THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE
I have watched interminable ninety-minute movies that seem to drag on for days and I have enjoyed brilliant three-hour motion pictures that seem to be over in less than the blink on an eye. Falling into that superior latter category is Sergio Leone spaghetti western masterpiece, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY ($30). No matter how many times I have seen THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I am always amazed at how quickly the film’s end credits seem to arrive. Of course, what is even more amazing is new extended cut of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, which seems to speed by just as quickly, although this versions reinstates approximately sixteen minutes of footage that was excised before the film premiered in American.
In either version, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is one of the most enjoyable and fascinating films to ever come out of the western genre- spaghetti or otherwise. As the final chapter in Sergio Leone’s so-called "man with no name" trilogy starring Clint Eastwood, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is one of the most intensely visual westerns ever made. With relatively little dialogue for its epic length, Leone tells the story of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY through a series of stark, striking and emotionally compelling images. Despite its limited dialogue, characterization is another of the film’s great strengths, with each of it three central characters representing a piece of the film’s title.
Eastwood’s character, who is referred to as "Blondie" throughout the course of the film, represents "The Good" portion of the title, even though he engages in some less than legal activities. "The Bad" comes in the form of Lee Van Cleef, who portrays "Angel Eyes," a brutal hired killer and thief, who takes advantage any illegal opportunity that comes his way. Filling the role of "The Ugly" is Mexican bandit Tuco, who is vividly portrayed by Eli Wallach. Bringing these three characters together is $200,000.00 in buried gold. While greed serves as the relatively simplistic and obvious impetus for the plot, it is through Leone’s precise execution of the film that THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY becomes complex and multi-layered film. Especially, when the Civil War, which has made its way west across the American landscape, detours the three central characters from their quest for the gold.
MGM Home Entertainment has made THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. This is a marvelous transfer of aged and rather difficult material, as THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY was shot nearly forty years ago in Techniscope. Techniscope was a two-perforation process that photographed wide screen images on only half of a 35mm negative frame, and then optically up-converted the picture to the standard anamorphic 35mm format. Since Techniscope utilized a smaller photographic area on its negative, it is inherently grainier than other wide screen processes, as this new presentation demonstrates. While a grain structure is noticeable throughout the presentation, it is never excessive or distracting.
This excellent transfer produces an image that is sharper and better defined than any past home incarnation of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. Many of the extreme close-ups look absolutely spectacular, with the actors’ faces coming across as detailed landscapes. Of course, there are some shots in the film that appear somewhat softer, but this is related to the film’s original photography and is not a flaw in the transfer. Colors appear well saturated, although the color scheme does favor the hues of dusty western vistas. Blacks are generally accurate, whites are stable and contrast is usually quite smooth. Shadow detail is decent, but is limited by the photographic technology of the era. The film elements used for the transfer appear to be in very good shape, showing few blemishes or other signs of age and wear.
For this release, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Considering that this is an Italian production that was post-synch dubbed into English, MGM has provided a very good remix of the materials at hand. Stereo imaging and sound effect placement haven’t been overdone, which keeps the remix from sounding artificial or becoming distracting. Ennio Morricone’s iconic score sounds better than it has in the past; coming across in a smoother manner, plus the 5.1 spread gives it a bit more spaciousness and depth. Fidelity does have certain limitations in places, but the track has been augmented and enhanced to add a stronger bottom end, which certainly helps gunshots and the Civil War battle sequence. Dialogue is always completely understandable and seems to have better synchronization than I remember, although it still isn’t perfect. An Italian monaural soundtrack is also provided, as are English, French, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running audio commentary with film historian Richard Schickel. This is a very detailed commentary track, and considering the film’s three hour running time, Mr. Schickel has plenty of opportunity to talk about various aspects of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.
Moving on to disc two, we find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Starting things off is Leone’s West, a nineteen-minute program that looks back on the production and features new interviews with Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach, as well as English language version translator Mickey Knox, producer Alberto Grimaldi and historian Richard Schickel. The Leone Style runs twenty-three minutes and features many of the same participants, who discuss the legendary director and his approach to film making. The Man Who Lost The Civil War is a fourteen-minute program narrated by Morgan Sheppard that provides context for the film by giving one a real historic perspective on The Civil War and how it encroached upon the American southwest.
Reconstructing The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly clocks in at ten minutes and looks at the complicated process of restoring both the film and sound elements, including the recent participation of Eastwood and Wallach to newly dub lines for sequences that previously only appeared in the Italian language version of the film. Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone And The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly is twelve minutes in length and features film music historian John Burlingame, who discusses the composer and his contributions to the film. Next, we have two deleted scenes that could not be incorporated back into this new extended cut of the film because they were damaged over the course of time or never completed in the first place. French and American theatrical trailers, plus a post art gallery close out the supplements.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is indeed one of the greatest films of the entire western genre. As for the extended cut of the English language version of the film, it enhances to the rich tapestry of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, plus MGM’s new Special Edition DVD looks and sounds terrific and offers solid supplements. If you are a fan of westerns, Leone or Eastwood, then this edition of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is a must have. Absolutely recommended.
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