Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect an inconsistent presentation.
Like everything else, sharpness varied. Some shots displayed nice clarity and accuracy, while others appeared soft and mushy. Granted, the cinematography tended toward the soft side anyway, as that was an intentional choice, but parts of the image could be less-defined than they should have been even when I considered these photographic decisions. Overall delineation was acceptable but too many exceptions occurred.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained minor. The subject of digital noise reduction created an interesting question. Parts of the movie looked quite grainy, so it was obvious much of the film went without any DNR, but other shots could be oddly smooth and “shiny”. This was mostly evident during some interiors, so I suspect the transfer used DNR on occasion – which begged the question why it did so inconsistently.
Print flaws became another up and down aspect of the image. While not packed with defects, I noticed occasional specks, marks, blotches and debris. Again, these didn’t dominate, but more of them appeared than I would’ve expected.
The first nine minutes of Sundance appeared in sepiatone, and about 70 minutes into the film, another short segment utilized this tone. Although the rest of the movie was in color, the picture largely maintained the earthiness and neutral hues implied by the sepiatone. It's not exactly a Technicolor extravaganza, which was appropriate since most for the movie takes place in the dusty Old West. In any case, colors acceptable. Some shots displayed warm tones while others came with mildly flat hues. Even with these inconsistencies, the colors probably offered the best aspect of the up and down image.
Once again, blacks were erratic. Sometimes those elements looked dark and tight, while on other occasions, they could be drab and limp. Contrast varied as well, so expect some oddly bright, washed-out shots, and shadows were passable. They didn’t tend to excel, but outside of the contrast issues, they showed reasonable clarity. The mix of good and bad left the image as a mixed bag.
In addition to the original Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Blu-ray offered a new DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. This didn’t go crazy in terms of side/rear usage, but it did manage to open up some parts of the film. Occasional snatches of score and songs displayed mild stereo presence, while effects used the various speakers in an inconsistent manner.
This meant limited effectiveness for the surround mix. Much of the movie remained essentially monaural, but the more action-oriented scenes -–like train robberies or chases – were able to display decent movement in the side and rear speakers. Explosions also echoed to the back in a decent way. This wasn’t what I’d call an engaging or engulfing mix, but it gave us a passable soundstage.
The quality of the audio tended to be fine for its age. Dialogue seemed nicely warm and natural, and I never found any difficulties in regard to intelligibility or edginess. The music appeared a little rinky-dink at times, but that seemed to result from the source, not the reproduction. Effects showed some flatness but came across with decent clarity.
My only real complaint related to audio quality stemmed from bass response. At times, the mix poured on loud low-end to the point where the bass tended to overwhelm the rest of the mix. This wasn’t so bad for short bursts such as during an explosion, but when the bass in songs became loud, it dominated the rest of the music so much that it turned into a distraction. In the end, the audio was acceptable but probably should’ve toned down the low end.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2006 Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD? Audio provided changes, as the DVD offered stereo and not 5.1. I prefer the original monaural to either the stereo or 5.1 tracks, but if forced to choose between 2.0 and 5.1, I’ll go with the latter. The DVD’s stereo mix added little to the experience, whereas the 5.1 version at least tried to broaden sonic horizons.
Visuals were a difficult call. At its best, the Blu-ray clearly improved upon the DVD, but on the other hand, the DVD offered greater consistency. I tended to notice the problems with the Blu-ray more readily since it came with so many glaring issues. Honestly, I’d probably prefer the DVD in the future, if just because it gives us a more even viewing experience without as many concerns
The Blu-ray replicates some – but not nearly all – of the UCE’s extras. To start, we find two separate audio commentaries, and the first comes from director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David, documentary director Robert Crawford Jr., and cinematographer Conrad Hall. All were recorded separately for this edited track.
