Unforgiven: 10th Anniversary Edition (1 disc edition) (1992)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary
Awards
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 125:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Clint Eastwood
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Clint Eastwood
Gene Hackman
Morgan Freeman
Richard Harris
Case Gatefold
RPI Box Music Lennie Niehaus


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Spanish
Portuguese
German
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, it is a Western, after all
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Spaghetti Westerns have an interesting history to them, especially given that the term "Spaghetti Western" was coined by American critics as a put-down for the Western films that were produced in Italy. However, audiences became tired of the formulaic John Wayne approach, and Italian films such as Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo heralded a new philosophy towards recreating the bad old days of colonial America. No one has ever used widescreen ratios in a more dynamic manner than Sergio Leone, and the unflinching approach to depicting violence has ensured a place for the Dollars trilogy in cinematic history. All this is relevant because if it weren't for those three ground-breaking films, there's a good chance that Hollywood may never have heard of a rugged actor by the name of Clint Eastwood.

    So, twenty-eight years after he made a career-making decision to appear in Per Un Pugno Di Dollari, Clint Eastwood decided to make a homage to the Spaghetti Westerns by making one of his own. Unforgiven follows much of the same style as the Italian-made Westerns, in that it features an utterly bleak, ugly look at colonial America which few American directors would dare to put on the screen, especially in today's political climate. David Webb Peoples' script revolves around a whorehouse in the town of Big Whiskey. One of the staff there has made the unfortunate mistake of laughing at a customer, who in turn has taken offence and slashed her face apart, which prompts the other women in said establishment to put a bounty on the man's head.

    William Munny (Clint Eastwood) used to be a gunslinger, but he retired, got married, and started up a farm, which didn't go all that well since the story finds Munny with a shortage of funds and his wife dead from smallpox. Naturally, he needs money to feed himself and his two children, so when he hears from a young upstart calling himself the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) of the bounty being offered, he takes his friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) with him in an effort to collect. Together, the three of them travel across colonial America while Big Whiskey's sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) is doing everything in his power to discourage bounty hunters from coming to his town more out of social prejudice than any good reason. His measures requiring people to turn in all guns to the deputies whilst in town are merrily ignored to the detriment of a lot of gunslingers, including one English Bob (Richard Harris).

    It's a pretty simple plot, granted, but it works well because of the manner in which beautiful scenery and well-crafted characters are used to draw the viewer into it. It ain't the fourth episode in the Dollars trilogy, and it isn't the greatest Western ever made, but it was well worthy of the four Academy Awards that it won, and a rare example of a worthy winner at that. The end credits even contain a dedication to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, two exceptionally important people in Eastwood's career - I cannot think of a better thing to dedicate to anyone than one of the best films ever made in America.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Sergio Leone's influence is also easily apparent in Clint Eastwood's shots, with one of Anna Levine and Eastwood himself in conversation at 84:45 looking like it was patterned after A Fistful Of Dollars without being lifted straight out of that film.

    As you would expect of a transfer of a film that has been influenced by the great Sergio Leone, Unforgiven is presented in the proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    This transfer is unrelentingly sharp, occasionally to its own detriment (more about this in a moment), with a certain harsh, glaring look that beautifully reflects the desolate colonial landscape. The shadow detail is fairly ordinary - most of the night sequences appear to have been shot with whatever light was available, such as a flaming torch, and this limits the discernable detail in dark sequences, albeit in quite a random and artistic manner. No low-level noise was noticed during the transfer.

    The colours in this transfer are well-saturated, with a rich palette of greens and browns giving the overall look of the film a certain oil-painting quality, a touch that reminds us all of why we bought DVD players in the first place. No composite artefacts or smearing was in evidence.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed at all in this transfer; gone, in fact, is the grainy, pixelated look of certain outdoor night-time sequences that sullied the original single-layer version of this disc. In its place we have a smooth, clean, detailed transfer that, while not perfect, renders the film in the manner that I spent much of my previous review crying that it deserved. Film-to-video artefacts, unfortunately, are where the transfer comes unstuck, with guns and hats in particular bringing up some very distracting and annoying aliasing. Hats were the worst offender, with examples of hats showing up the interlaced nature of the format at 32:44, 34:48, 44:31, 86:34, 88:10, and 99:22. This was by no means the limit of the aliasing on hats in the transfer either, but the one at 86:34 was quite notable for a combined aliasing effect on a gun and a hat. Whether this is directly related to the sharpness of the transfer or not is unclear, but it is a terrible disappointment. Film artefacts were occasionally present in the transfer, but no more than one would normally expect from a ten year old film.

