¡Three Amigos!

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating pg.gif (1010 bytes)
Year Released 1986
Running Time
98:41 Minutes
(Not 100 Minutes as per packaging)
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (55:43)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2,4 Director John Landis

Fox Home Video
Starring Chevy Chase
Steve Martin
Martin Short
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $31.95 Music Randy Newman
Elmer Bernstein

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    ¡Three Amigos! is one of the films that killed the post-Saturday Night Live comedic era, partially due to it being a one-scene joke stretched beyond the point where even the most forgiving viewer will enjoy it. Leonard Maltin describes it as a "smarmy one-joke comedy" that "has its moments, but not too many", and this is an assessment I concur with. Once the actual joke of this film, a none-too-amusing case of mistaken identity, is finished with, the film plods along at a dull pace which makes it hard to recommend to anyone who isn't a rabid fan of Steve Martin, Martin Short, or Chevy Chase.

    The film, such as it is, is set in the golden era of silent films. A desperate woman named Carmen (Patrice Camhi), who happens to be the daughter of the mayor in a small Mexican town, views a movie starring the Three Amigos: Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase), Lucky Day (Steve Martin), and Ned Nederlander (Martin Short). Thinking that these three men really are superheroic gunslingers from America, she sends them a telegram promising them a hundred thousand pesos if they will come and rid their fair town of El Guapo (Alfonso Arau). Naturally, she doesn't quite have enough funds to send them a telegram explicit enough to make the true nature of their mission known, so she sends them the cheap version, which leads them to believe that they are putting on a show with a Mexican actor. Imagine their surprise when the bad guys turn out to be the real thing, and the bullets actually inflict bodily harm. In case you were wondering, this is the singular joke that the film and its script relies upon to sustain its hundred-minute length. With director John Landis seemingly asking his three leads to improvise, a lot of the shots in the film have the look of them desperately waiting for Landis to yell "cut".

    Now that I have highlighted the negative side of this film, there is one saving grace that makes it worthy of a rental: Chevy Chase. This man's easygoing charm is enough to lift many a bad script into something that at least sustains some interest, which is more than what I can say for Steve Martin or Martin Short. It's all in the number of good films I have seen the two of them in during the past fifteen years. Steve Martin is in front with a score of one (Bowfinger), whereas Martin Short has yet to appear in anything I find remotely entertaining. You may wish to consider viewing this film, however, if you want to see the funny side of how films were made and presented in the days before international distribution. Oh, and Chevy Chase gets a few good lines to boot.

    Anyway, since I can't properly balance my view of the film itself, I will move on to one possible explanation as to why: this transfer is definitely not the best you're likely to look at this year.

Transfer Quality


    ¡Three Amigos! starts with an appalling transfer for the first thirty minutes, but generally improves to a more acceptable level after that point.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The sharpness of the transfer in the first thirty minutes is rather ordinary, a fact that can be fairly and squarely blamed upon the amount of grain that was present in the source material. A good example of this is during the first scene in the Cantina, from 3:51 to 5:14. There is enough grain during this sequence to cast what looks like a murky grey fog over the entire picture. The resolution of the transfer is dramatically reduced whenever this grain is present, and it is present often enough to become a real annoyance. Thankfully, during the initial confrontation with El Guapo, the sharpness improves enough to present a reasonable picture.

    The shadow detail of this transfer is adequate, with enough detail to keep the salient points of the story in focus. Most of the film takes place in a Mexican desert during the day, so this is less of an issue than it would otherwise be. There is no low-level noise as such, but the grain in the picture keeps the film looking noisy enough to make no difference.

    The colour saturation is bright and vibrant when the grain issue settles down, although there seems to be a slight bias towards red in the transfer. Whether this is an illusion created by the presence of so many Mexican actors in the film, or a specific transfer problem, I leave to the viewer to decide, as I became used to the heavy reds after a while.

    MPEG artefacts were not a specific problem in the transfer, although the graininess of the picture at times threatened to cause pixelization. The compression does not help the grain at all, but it doesn't make it any worse, thankfully. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some very occasional and minor aliasing, and a couple of minor bouts of telecine wobble. Film artefacts literally peppered the picture, with numerous black and white marks all over the frame in numerous shots. At 14:46, a warp in the frame was noticed over Steve Martin's face. All in all, however, what we're left with is an average transfer for a movie from a defunct studio.

    This disc uses the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 55:43. This is during a natural fade-to-black, and is the best location in the film where the pause could have been placed.


    Thankfully, the audio is in better shape than the video, although a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix would have been a nice touch. As it stands, there are a total of four soundtracks included in this audio transfer: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding, a German dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding, a French dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and a Spanish dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding. All of these soundtracks are encoded with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I listened primarily to the English soundtrack, while having a listen to the German and Spanish dubs for the amusement of hearing certain characters speak in what are supposed to be their native languages.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand for the most part, although the Spanish accents of the natives and villains can take a little getting used to if you've never heard them before. There were no problems with audio sync, except for the sequence with the singing bush, whose movements never came close to having any connection with the dubbed voice.

    The music in this film can be divided into two parts: a collection of songs that Randy Newman composed for the lead actors to sing, and a score by Elmer Bernstein. The sing-alongs are almost as bad as the attempts at comedy, although the attempts of the lead actors to keep a tune are really quite amusing in and of themselves. Still, it could always have been a lot worse.

    The surround channels are used moderately to support the music, gunfire, barnyard animals, and other such directional effects. This soundtrack doesn't exactly have the most inspiring use of the surrounds, but this is only to be expected from a film that is old enough to have been presented in theatres with a Dolby Stereo A soundtrack. The subwoofer was used occasionally to support the sounds of gunshots and other such bass-heavy effects, and it did so without really calling any attention to itself.



    The menu is based around a static image of the Three Amigos, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this one minute and fifty-one second trailer gives away most of the laugh-worthy moments in the film, as well as a fraction of those that fall flatter than Courtney Cox (sorry, couldn't resist).

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     According to Widescreen Review, the Region 1 version of this film is not 16x9 Enhanced, nor does it have the extra space afforded by a second layer. We, on the other hand, miss out on some cast and crew biographies. Make mine a Region 4 disc, please.


    ¡Three Amigos! is not a very funny comedy, although Chevy Chase does the best he can with an ordinary script.

    The video quality is very bad for the first thirty minutes, but becomes decent enough after that point.

    The audio quality is unremarkable.

    The extras are also unremarkable.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
March 14, 2001
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer