additional money by playing both sides of the arrangement. Finally comes The Good in the form of The Man With No Name, a.k.a. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) who happens to be the partner of Tuco (The Bad), saving him from actually hanging by the neck until it is broken, thereby making repeated and ever-increasing sums by turning him in again and again. So, we have three rather dubious characters, but of the three we are of course supposed to like The Man With No Name. Director Sergio Leone takes his sweet time introducing the three main characters before we finally get to embark upon the real story here - namely the obligatory pot of gold. Ugly is on the trail of a character known as Bill Carson, who knows the whereabouts of a cash hoard of $200,000 stolen from the Army (did I mention that this movie is set in the American Civil War?). As fate would have it, Tuco happens to have located the said Bill Carson whilst trying to kill Blondie for breaking their partnership by leaving him hanging from a rope. By a twist of further fate, Bill Carson tells Tuco in which cemetery the hoard is buried, but tells Blondie which grave it is buried in. So, Tuco has to forgo killing Blondie in order to locate the hoard. Unfortunately, whilst heading off in the general direction of the cemetery, they happen upon an army patrol which is mistakenly assumed to be Confederate. Now finding themselves guests of the Union in a POW camp, Tuco assumes the name of Bill Carson since he is wearing the deceased's uniform. Angel Eyes (The Ugly) happens to be in effective charge of the camp as a sergeant in the Union Army and knows that Tuco is not who he says he is. Eventually, he persuades his old friend Tuco to reveal the details he knows. He does not try the same trick on Blondie though, and together they head off in search of the pot of gold. Paths cross and re-cross as allegiances switch backwards and forwards as circumstances dictate, before we end up in one of the true climactic shoot-outs of the whole Western genre.
This is not the most original story ever written and whole chunks of the film are either clichés themselves or have since become clichés as a result of this film. But what the story may lack in originality it more than makes up for with its unique blend of film-making and copious doses of subtle humour. As I previously said, I doubt that any film made since has made so much out of so little dialogue, and used the music as such a powerful substitute for it, for it is the scenery and the music that really sets this film apart from just about every other western ever made. Of course, unless you have been fortunate to see this on the big screen before, seeing the scenery in all its widescreen glory is a real eye-opener indeed. I have only ever seen this film on television and on some rather scrubby VHS tapes, and to finally see it in widescreen has been a revelation. The framing of so many shots was obviously planned so tightly by Sergio Leone that you have never really seen the film if all you have ever experienced is the pan and scan version. The whole vista that opens up in widescreen also makes a number of shots even more powerful as a result. When you add into the mix the powerful music of Ennio Morricone, so essential to the film, the result is something quite unique. Just about every pivotal scene in the film is accompanied by the music of Ennio Morricone instead of the endless prattling dialogue that is so common in films. Not too many directors have understood the concept of less is more, but here Sergio Leone proves himself a master of this concept. The performances from the actors almost pale in comparison which is something of a shame really as in their own ways each of the three leads provides a masterly performance that utterly defines their characters. You would be hard-pressed to imagine the roles being played by anyone else. Lee Van Cleef is superb as the hired gun, and carries the role off with just the right sort of menace and moxie. Eli Wallach is a little over-the-top, but thoroughly engaging nonetheless, as the wizened criminal type, and even the extremely youthful-looking Clint Eastwood carries off the role of the likeable rogue with aplomb. The supporting cast can be forgotten here as they are completely peripheral to the action.
The voters on the Internet Movie Database rank this in the top 50 films of all time, at number 49, and there is no doubt that it is a classic that warrants the ranking. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly is a film to be returned to frequently and enjoyed again and again. This is Sergio Leone's defining masterpiece in the same way as Sam Peckinpah's defining masterpiece was The Wild Bunch. To finally see it in all its widescreen glory has been a revelation to me and whatever shortcomings there are in the fact that the film is thirty-four years old are easily forgiven. For once, the blurb on the back cover of the package actually is almost understating the grandeur of the film. The only thing that still puzzles me is why the film still earns an R rating - certainly there is plenty of blood, but I have seen a hell of a lot worse in films rated MA or even M.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The first thing that stood out for me in this transfer was how sharp it actually was. I was expecting a soft, diffuse mess that epitomizes the whole genre of the spaghetti western. What we get is as sharp a transfer as we could reasonably have expected, with very few lapses indeed throughout what is quite a lengthy film. It is also generally a much clearer transfer than I was expecting, so that all the detail that is there in the film comes up very clearly here. There is also a nice consistency in the transfer, which again I was not expecting. The picture comes up really gorgeously, and the whole grandeur of the film jumps out of the screen in a way that has been sadly lacking on VHS. There appears to be some minor problems with low level noise in the transfer, but nothing that was really serious or distracting.
