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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Fistful of Dollars, A: Special Edition (Per Un Pugno Di Dollari) (1964)

Fistful of Dollars, A: Special Edition (Per Un Pugno Di Dollari) (1964)

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Released 22-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Sir Christopher Frayling (Biographer Of Sergio Leone )
Featurette-A New Kind Of Hero
Featurette-A Few Weeks In Spain
Featurette-Tre Voci/Three Voices
Featurette-Restoration Italian Style
Featurette-Location Comparisons
Radio Spots-10
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Double Bill Trailer
Featurette-Not Ready For Prime Time
Featurette-The Network Prologue
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 95:55
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (50:48)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sergio Leone

Starring Clint Eastwood
Marianne Koch
Gian Maria Volonté
Wolfgang Lukschy
Sieghardt Rupp
Antonio Prieto
José Calvo
Margarita Lozano
Daniel Martín
Benito Stefanelli
Bruno Carotenuto
Joseph Egger
Mario Brega
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    From a dry and dusty desert trail, a big man on a small mule strides into the troubled town of San Miguel, located just over the Mexican border. Upon arrival he's accosted by the town's bell-ringer who informs him of two warring families in the town; the Baxters and the Rojos. Besides holding a violent grip on the small town's population, the two families are profiting from illegal trading in guns and liquor. The stranger is intrigued and sees an opportunity to profit from the conflict between the two groups, so he offers his services as a gun for hire to one family, then the other. His gun may be quick enough to earn a few dollars, but can it save him from becoming another casualty?

    Fistful of Dollars is the first in a trilogy of westerns starring Clint Eastwood, by Italian director Sergio Leone. This Spanish, Italian and West German co-production began under the working title The Magnificent Stranger and it was made back to back with Le Pistole non Discutono (Bullets Don't Argue), directed by Mario Caiano. Of these two films, the producers originally intended to make Leone's film a b-feature. This meant that much of the available budget was reserved for Bullets Don't Argue, leaving minimal funds for Leone to work with. Both films used the same sets and locations, as well as the same wardrobe and composer (Ennio Morricone), however only one of them is well known today.

    Prior to making his own films, Sergio Leone acted as an assistant director for Robert Wise's Helen of Troy and the infamous chariot race in Ben-Hur. His foray into Italian westerns came at a time when Hollywood westerns were becoming unfashionable and their stars were getting older. It certainly appeared westerns were dying in Hollywood, having dropped in production from over 150 films in 1950 to only 15 in 1963. Despite this downturn, the market for westerns in Italy and Germany was still very strong. Aware of this, Leone refreshed the genre by turning the formula on its head. Rather than clearly define the goodies and the baddies by the colour of their hats, his films took place in towns where nobody could be trusted - even the schoolteachers were corrupt!

    Before Clint Eastwood accepted the lead role, actors James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda had each been approached but their fees were considered too exorbitant for the low budget production. Eastwood was working in the television series Rawhide at the time and agreed to appear for the very small fee of $15,000 plus a six week holiday in Spain. Eastwood's character is often referred to as the man with no name, however this was merely a gimmick devised by the publicists at United Artists. In Leone's original shooting script the character was named Ray but in the final film the coffin maker can be heard calling him Joe a number of times.

    It's widely known that Fistful of Dollars is in fact a remake of the classic Japanese film Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa. While the basic plot and character interaction of the films are virtually identical, culturally they are miles apart. Strangely, the rights to remake Yojimbo weren't secured and the Kurosawa original wasn't mentioned on set or in any of the film's promotion. Upon seeing the film, Kurosawa wrote to Leone accusing him of plagiarism and the matter was settled out of court with Kurosawa earning a percentage of the film's gross earnings (amounting to more than he'd earned himself as a director at the time) and distribution rights across Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

    I'll admit here that I'm a relative newcomer to the western. Although I recall watching Leone's films on television with my Dad as a youngster, until recently the closest my tastes came to such films was Alex de la Iglesia's 800 Balas (800 Bullets). His is a modern day tribute to the Spaghetti Western, relating the story of a wild west theme park marked for demolition. Knowing this, a friend re-introduced me to Leone's work via Once Upon A Time In The West and I've been fascinated ever since. Fistful of Dollars is a very good western, but it isn't Leone's best film in my opinion. It does show the early signs of what would become his trademark style as director, and that alone makes it indispensable cinema.

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Transfer Quality


    This video transfer is very good for a film of this age and it is clear that quite a bit of effort has gone into the restoration of the source. This film, like most of Leone's output during the 60s, was captured on the now redundant Techniscope widescreen format, a system that only a limited number of specialist film labs are capable of handling nowadays. With a native aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Techniscope is a two perforation (non-anamorphic) system whose main draw card to filmmakers on a tight budget was the ability to print two frames for the price of one, making processing considerably cheaper than four perforation formats such as Cinemascope. As you would probably guess, there are a number of drawbacks related to this format. Because only half the normal frame size is being utilised there is an increased degree of grain inherent in the image. To make matters worse, film artefacts that would normally exist as tiny inconsequential specks or scratches are enlarged twofold and become highly visible. Despite these flaws, the format does lend itself to superb extreme close-ups that in time would come to define Leone's style as director.

    The DVD transfer is presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 enhancement.

    The image is adequately sharp with good, visible detail in foreground and background objects. Some scenes are presented in low light and have good shadow detail to match. Due to the limited budget of this production many of the nighttime scenes were actually shot during the day with filters applied to make the scenes dark, so at times these do not appear entirely realistic. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    As you would expect, the colouring isn't as vivid or consistent as a more recent production but the dry, dirty colours of Almeria, Spain look the best they ever have. I noticed some intermittent shifts in palette from cool to warm around reel transitions, which were of minimal distraction.

    I didn't notice any MPEG artefacting at all. Film artefacts are concentrated around reel changes, but as a whole this source is in pretty good condition. Specks of dust and dirt, hairs and scratches are visible throughout, such as the white dot on Clint's face at 4:47, but these are not overly annoying. I noted some slight telecine wobble during the opening credits which was similarly unobtrusive. There is quite a bit of film grain present, a common drawback of the Techniscope format as I mentioned above. Reel change markings and cigarette burns have been removed.

    I watched most of the film with English subtitles enabled and found them to be easy to read and well paced with the dialogue. On most occasions they were contained in the lower black bar of the transfer so as not to interfere with the image.

    Disc one is dual layered, with the layer transition placed during the feature at 50:48. The layer change was transparent on my system, however it appears to be situated in a quiet moment in the middle of a scene. The extras disc is single layered (DVD5 format).

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD. The default soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), partnered by a dts equivalent (768Kb/s). The third soundtrack option is a commentary from Christopher Frayling, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). I listened to the default soundtrack and sampled the dts for comparison on several occasions. Obviously, the film's original mono soundtrack appears to be omitted from this release.

    Films of this ilk were entirely post-synchronized in the dubbing studio without any reference to the audio captured on set, which often meant altering dialogue. Guide audio was recorded for this purpose in the actor's native languages but was often lost, discarded or deemed unusable. All the sound you hear was assembled in the studio; including character voices, horses and subtle natural sounds. Clint Eastwood claims to have kept notes of his lines when they were altered, in preparation for the dubbing stage.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand despite the many accents involved. Many of the actors did not perform in English, so as a consequence the ADR sync is highly variable. While the poor sync may irritate some, there is a surprising amount of depth in the soundtrack given the age and condition of the source. I didn't notice any terribly bad pops or dropouts in the soundtrack.

    The surround channels are used sparingly for atmosphere and some dedicated panning. At 74:45 there is a nice pan from rear left to front as horses go by. Voices are confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.

    The inclusion of a dts option is nice, but given the limitations of the source material there is little to separate the Dolby Digital and dts soundtracks. Output level is the same and for all intents and purposes these streams sound identical. If given the choice, I would prefer the original mono soundtrack as opposed to this dts rendition.

    The score by Ennio Morricone is stunning, but I was surprised to learn that he was not the original composer approached for this film. Leone's first preference was Angelo Francesco Lavagnino who scored the sword and sandal films Last Days of Pompeii and Colossus of Rhodes. Morricone's score was unique in its time, with use of chants, whip cracks and other unconventional noises. Alessandro Alessandroni conducted the distinctive choir parts, contributed whistles and played guitar on the main theme. The Fender Stratocaster guitar was very hip at the time, thanks to enormously popular guitar riffs such as the James Bond theme and pop groups such as The Shadows, which in turn gives this film's theme a beautiful, rebellious tone.