David's contribution is nearly nonexistent, as he only pops up when "Raindrops..." plays and offers a few comments about it. The remainder of the commentary seems split pretty evenly between the other three gentlemen, though I got a bit confused at times. Crawford's voice is fairly high, so I distinguished it easily, but both Hall and Hill sound somewhat similar; though I could usually figure out which was which, it could be difficult at times.
In any case, this track provides a decent discussion of a variety of issues that relate to the film. We learn about cast, characters, and performances, locations and cinematography, stunts, and various issues during the shoot.
The speakers are at their best when they stick to entertaining anecdotes from the production. For instance, Crawford relates a great one about a bet between Hill and Redford.
The conversation can seem a bit dry at times, however. A surprising amount of dead air occurs, and this makes matters plod. It's a worthwhile commentary but rarely anything better than pretty good.
For the second track, we hear from screenwriter William Goldman. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Goldman gives us a strong discussion for the first act, but he slows down badly after that point. He doesn’t tell us much during the rest of the film, and dead air dominates. When he talks, he often relates little more than how much he likes some sequences.
At least it’s a good track for half an hour or so. Goldman chats about inspirations for the script and where it shows reality and fiction. He gets into cast and crew, a deleted segment, music, the particulars of some scenes, and the movie’s reception.
Goldman’s at his best when he rants about the industry. He talks about parts of the movie business he doesn’t like and goes on about differences between the old days and today. He gets a serious burr up his butt and makes the conversation lively and interesting. Too bad he peters out before long. Listen to this one for its first half-hour or so but don’t expect much from the rest of the piece.
All Of What Follows Is True: The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fills 35 minutes and 29 seconds. It features the standard mix of movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We find notes from Goldman, actors Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Katharine Ross, former Fox president Richard Zanuck, filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan, former Fox VP Story Operations David Brown, associate producer Robert Crawford Jr., film critic Jack Mathews, author Andrew Horton, composer Burt Bacharach, and National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum curator Don Reeves.
“True” follows the genesis of the project and its development. It also looks at the status of westerns in the late Sixties, casting, director Hill and his approach to the material, and the relationship between the two leads. “True” then gets into performances, problems with various scenes, different aspects of photography, locations and other production elements, the music, reactions to the film, and its impact on cinema.
Inevitably, after two commentaries, some material found here repeats from the other sources. Nonetheless, a fair amount of fresh information pops up to keep things interesting. “True” provides a more than adequate overview of the production and entertains as it goes.
Another documentary follows. The Wild Bunch: The True Tale of Butch and Sundance runs 25 minutes, 14 seconds. It offers notes from Newman, Reeves, Goldman, Redford, Ross, South American Explorer contributing editors Anne Meadows and Dan Buck, and Oklahoma Historical Society director of Education Whit Edwards.
As expected based on the title, “Bunch” looks at the facts behind the movie’s fiction. We get plenty of fine notes about what parts of the film seem to be accurate and what liberties it takes. Again, we’ve heard some of this elsewhere, but “Bunch” takes a more complete view and gives us a strong take on matters.
A Deleted Scene lasts four minutes, six seconds. Called “Tent”, it shows Butch and Sundance as they watch the newsreel that shows their demise. This comes near the movie’s end and is interesting to see though not particularly special.
We can watch the clip with or without commentary from George Roy Hill. He provides a few details about the scene and why he cut it. The info works to help us understand the segment’s issues.
Under trailers, we find three ads for Cassidy. This area includes a teaser and two theatrical promos.
As I alluded earlier, the Blu-ray drops a number of extras from the 2006 DVD. It loses two good documentaries, additional 1994 interviews, production notes and a couple of other elements. I don’t know why the Blu-ray doesn’t include these, but they should’ve been here.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid isn't a great movie, but I find it to offer a fair amount of fun and entertainment, mainly sparked by the strong chemistry of its stars. The Blu-ray delivers erratic picture and audio with a good selection of bonus materials. This isn’t a bad release, but I don’t think it fares as well as it should and fails to offer an obvious improvement over the 2006 DVD.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID