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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: CE (1966)

"What are you trying to say, 'Anybody can miss a shot'? Nobody misses when I'm at the end of the rope!"
- Tuco (Eli Wallach)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: May 27, 2004

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach
Other Stars: Aldo Giuffré, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, John Bartho
Director: Sergio Leone

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, torture, language)
Run Time: 02h:58m:34s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 027616905727
Genre: western


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B+B+ B+

DVD Review

There are some differences of opinion as to what was the greatest of the spaghetti westerns: some say Once Upon a Time in the West, others suggest this picture. But there's little dispute that the high point of the genre came from the hand of maëstro Sergio Leone. With sweeping landscapes worthy of John Ford, and hard-bitten and memorable characters worthy of Fritz Lang noir, Leone definitely crafted a gem with this third piece of the Dollars trilogy.

In New Mexico during the Civil War, Blondie (Clint Eastwood) is a bounty hunter who has entered into an agreement with wanted man Tuco (Eli Wallach) to repeatedly capture him, collect the reward and then shoot the rope as Tuco is about to be hanged and move on the next town. But the two come to a harsh dissolution of their partnership, leading to Tuco determined above all to kill Blondie. The two of them, as well as a soulless hired killer named Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), stumble onto the secret of $200,000 in Yankee gold buried somewhere in a cemetery. Each of them has a different piece of the puzzle, and thus can't kill each other if they are to retrieve the cash, but they also cannot trust one another at all.

Leone always liked to make his films with an epic feel, and this is no exception. The story takes quite a while to get started proper, but the character interplay between Tuco and Blondie (more popularly known as The Man With No Name), is highly entertaining as it works its way along. Eastwood's wryly ironic character is at its best when contrasted with the voluble and temperamental Tuco; Wallach really steals the show with a performance that seems to rely a good deal on improvisation. And of course no one did cold-blooded killer quite so well as Van Cleef.

The characters in their lust for the chest of gold are set against the background of the War Between the States. As the tale progresses, they find themselves variously allied with the blue and the grey, shifting allegiances as necessary to get them toward their goal. The events are set against the real-life campaigns of Sibley and Canby in the Southwest, and the chimerical nature of their battles are echoes of the personal obsessions of the three protagonists.

Ennio Morricone's experimental score for this film is justly famous, and the variety of sounds is often overwhelming. Forget the vanilla stylings of the million-selling theme by Hugo Montenegro; Morricone's original arrangements are biting and darkly humorous, often punctuating Eastwood's sardonic remarks to Tuco.

Despite the serious themes and often overwhelming violence (the torture sequence of Tuco by Angel Eyes is excruciating to watch), Leone often uses playful visual and aural cues. Biblical references are everywhere, from Blondie giving his coat to a dying soldier to a cock crowing after one of Angel Eyes' victim denies knowing another character. There are magical moments also, such as the sudden vanishing of an army and the final confrontation where time ceases to move at all.

This special extended edition bring the film nearly to the state it was in at the Italian premiere; more than 15 minutes of the running time was cut out of all prior American versions. One sequence was too badly damaged to reinstate in full, and another still remains lost, but material from both of them is also contained on the second disc. Since there was no English soundtrack for the 17 minutes added back in here, Eastwood and Wallach returned to revoice their characters; since Van Cleef is deceased an imitator was used for him, but since he has few lines in the reinstated footage it's not a big deal. The tonal difference in the voices of the other two is immediately noticeable, but having the original actors is probably the correct decision in any event. Some of the added sequences are important, such as a nifty scene with Tuco in a grotto that fixes a continuity glitch as well as additional footage of Angel Eyes among Confederate soldiers. For those wanting the original theatrical version, MGM has stated it intends to keep the old disc in print.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is a slight improvement over the previously released disc. The red in the animated titles looks like blood here, where it had an orangish cast on the 2000 DVD. Fine detail is somewhat better rendered, although it was a very good transfer in its day. This new version has significant edge enhancement, which most viewers will find annoying on larger screens. Shadow detail and black levels are very nice indeed.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Italianyes


Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Surround tracks are provided for both the English and the Italian (which for some reason ends up missing from many Spaghetti Westerns). Although moderate hiss is noticeable, that can be put down to the cheap dubbing and the age of the film. I didn't find it distracting at all. The dialogue is quite clear and Morricone's music really shines. The surrounds are active, though primarily with score effects as opposed to atmosphere. Oddly enough, the supplements talk about a specially-prepared 5.1 track, but it's not on this disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Engliish, French, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
2 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by film historian Richard Schickel
Packaging: Digipak
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:26m:42s

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster gallery and reproductions
Extras Review: Although MGM heaps on the extras, they're not of uniformly high quality. While Roger Ebert contributes a thoughtful text essay in the accompanying booklet, Richard Schickel gets the entire commentary track and makes a bit of a hash of it. He has a variety of verbal tics including um, uh, you know, and the like, all of which could have been edited out. He also has a soporific voice as he drones on, occasionally stooping to narration. He confesses to having seen fewer than five Spaghetti Westerns, making him a dubious choice in any event, especially since he misidentifies Lee Van Cleef (though to be fair so does the trailer) and gets the name of A Fistful of Dollars wrong. He adds little though those completely unfamiliar with Leone and the genre may find some nuggets of interest.

The second disc is where the real action is to be found. Two documentaries look at Leone and the Western, with interviews with not only Schickel but Eastwood, Wallach and producer Alberto Grimaldi. These are interesting, though at around 20 minutes each hardly in-depth. The featurette The Man Who Lost the Civil War (14m:21s) takes a look at the Sibley company, though the title is a bit overstated. An 11m:06 featurette on the reconstruction is the most fascinating extra on the disc, with a lucid explanation of the obsolete format of Techniscope and plenty of examples. A 7m:47s featurette on Morricone gives a brief sampling of the man's work, though oddly enough he doesn't get interviewed himself. Following after this is an unadvertised extra: an audio analysis by John Burlingame of Morricone's score. Unfortunately, it clearly seems to have been intended to include musical examples, and whether due to rights issues or just plain screwup in mastering the disc they're not present. This makes Burlingame's otherwise interesting talk very hard to follow.

The two missing scenes, one of which is reconstructed with stills and footage from the French trailer (which is also included in full) give a look at the segments that keep this from being quite definitive. A gallery of 8 posters from around the world is supplemented by a set of postcard-sized reproductions of some of those posters in the keepcase. Finally, an anamorphic widescreen trailer for the restored film rounds out the package. Oddly enough, the chaptering is much less thorough than on the original and shorter release, which runs 60 stops. The packaging is an attractive two-piece box with digipak trays laid into each half.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

An old classic gets a welcome face lift. The transfer's improved somewhat, and the extras are copious though not all essential.

 


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