    The subwoofer isn't utilised to any great degree.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This is a great collection of informative material related to the film and it is particularly satisfying to see it spread over two discs, leaving room for the feature transfer. All content has optional English subtitles and is 16x9 enhanced unless otherwise noted.


    The menu pages are nicely animated and accompanied by clips from the score. The scene selection menu is also fully animated.

Disc One

Audio Commentary-Christopher Frayling

    Christopher Frayling is an interesting speaker and the author of such books as Spaghetti Westerns and the Sergio Leone biography. He touches on a lot of similar ground that is covered in the extras on disc two, discussing Ennio Morricone's score, the film's shooting locations and he makes many direct comparisons with this film and Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. I was particularly surprised to learn of the Roman Catholic symbolism present in the film which was added specifically for Italian audiences. He also talks about the film's design, notable differences in comparison with the original shooting script and how budget limitations were dealt with during filming. We also get scene specific comments regarding censorship through the years and scenes that were made by the second unit.

Disc Two

Featurette- A New Kind Of Hero (21:56)

    Christopher Frayling talks about both the Hollywood and the Spaghetti Western and this film's similarities with Yojimbo. Frayling then shares an anecdote about Eastwood's casting and speculates on his contribution to the character, Leone's distinctive style and explains some of the flaws in the video transfer.

Featurette- A Few Weeks In Spain (8:11)

    Clint Eastwood talks about filming in Italy and Spain, how he came to be involved in the film and what kind of budget the crew were working with. He also discusses the dubbing process and the importance of referring to his own notes when looping dialogue later.

Featurette- Tre Voci / Three Voices (10:44)

    Three of Sergio Leone's colleagues share stories of their time working with him. These include Alberto Grimaldi (producer), Sergio Donati (writer) and Mickey Knox (English voice actor).

Featurette- Restoration Italian Style (5:43)

    John Kirk is in charge of MGM's vault and here he discusses the challenges involved in sourcing the elements required to create a restored version of the film. We take a look at Triage, the laboratory responsible for compiling this version from two sources; an old interpositive and a newer print made in the 90s. John also talks a little about the Techniscope format and the hurdles faced when converting the two 2 perforation interpositives to a new 4 perforation print suitable for transfer to DVD. Audio Mechanics in L.A. restored the audio from only two available elements; the first an English mono composite containing dialogue, score and mono effects and the second a composite of effects and score only. Restoration featurettes are a favourite of mine when it comes to DVD extras, and this one is short but worthwhile.

Featurette- Location Comparisons (5:08)

    From Almeria, Spain in 1964 to recent photos taken in 2004, stills from the film are compared with recent photos showing how some of the film's locations are unchanged, while others are barely recognisable.

Radio Spots (5:26)

    Ten very similar promo audio clips are presented here, with optional English subtitles.

Trailers (2)

    These include the Fistful of Dollars theatrical trailer and a double bill trailer for Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More.

Featurette- Not Ready For Prime Time (6:03)

    Too morbid! Too violent! Director Monte Hellman was hired to create a prologue for the film's 1977 television broadcast that would give moral justification to the body count and establish Eastwood's character as "the good guy". Monte shares his thoughts on the prologue, the location that was used and the appearance of actor Harry Dean Stanton.

Featurette- The Network Prologue (7:23)

    We're introduced to Howard Fridkin, a collector of all things Leone who shares the story of his recording of the film's TV broadcast onto Betamax tape in August 1977. In doing so he saved the only surviving copy of Monte Hellman's prologue to the film. The prologue is nothing flash, content or quality-wise, but it is a piece of the film's history regardless.

Gallery (1:29)

    A series of stills, most of them black and white, taken during the film's production.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Ours is identical in content to the Region 2 SE release of earlier this year. There is no sign of a Region 1 SE release in the near future, so I don't see any compelling reason to import this title at this time.


    Fistful of Dollars isn't Sergio Leone's best film but it does show many of the director's trademarks in their infancy. As a western, this is a landmark of the genre and Eastwood is excellent in his performance.

    The video transfer is very good considering the age and condition of the source.

    The audio transfer is clean and spacious in surround, but the original mono soundtrack is absent.

    The extras are informative and worth repeated viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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