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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sergio Leone
Cast:
Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito, Claudio Scarchilli, John Bartha, Livio Lorenzon, Antonio Casale
Writing Credits:
Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone

Tagline:
For Three Men The Civil War Wasn't Hell. It Was Practice!

Synopsis:
By far the most ambitious, unflinchingly graphic and stylistically influential western ever mounted, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an engrossing actioner shot through with a volatile mix of myth and realism. Hailed as "pure cinema" by Robert Rodriguez (director of Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and "the best directed movie of all time" by Quentin Tarantino (director of Kill Bill: Vol. 1), this epic masterpiece has now been restored to its full glory with 18 minutes of rarely seen footage!

Box Office:
Budget
$1.3 million.
Domestic Gross
$19.000 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Mandarin
Cantonese
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 179 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 5/18/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Schickel
Disc Two
• “Leone’s West” Making-Of Documentary
• “The Leone Style” Documentary
• “The Man Who Lost the Civil War” Documentary
• “Reconstructing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Featurette
• “Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”  Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Poster Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

• Booklet
• International Mini-posters


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Collector's Set (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 18, 2004)

Today’s sad admission: the release of this new DVD represents my first viewing of 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Although I know all of the flick’s icons, I never actually took in a screening of the movie. Better late than never, I suppose!

Set in the American west during the Civil War, in Ugly we encounter Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), who searches for a man named Jackson, who we learn now uses the alias of “Bill Carson”. Allegedly Carson knows the whereabouts of some hidden cash, and Angel Eyes will stoop at nothing to locate this fortune.

Next three men ambush Tuco (Eli Wallach) to collect a $2000 reward. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) intervenes and takes Tuco to the authorities himself. Blondie claims the reward but then rescues Tuco and splits the money. Obviously the pair do this act frequently. Blondie tires of Tuco and abandons him in the desert. This sets off Tuco on a mission of revenge against Blondie.

The rest of the film follows the three main characters. Tuco eventually captures Blondie and tortures him via a march through the desert, but when the pair happen upon a dying Carson (Antonio Casale), only Blondie learns the exact location of the treasure. This makes him valuable and gives him a new lease on life.

Tuco impersonates Carson, and the three leads eventually meet up in a POW camp, where we learn that Angel Eyes pretends to be a sergeant in the Union Army. Various complications ensue as all three attempt to snag the cash.

A rather dark view of the west, Ugly has aged quite well. As I watched the graphics in its opening credits, I feared it might seem like a relic of its era, but that didn’t occur. Although the movie uses some vivid stylings, these fail to come across as period-specific.

Some of that stems from the movie’s cold cynicism. This is the kind of flick in which killing happens easily and off-handedly. A scene in which a prisoner carries his own coffin to his execution and then gets unceremoniously dumped in it happens as an aside. It’s just another way to demonstrate the rough brutality of the setting, and it works well. The movie offers occasional glimpses of humanity as well, especially via the interactions between Blondie and various soldiers. These manage to come across as natural and unsentimental.

Ugly doesn’t exactly pour on the plot, as the story remains rather simple. I didn’t regard that as a problem, though. For one, most westerns feature basic tales that focus on moral issues. A rather cynical film, Ugly clearly doesn’t work from a place of obvious right or wrong. Blondie acts as a true anti-hero. It’s more than slightly misleading that he represents the “Good” of the title, as he’s really a pretty nasty piece of work; when Tuco’s replacement in the reward scheme gets hanged, Blondie doesn’t exactly seem despondent.

At times the story feels more like a collection of vignettes than a coherent tale. Some of the bits integrate better than others, while some seem to have little to do with the overall plot. For example, the detour to destroy Branston Bridge only moderately connects with the overall movie. Nonetheless, the elements fit well and don’t feel disjointed.

Eastwood does a simply splendid job as Blondie. He fits the anti-hero role well and brings a cold flintiness to the part that serves it well. Van Cleef also makes Angel Eyes suitably menacing and cold. Wallach seems a little broad as Tuco, but he comes across as appropriately sleazy and scummy.

Director Sergio Leone brings a sense of extreme stylization to the flick. He uses many quirky angles and odd cuts to create an unusual visual presentation. Not exactly a chatty flick, we don’t hear a single line of dialogue until more than 10 minutes into the movie. It takes us about five minutes to recognize the influence the movie had on directors like Quentin Tarantino.

With a minimal plot and a long running time of nearly three hours, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly easily could have turned into a longwinded bore. However, that never occurs. Instead, the movie goes by at a surprisingly brisk pace and seems quite entertaining. It’s a lively and enjoyable western that holds up very well after almost 40 years.

Note that this DVD offers a version of Ugly that may seem unfamiliar to many fans. It restores about 18 minutes of footage originally cut in the Sixties. Since I never saw Ugly before I got this DVD, I obviously didn’t recognize the changes, but the disc’s supplements nicely document them.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus B+

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Most of the time the picture looked good for its age, but I saw a little too much bad and ugly to allow it to truly prosper.

Sharpness usually seemed fine. Due to some fairly prominent edge enhancement on occasion, wider shots came across as somewhat ill-defined. Otherwise, the movie looked reasonably crisp and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering. Print flaws created more definite concerns. Various examples of specks, marks, grit, streaks, and hairs cropped up throughout the movie. The defects never became heavy and they cleaned up somewhat as the movie progressed, but they created more distractions than I’d like.

Given the film’s setting, colors tended toward an arid, dry palette. The DVD reproduced them fairly well. They sometimes seemed a little murky, but usually the hues were acceptably accurate and clear. Black levels came across as pretty deep and firm, and low-light shots were also clean and neatly defined. Ultimately, Ugly seemed generally satisfying but too flawed to earn a grade above a “B-“.

Even more concerns popped up via the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The audio came from a monaural source; indeed, we find the original Italian mono track on this DVD as well. The soundfield of the 5.1 mix opened things up, but not always in a satisfactory manner.

One problem occurred because the elements demonstrated very “speaker-specific” orientation most of the time. When speech came from the sides, it came hard from the sides. The same also usually went for effects; when the track tried to pan, it did so awkwardly and abruptly. This meant the result didn’t seem very natural.

Music showed acceptable stereo imaging, and the surrounds contributed a little support. The rear speakers failed to play a strong role in the proceedings, though they occasionally added some unique elements. Those mainly occurred during the sequences with battle elements, as the sounds of war might appear in localized parts of the rear. Otherwise, the track maintained a heavy emphasis on the front speakers.

Audio quality seemed lackluster, and most of the concerns centered around the dialogue. Ugly offered a mish-mash of native languages; from character to character, it jumped from English to Italian, so whichever soundtrack you choose, you’ll find some looped lines. These tended to blend poorly and often seem very obvious. Heck, even when the original line came in English, it might not fit this track well. Especially from some of the restored footage, some pieces showed bad synchronization.

Even without the lip-synch problems, the dialogue didn’t come across very well. The lines often sounded brittle and edgy. I usually didn’t find it tough to understand the material, but the quality of the recording seemed uninspired. Effects followed suit, as they mostly seemed a bit thin and harsh. A little low-end added occasional oomph to the presentation, but the elements still came across as flawed. Ennio Morricone’s famous score didn’t fare any better, as it sounded fairly shrill and tinny much of the time. Much of the movie displayed something of a loose echo that gave it an unnatural sense of distance. Given the age of the material, I thought the audio still merited a “C”, mainly because of the extra spatial qualities of the remix. Nonetheless, it seemed like a generally flawed track.

For this two-DVD release of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, we get a mix of extras. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary from film critic Richard Schickel, who offers a running, screen-specific chat. Schickel’s done more than a few prior commentaries, but he tends to be pretty hit or miss. This one’s better than average for Schickel, as he offers a fairly useful look at the flick.

Schickel gets into a mix of subjects. He talks about Leone’s work in general and some specifics about Ugly. He relates notes about the collaboration between Leone and Eastwood and other bits connected to the cast. Schickel chats about interpretation of thematic elements plus production subjects and other pieces. The conversation sags at times, especially during the second half, and Schickel also makes some sloppy errors such as when he claims Angel Eyes is the “ugly” character. Nonetheless, Schickel mostly gives us an informative examination of the creation of Ugly and other related elements.

As we head to DVD Two, we begin with a documentary called Leone’s West. This 19-minute and 53-second program looks at the film’s creation via movie shots, archival materials, and interviews with Schickel, English language version translator Mickey Knox, producer Alberto Grimaldi, and actors Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach. They get into the origins of spaghetti westerns and Leone’s flicks, Eastwood’s attitude toward the projects and his costumes, Wallach’s casting and initial impressions, memories of the shoot itself and the locations, dealing with language issues, Leone’s techniques, the spontaneous nature of the shoot and dubbing the flick, the movie’s lack of dialogue, and the Blondie character. It seems somewhat scattershot as it flits from one area to another without much logic; it definitely doesn’t provide a tightly organized look at the movie. Still, it includes a fair amount of good information and keeps fluff to a minimum, so it deserves a look.

Next we find another documentary entitled The Leone Style. This 23-minute and 46-second piece uses the same format as the prior show; we get remarks from Eastwood, Knox, Schickel, Wallach, and Grimaldi. They go over the film’s languid pacing, Leone’s visual preferences and picture framing, the influence of art and other directors on Leone, Leone’s working style, casting, violence, the lack of safety precautions on the set, historical accuracy, and various notes from the shoot. Expect “Style” to resemble “West”, as it includes some nice material but doesn’t progress in a terribly logical manner. It moves through a good mix of issues and gets into useful topics, though, and it remains a lively piece.

In The Man Who Lost the Civil War, we find a 14-minute and 22-second discussion looks at the actual events that provide the background for Ugly. It examines the disastrous campaign led by General Henry Sibley. Narrated by Morgan Sheppard, we learn of the plan to march along the Texas/New Mexico border and take various Union stores and forts all the way up through Colorado and eventually make it to California. The program follows the effort in a brisk and concise manner, and it offers a solid documentation of the events.

For a featurette on the film’s audio, we turn to Reconstructing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In this 11-minute and seven-second piece, we learn about the restoration of the original cut of the film. We hear from Wallach, Grimaldi, Triage Labs owner Paul Rutan Jr., and MGM Director of Technical Services John Kirk as they discuss the challenges involved in the movie’s restoration. This includes a discussion of Techniscope concerns, new looping for the English dialogue, remixing and re-recording, and bringing back the excised footage. It’s a fairly decent examination of the actions taken to fix up Ugly.

Another featurette looks at the movie’s composer. Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly goes for seven minutes, 47 seconds as we get notes from film music historian Jon Burlingame. He talks about Morricone’s early career and specifics of the Ugly score, with an emphasis on a few particular cues. Burlingame provides a reasonably concise exploration of the topics and makes this a somewhat dry but generally useful discussion.

Connected to this we find an audio-only piece in which music scholar Jon Burlingame provides an analysis of Morricone’s score. It runs 12 minutes, 25 seconds, as Burlingame chats about the origins of the collaboration between Morricone and Leone as well as more details about the composer’s work on Ugly. Burlingame seems more engaging here than during the prior featurette, as he details the audio nicely.

A set of deleted scenes arrives next. This includes an “Extended Tuco Torture Scene” (seven minutes, 14 seconds), a reconstructed version of “The Socorro Sequence” (3:02), and the movie’s French trailer (3:30), which presents some alternate angles and cut footage. The second one seems the most interesting, as it offers the greatest amount of new material.

Inside the Poster Gallery, eight international ads appear. We also get the film’s trailer and a collection of ads entitled Other Great MGM Releases. This gives us promos for The Great Escape, Escape from New York and Windtalkers plus a general ad called “MGM Means Great Movies”.

A few paper materials finish the set. An eight-page booklet mainly consists of a recent essay from Roger Ebert. We also find five postcard-size international mini-posters. These offer the flick’s ads from the US, Germany, Italy, France and Japan.

One of the best westerns ever made, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly remains a terrific piece of work. The movie presents a vivid sense of style with memorable characterizations and flies by despite its long running time. The DVD gives us erratic but decent picture plus flawed audio and a pretty positive collection of supplements. Despite some problems with the visuals and sound, this seems like a nice release of an excellent film that definitely comes with my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6621 Stars Number of Votes: 74
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