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A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS ($25) is the first film in the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone "Man With No Name" trilogy, it is also the movie that brought the European produced "spaghetti western" to the attention of American audiences. Stylistically, the "spaghetti western" was more intense than its American counterpart during the mid-1960s, depicting violence in a hyper-realistic and carefully choreographed fashion, especially gunfights. "Spaghetti westerns" also rely far more on the visual component for storytelling; there are long stretches of action in the films that contain little or no dialogue. Almost every shot is precisely composed to either create tension or to isolate specific characters during key moments in the film.

Another distinction between American westerns of this period and the "spaghetti western" is how the hero is depicted. Where the hero is clearly defined as a good guy in American westerns, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS introduces audiences to a morally ambiguous hero who lies, cheats and kills almost as easily as the villains. However, separating the hero from the villains is a spark of morality, which drives said hero to protect the innocent, even at the expense of his on safety. The plot of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS has "Man With No Name" character ride into a corrupt western town that is being town apart by two rival bands of outlaws. Selling his services to both sides, the "Man With No Name" sets in motion a chain of events that brings both sides to utter ruin. The cast of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS also includes Marianne Koch, Johnny Wels (Gian Maria Volonté), Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp and Joe Edger (Joseph Egger).

MGM Home Entertainment has done a decent job of bringing A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS to DVD, but considering the superb 16:9 enhanced version of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, this disc will leave fans wanting more. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is offered in both wide screen and full screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. However, the full screen version crops the Techniscope aspect ratio so severely that it is virtually unwatchable. The wide screen presentation isn’t 16:9 enhanced, but it does restore the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and looks pretty good on a 4:3 display. Sharpness and detail aren’t what they would be had the film been given a new 16:9 transfer, but the image is respectable. Colors are somewhat subdued and tend to favor earthen tones. Flesh tones appear fairly natural, if one considers that all of the characters are supposed to have been out in the sun too long. Both contrast and the black level are fairly good. Film grain is occasionally noticeable, however there are a number of specks and other marking on the film element that tend to be more noticeable. Digital compression artifacts did not degrade the image in any appreciable way.

Considering that every sound and voice was recorded in postproduction, the Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is acceptable. There is nothing on the soundtrack that could be considered high fidelity, including Ennio Morricone’s musical score. If you are going to apply amplification, be prepared for a soundtrack that is somewhat harsh and provides no bottom end. By the way, synchronization between voices and lip movements is usually way off the mark, but that’s the way the English language version of this film has always been. Subtitles are encoded onto the DVD in English and French.

The interactive menus are very basic, providing access to the standard scene selection and set up features. A theatrical trailer has been included on the disc as a supplement and liner notes are available on an insert inside the DVD’s packaging. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is an important film for fans of the western genre, as well as Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. Because of its significance, I think that a better presentation could have and should have been prepared for release on DVD.

 
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS 



 

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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