As is to be expected, the colour palette on offer here is extremely muted and about the only time you get any bright, primary colours is a small patch of green about halfway through the film! That is not to say that the transfer is not in general a vibrant one, however. The colours may be muted but they have a nice bright appearance about them. Just about the only thing to complain about here is the fact that blacks are very rarely black and reds rarely look red - but that is how the film was shot and is not a transfer problem. This just smacks of the dusty, sandy landscape of the west. There naturally is no real suggestion of oversaturation of colours in the transfer at all. Even if there was colour bleed here, you would be hard-pressed to notice it!
Now we get to the problems, and problems there are. There are significant hints at some MPEG artefacting in the transfer, mainly in the form of some blockiness in the background at times. However, there are also a couple of instances of motion blur in panned shots - although I would not wish to stake my life on these actually being a transfer problem rather than being part of the original film. Whilst there were no really overt problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, there were a number of instances of relatively minor shimmer that at one or two points were just a little too obvious. The worst example would be during the scenes where Tuco is taking a bath, where there is some quite obvious shimmer in the swinging doors. These artefacts really did not detract too much from the transfer, but they were a little difficult to overlook. There were some problems with some minor wobble at times, most probably not all of the telecine wobble variety if the truth be known. However, the real problem here is the film artefacts, and some quite ugly blemishes there are too. All sorts of dirt marks, scratches, blobs and degradations in the print were on offer, and this really highlights the fact that the film has not been blessed with a full restoration, which it does so richly deserve in my view. These problems really highlight the age of the film and make the comparison with fully restored efforts of older vintage all the more poorer. This cries out for a full restoration, but don't get me wrong - this is as good as the film has looked in years and because of it, you do tend to get past the inherent problems with relative ease. However, I would suspect that the larger the display device this transfer is viewed on, the poorer the transfer will look, and I would be somewhat loathe to watch this on anything larger than an 80-odd centimetre television.
This is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 97:39. This is a fairly well-handled change, that whilst coming during the middle of a scene is not too noticeable and is not at all disruptive to the film.
There is just the one audio track on the DVD, being the English dub in glorious Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Quite why we have not got an Italian soundtrack here is something of a puzzle.
The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.
Obviously we have the dub here, but an unusual dub in as much as the voices for the lead characters actually came from the lead actors. Still, the usual sync problems exist, and in many ways it would have been nice to have the original Italian soundtrack with the god-awfully dubbed voices of the lead actors that we do get a brief sample of in the deleted scenes!
As previously mentioned, the musical score comes from Ennio Morricone, and is one of his most enduring pieces of work. Blessed with one of the most instantly recognizable themes in movie history, reprised frequently during the film, the score in many respects is the dialogue of the film. This soundtrack is possibly the best thing that Ennio Morricone has ever put together for a film, and is one of the classic soundtracks of film. The film would be nothing without it.
The mono soundtrack is really showing its age a little. The cannon fire for instance is positively anaemic, and this sort of anaemia pervades what should be the more dynamic parts of the soundtrack. There are some minor problems with distortion and the odd editing glitch to boot. Overall, this lacks any sort of presence whatsoever and the climatic destruction of the bridge is one of the most underwhelming explosions that you will ever hear on DVD. This really cries out for some sort of 5.1 remastering but then we would probably run into all sorts of other problems, along the lines of it being out of character for the film and bordering on the desecration of a masterpiece. The sound picture is very front and centre as we would expect from a mono soundtrack. Overall, though, I doubt that we could expect any better than this for the original soundtrack.
A good video transfer for an unrestored film of its age.
A barely decent audio transfer.
An undistinguished extras package, high on rarity
rather than on technical merit.
© Ian Morris (have a
laugh, check out the bio)
28th May 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|