    English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are present on this DVD. They contain frequent subtle variations from the spoken dialogue, but they are more than serviceable if a general, rather than total, understanding of the dialogue is required. Italian for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are also available, although I did not test these.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 16 and 17, at 64:04. This is in the scene change just before Gene Hackman says "Give these keys to the conductor", and while it is noticeable, it doesn't interrupt the flow too much.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    It appears that Warner Home Video have also gone right back to the mastering stage with the soundtrack, creating a new one that is much more immersive and theatrical than the previous Region 4 DVD.

    A total of four soundtracks are on this DVD. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 kilobits per second. The other three soundtracks, all encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and a 192 kilobit per second bitrate, are a French dub, an Italian dub, and an English Audio Commentary. Out of sheer perversity, and because my girlfriend is Italian, I listened to both English soundtracks and the Italian dub.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, even during sequences where it shouldn't be, such as when our three heroes are riding into Big Whiskey during a storm. No audio sync problems were noted, except during the Italian soundtrack, when the audio sync took on more of a For A Few Dollars More feel, naturally.

    The score music in this film is credited to Lennie Niehaus, with an additional cue called Claudia's Theme by none other than Clint Eastwood. The score music is not as powerful or dramatic as some other Clint Eastwood Westerns I could name, but it fits the visuals well, and it keeps the appropriate sense of irony and sorrow in the scenes where it is most needed.

    The surround channels are constantly and aggressively used throughout the film to provide a wider soundstage for rain, gunshots, insects, and just about any other noise you'd care to name that one would hear around rural America. Directional effects such as placing a cricket in the right surround channel at 22:56 were occasionally used, and birds could be heard flying around the surround channels at 81:17. Overall, this is a tremendous improvement over the front-centric mix that appeared on the original Region 4 DVD (oh, those were early days, my friend).

    The subwoofer was used sparingly to support the sounds of thunder and gunfire. Although it was called into action surprisingly few times in the film, it did jump in without calling attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another complaint about the original Region 4 Unforgiven was that there was an appalling lack of extras for such a well-regarded, landmark film. This release has fixed that.

Menu

    The menu is static, and accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is 16x9 Enhanced.

Audio Commentary - Richard Schickel (Clint Eastwood biographer & film critic)

    This audio commentary is not the best I have ever heard, and it could have benefited enormously from the participation of other speakers, preferably Clint himself or someone else who worked on the film (or both). It does confirm some of my pet theories about how the film was lit, but the frequent pauses and statements of what should be self-evident to any intelligent viewer of the film limit the interest factor.

Cast & Crew Listing

    This is only a listing of the four leads and the director at that, which is a poor effort.

Awards List

    This six page listing goes through all of the awards that Unforgiven has won since 1992.

Theatrical Trailer

    This one minute and fifty-three second trailer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. It has received a transfer that is of slightly better quality than the film, although the jump-cutting makes it hard to tell how aliasing-prone it really is.

R4 vs R1

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

    Unforgiven has been re-released as a two disc 10th Anniversary Edition, which is essentially equivalent to the Region 1 version. This single disc variant is simply Disc 1 of the aforementioned two disc set and is the disc included in the Clint Eastwood Collection, a box set which also includes The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bronco Billy, and Pale Rider. If you wish, you can read my review of the two disc set here.

Summary

    Unforgiven proves that even in Hollywood's money-oriented studio system, it is possible to make something beautiful. Everything about the film answers the question of how some timeless classics would look or sound if they were made using relatively modern techniques. As simple and straightforward as the plot is, one can never get tired of seeing it play out when the beautiful sound design and cinematography are allowed to take effect.

    The video transfer could have been of reference quality if not for all the aliasing.

    The audio transfer is excellent, and borders upon reference quality.

    The extras are a bit light on, and the commentary is a bit boring.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, November 21, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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