Monday, June 23, 2014

Good, The Bad & the Ugly, The: Collector's Set

Good, The Bad & the Ugly, The: Collector's Set (1966)
Director(s): Sergio Leone
Movie rating: 10/10
DVD rating: 9/10
DVD Release Date: 05/25/2004
Running Time: 179 minutes
Rating: NR

Film & Disc Review, Good, The Bad & the Ugly, The: Collector's Set
by Rusty White
reviewed: 2004-05-01

Italian master Sergio Leone's "The Good, The Bad & the Ugly" is an epic Western of mythic proportions. Most directors never come close to making a film this good. The amazing thing about Leone is that he actually eclipsed this accomplishment two years later with "Once Upon a Time in the West." "The Good, The Bad & the Ugly" was Leone's final film with Clint Eastwood. The three Eastwood/Leone films have erroneously been called the "Dollars Trilogy" or "The Man With No Name Trilogy." The fact is, Eastwood played three different characters in the films and each one had a different name.

"The Good, The Bad & the Ugly" deals with three amoral men searching for a fortune in stolen Confederate gold. Blondie a.k.a. The Good (Clint Eastwood) is a drifter in search of easy money. He hooks up with Tuco a.k.a. The Ugly (Eli Wallach). Tuco is a Spanish bandit whose list of crimes is lengthy and imaginative. Blondie and Tuco run a scam in which the bandit is turned in for the bounty. Once it is collected, Blondie springs Tuco from jail and the pair moves on to another town. Angel Eyes a.k.a. The Ugly (Lee Van Cleef) is a hired killer. Angel Eyes always sees his job through to the end. While carrying out a contract, Angel Eyes uncovers a mystery concerning $200,000,00 in stolen gold coins. His search is on. Fate brings Blondie and Tuco on the trail of the gold also. The three have a date with destiny in a far off graveyard. The journey to that graveyard will lead all three through the perils of the Civil War.

This classic film has been restored to its original Italian premiere version. The movie was shorn of 18 minutes for its US release. As Italian movies are not shot with synchronous sound, the 18-minutes cut for US release were never looped. In order to restore this film, MGM had Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach ADR their scenes. An actor was brought in to impersonate the late Lee Van Cleef's voice for the shorn 18 minutes.

The collaboration of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone rivals that of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrman as one of the richest and productive partnerships in cinematic history. Both Leone and Morricone were masters of their art. Leone's brilliant use of alternating long shots and extreme closeups coupled with Morricone's thematic music make Leone's Westerns works of art and majesty.

Leone's use of facial close-ups was second to none. Not since the days of silent films has a director said so much with the use of simple visuals. Leone chose extras and supporting actors based on their looks. You will not see an uninteresting face in any Leone film. His use of wide, long shots in this film are among his best. The film was shot in Spain and Italy. When Leone came to America's Monument Valley for "Once Upon a Time in the West" he captured his most memorable widescreen images.

"The Good, The Bad & the Ugly" set the stage for "Once Upon a Time in the West" in another way. In this film, Leone had three lead characters. Leone wanted to have Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef play the three gunmen Charles Bronson faces in the amazing opening of "Once Upon a Time in the West." Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef each carry a significant part of the film. Eli Wallach steals the movie and delivers his most memorable screen performance as the deadly, but likable Tuco. Lee Van Cleef rivals Henry Fonda as Leone's greatest villain. Angel Eyes is a viper. The role made an international star out of the long time support player. Clint Eastwood not only improved as an actor on this film, he also learned methods he would later employ as a director.

I could ramble on for hours about this film. I won't, except to say that this DVD is a must have for any film fan.

The Disc
Outstanding movie, picture and extras. One small complaint about the sound.

Picture Quality: 10/10

One of the DVD's documentaries deals in part with the visual restoration of this film. The film was shot in Technoscope, a process that squeezes the image onto a square frame. The film is unsqueezed through the projector. It is a lost process. Fortunately, the company that restored the film still had the equipment and expertise to work on this film format. The result is a brilliant picture. Leone's scenic vistas are shown in all of their glory. David Leane never made a Western. He didn't have to. Leone had those epics covered. No pixilation, artifacts or delineation problems. The colors are rich and well-saturated.

Sound Quality: 8/10
There are a couple of places where the dialogue fades out. Most notably during the scene in which the sheriff reads off all of Tuco's crimes before attempting to hang the bandit. It is a shame that these lines are almost inaudible as it is a very funny scene. During the scene in which Blondie strands Tuco in the desert, one of Tuco's lines also disappears. Otherwise, the sound is great. Much effort was made to sync the sound to the actions on screen. One of the drawbacks to non-synchronous sound recording is that words and actions don't always match. While there are still a couple of mismatched acts, this track is still a big improvement over previous version.

Easter Eggs:

There are three Easter Eggs on the Special Features Disk. Push the Left button on your remote as you go down the menu and you will highlight three different Icons. Each contains an interview snippet concerning some humorous aspect of the film's production. Clint Eastwood provides one and Eli Wallach the other two.

Extra Features: 10/10
Where to start! The extras are superb. "Leone's West" and "Leone's Style" are documentaries concerning the making of this film and Leone's directorial style. "Reconstructing GB&U" is great from a technical POV. The featurette goes into detail about how the film was restored. Lots of good info for the techno geek within.

"The Man Who Lost the Civil War" is a documentary about Confederate General Sibly's failed expedition into the West. Silby wanted to obtain a Pacific port for the confederacy. He got as far as present day New Mexico. Sibly's campaign is the backdrop for Leone's film. Critics who said that Leone was wrong to place a Civil War battle in the West need to watch this documentary.

There is a nice featurette and companion audio analysis of maestro Ennio Morricone's work. Morricone's music is almost another character in this film.

For memorabilia fans, the DVD includes five suitable for framing reproductions of foreign posters for the film.

There is an 8-page booklet, which includes a 2003 essay on the film by critic Roger Ebert.

The DVD contains two deleted scenes. There is an extended version of Tuco's torture scene in the Union POW camp. The scene came from a foreign print of the film. It was too damaged to be included into the restored version of the film.

The second deleted scene was not completely filmed. The "Socorro" scene has been reconstructed with surviving stills and film clips. The scene involved Blondie, once again, getting the better of Tuco.

Film critic and historian Richard Schickel provides another great commentary track. Mr. Schickel is well known to DVD fans for his many informative commentaries on classic and cult films. This one is no exception.

The Final Word:

Just in time for Father's Day! "The Good, The Bad & the Ugly" is "The Great, The Great & the Great! "

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