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Details At A Glance

Category Western Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes) Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1992 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 125:20 Minutes  Other Extras Cast & Crew Biographies
Production Notes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Clint Eastwood
WarnerBros.gif (2960 bytes)
Warner Home Video
Starring Clint Eastwood
Morgan Freeman
Gene Hackman
Richard Harris
Jaimz Woolvett
Saul Rubinek
Case Snapper
RRP $29.95 Music Lennie Niehaus

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement 16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes) Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Had Clint Eastwood not appeared in such Spaghetti Westerns as A Fistful Of Dollars in the early stages of his career, then perhaps he might not have been as famous as he is today. So, in a sort of tribute to and acknowledgement of his roots, he made Unforgiven, a Spaghetti-styled Western with Hollywood production values. For his efforts, he received an Academy Award for Best Director and his film received the honour of Best Picture, while Gene Hackman received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and Joel Cox received an Oscar for Best Film Editing. Having seen this film for the first time on DVD, I don't see what the fuss was about with Eastwood's direction, and I am also struggling to understand what the big deal is about the other awarded performances. Still, Eastwood dedicated this film to Sergio Leone, the esteemed director of the Dollars Trilogy, and I can certainly think of far less fitting memorials. However, Unforgiven is as far removed from the mythical style of A Fistful Of Dollars as one can possibly get, with the film's good guys being completely absent and unaccounted for. There are only different degrees of bad guy in this film, with even Eastwood's character being known as a murderer of women and children, a generally nasty guy who can only be counted upon to shoot a man in the back if such an opportunity presents itself.

    The film begins with an angry cowboy slashing up a young prostitute from Greely's Billiards who dared to giggle at his appendage in a fit of forgetfulness, and the local Sheriff, "Little" Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) letting him and his comrades go with a mere slap on the hand. The angry prostitutes offer a reward of a thousand dollars to the man or men who will kill the young cowboy, and word travels fast through the States of this bounty being offered. Daggett is less than impressed, and decides to put in place a policy that all weaponry must be handed in to the local law enforcement by any visitors to the town.

    William Munny (Clint Eastwood) once had a reputation as a violent, despicable mercenary, but this all changed when he married a young woman and started a family. Sadly, that woman died, not at his hands as was expected by her mother, but from smallpox, a disease that killed many a person in those troubling times. As the story begins, Bill is in need of cash to continue supporting his children and living out his life on the farm. As a result, he decides to take this one last job, taking his old partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) along for the ride. Along the way, they pick up a rather shifty third man known The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), who they soon discover to have a shooting ability limited by poor vision. Their arguments about sharing the profits from this excursion seemed somewhat forced and clichéd to me, but the manner in which this argument is finally resolved makes the lead-up worthwhile. Meanwhile, English Bob (Richard Harris), a flamboyantly monarchist mercenary, becomes the first to learn the consequences of ignoring the embargo on weaponry that Daggett has imposed. All the while, the prostitutes watch with the grim expectation that nobody will eventually come and heed their call for justice. Eventually, things in the town of Big Whiskey come to boiling point as Daggett employs an increasing amount of violence to keep the mercenaries out of his town.

    To state any more of the plot would ruin it for those of you who haven't seen the film yet, but don't expect any wild plot twists, as this is one area where Clint Eastwood remains faithful to the style of the film which made him famous. Instead, one must marvel at the manner in which it took Hollywood thirty-two years to catch up to the Italian filmmakers in their portrayal of what the Wild West was more than likely really like. Still, the merits of this film as a piece of entertainment are not to be underestimated. This film sits easily alongside films such as A Fistful Of Dollars as a classic, and it is a worthy addition to your collection where the plot's quality is concerned.

Transfer Quality


    I wish I could say the same things about the video quality as I could about the plot, because I was so looking forward to telling you that Clint Eastwood's finest moment has been given the respect it deserves. Sadly, this is only a good transfer at the best of times, with noticeable problems marring the transfer and denying it excellence to a point that is truly frustrating. The transfer is presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is reasonably sharp throughout the film, but this is about as good as it gets as far as clarity is concerned. The shadow detail is almost non-existent in a lot of night-time shots, with many scenes in the climax of the film being ruined by severe difficulty in making anything out. However, the worst problem by far was the degree to which film grain appeared to be present, with a smear of ugly pixels moving throughout various colours in each landscape. During scenes in which Bill Munny and his cohorts are camped out in the wilderness, the background's skyline is marred by roaming dots that are either grain or compression artefacts. Low-level noise did not seem to be a problem, as the blacks in the transfer were reasonably clean, although these roaming pixels did make an appearance in darker areas of the transfer, too.

    The colour saturation was muted, but this is only explained by the artistic choices to a certain degree. During night-time scenes, there is little or no definition to the colour at all, with Morgan Freeman becoming completely impossible to discern from his surroundings in one camping scene due to the colour saturation and the shadow detail both being so ordinary. MPEG artefacts were not noticed at any point in the transfer, but it would not surprise me to learn that the roaming specks of colour in certain areas of the landscape were actually compression-related. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of a noticeable degree of shimmering on the edges of gun barrels and blinds, but this artefact was far less noticeable than the speckled look of skylines. Film artefacts were noticed from time to time, but this was not a major concern in the context of the rest of the transfer, either. I think it is reasonable to say that this disc would have looked a great deal better if it had been RSDL formatted, as there is simply too much picture information in this film to be compressed to one layer, with most of the artefacts coming straight from the film being starved for bits.


    Thankfully, the audio transfer is a lot better than the video transfer, although I hesitate to say that it is so much better that you will really notice. There is only one audio track on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, which was the audio track I listened to. Some will definitely bemoan the absence of an audio commentary by Clint Eastwood, and given how much I have enjoyed some of his earlier work, I have to admit that I am among their number. The dialogue was clear and easy to make out at all times, with only the occasional word here and there falling into anything resembling obscurity, which you could quickly pick up by considering its context. Unlike the three films that make up the Dollars Trilogy, audio sync was not a problem, as the English dialogue is the honest original dialogue rather than a dubbing created for what remains a somewhat ethnocentric audience.

    The score music in this film was provided by Lennie Niehaus, a name I have never heard before or since. I would certainly have preferred to see what Ennio Morricone would have done with this film, as the story would have provided him with a lot of background to build themes upon. In any case, the score music was well constructed and enhanced the overall mood of the film without calling any specific attention to itself.

    The surround channels were used to support the sound effects and the music, with many ambient sounds making their way into the rears and providing the viewer with a noticeable, but not entirely immersive surround field. The film is mostly driven by dialogue, so the surround field isn't quite a total loss. I feel, however, that more attention should have been paid to building a bigger surround experience. In any case, those who have seen the film before will not be too disappointed with the surround presence. The subwoofer was called upon with moderate frequency to support the sounds of combat, such as men falling under their horses, and it did so without calling any special sort of attention to itself. Overall, it was very well integrated into the mix.


    A film that won a fistful of awards and revitalized the Western genre gets only a bunch of lousy biographies and film recommendations? It's enough to make me scream blue murder.


    The menu is built around a static graphic used for the film's publicity, and it is 16x9 enhanced. Very limited scene selections are provided, with a total of twenty something chapters being represented in this menu by nine selections, plus the two sets of credits.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris are provided under this menu. Although they are reasonably comprehensive, their readability is questionable.

Production Notes

    These are provided after the Cast & Crew Biographies, and are accessed by hitting the Next Page button a couple of times. The readability factor also severely limits the interest of this extra.

Film Recommendations

    Not even some lousy static images to accompany the recommendations. Why bother?

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     Since neither version is blessed with what I consider to be a very necessary feature, namely RSDL formatting, I will declare both versions to be equal. The Region 1 version of this disc reportedly suffers from an equally noisy picture, so the effort involved in sourcing the disc from overseas is not worth it.


    Unforgiven is, in my view, a very good film presented on a very ordinary DVD.

    The video quality is sub-standard, and looks similar to a current-generation VHS tape.

    The audio quality is good, but is nothing to write home about.

    Considering how much interesting commentary Clint Eastwood could have provided for this film by himself, the extras we do get are pathetic.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
June 19, 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer