The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: MGM – 1964, 1965, 1966
MPAA Rating: R, Not rated (The good, the bad, and the ugly)
Feature running time: 100, 132, 179 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/Spanish Mono, French Dolby Digital 5.1 – The good, the bad, and the ugly: German DTS 5.1, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: A fistful of dollars/For a few dollars more: English, English SDH, Spanish, French - The good, the bad and the ugly: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, Korean, Cantonese, Thai
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch
Directed by: Sergio Leone
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni, Age-Scarpelli, Sergio Leone
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 1, 2010
"The most dangerous man who ever lived. The man with no name.."
A fistful of dollars: A mysterious gunman has just arrived in San Miguel, a grim, dusty border town where two rival bands of smugglers are terrorizing the impoverished citizens. A master of the "quick-draw," the stranger soon receives offers of employment from each gang. But his loyalty cannot be bought; he accepts both jobs...and sets in motion a plan to destroy both jobs...and sets in motion a plan to destroy both groups of criminals, pitting one against the other in a series of brilliantly orchestrated set-ups, showdowns and deadly confrontations.
For a few dollars more: Eastwood is a keen-eyed, quick-witted bounty hunter on the bloody trail of Indio, the territory's most treacherous bandit. But his ruthless rival, Colonel Mortimer, is determined to bring Indio in first...dead or alive! Failing to capture their prey--or eliminate each other--the two are left with only one option: team up, or face certain death at the hands of Indio and his band of murderous outlaws.
The good, the bad and the ugly: Clint Eastwood returns as the "Man With No Name," this time teaming with two gunslingers to pursue a cache of $20,000-and letting no one, not even warring factions in a civil war, stand in their way. But teamwork doesn't come naturally to such strong-willed outlaws, and they soon discover that their greatest challenge may be to stay focused - and stay alive - in a country ravaged by war.
Sergio Leone's trilogy of operatic spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood made the former television star into an international sensation as the scraggly, silent Man with No Name, a wandering rogue with a scheming mind and a sense of humor drier than the dusty, wind-scoured desert. The first in the collection, A Fistful of Dollars, a unique take on Kurosawa's cynical samurai hit Yojimbo, reveals the transformation of the Western hero into a crafty mercenary. The follow-up, For a Few Dollars More, teams Eastwood up in an uneasy alliance with Lee Van Cleef (High Noon) in a tale of revenge. But the masterpiece of the set is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, an epic scramble for buried gold set against the violence of the Civil War. In this film good is a relative term as three criminals make a series of tenuous partnerships broken in double-crosses and betrayals in Leone's epic vision of the American southwest as endless deserts and clapboard towns infested with gunmen.
I have been a fan of “the man with no name” since I was kid and first saw A fistful of dollars on television. That was my first experience with Clint Eastwood and I have been a fan ever since. Sergio Leone’s vision of the western genre redefined it at a time when interest was dwindling. The spaghetti western was nothing new when the first of these films was released in 1964 but their effect on film culture in general is unmistakable. Eastwood’s slick style, don’t get in my way attitude and cynical approach to business violated the traditional role of the good guy and not just within the western genre. It introduced audiences to a new kind of hero, one that wasn’t adverse to bending and breaking the rules if necessary. He was as cool as he was ruthless but never acted without provocation. This transcends the three (different) characters he portrays in each of the films. The outward display of violence/mayhem (a villain who resorts to shooting a woman and infant!) was far from commonplace and treaded into new territory at the time.
Sergio Leone was a visionary director who wasn’t afraid to be different and it paid off. His use of cinematography and image framing made his characters and situations seem poignant and larger than life. His decision to use Ennio Morricone to score A fistful of dollars is another example of his superb intuition. Morricone’s avant- garde compositions helped to define not only his style but these films. The story behind how they were developed, cast, shot and eventually came to America as told by film historian Christopher Frayling is extremely interesting, especially if these films mean anything to you. Personally I have always been partial to A fistful of dollars but I can’t help but acknowledge the epic style and grandeur of The good, the bad, and the ugly. For a few dollars more is my least favorite of the three but I still find myself drawn in by it. The addition first of Lee Van Cleef in For a few dollars more and later Eli Wallach in The good, the bad, and the ugly made for a perfect adversarial blend that builds to a rewarding crescendo. These are truly classic cinematic works that are a valued addition to my Blu-ray library.
These films contain violence and thematic material that would be unsuitable for younger viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
In looking at these films it is clearly obvious that Sergio Leone had a specific idea about what he wanted them to look like. The cinematography, use of color and lighting is consistent in all three which gives them a similar visual style that is undeniably Leone’s. Grain is preserved and visible across the trilogy. Each has been restored, For a few dollars more exhibits some noise problems, and A fistful of dollars is a little soft and can be heavy on grain, The Good, the bad, and the ugly appears overly processed. The visual style of these films isn’t lent to overtly vibrant imagery and razor sharpness so those expecting them to have the glossy and pristinely refined detail of many of today’s films may be disappointed. I will offer my impressions on the video and audio quality of the three films separately.
A fistful of dollars comes to Blu-ray Disc from MGM featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 37 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.1 Mbps.
The 2.35:1 framed video had a granular texture that gave it a gritty edge that seems appropriate for the film’s dusty scenery and hard edged theme. The print was in fair shape with minor speckles and debris that were clearly visible but not overly distracting. I thought that colors were represented well and had a naturally pleasing depth with clean rendering and ample saturation. Blacks were not very deep but shadow detail was above average which provided a better sense of visual dimensionality during many of the dark sequences. Bright scenes had plenty of pop with good dynamic range and stable contrast. Resolution was estimable with well resolved close ups that drew out plenty of refinement in facial features.
The vista views of the deserts and wide angle shots of the various locations used in the film didn’t offer acute dimension and lucid clarity but objects that were closer to the camera appear better resolved which enhanced depth perception. There was some innate softening and instances where the camera appeared to be out of focus which left the video appearing flat. The film’s level of Grain was apparent and heavy at times (the scene in the graveyard is one example) which could be distracting. I have seen this film on TV many times but this is my first experience with it on home video. Considering its age and low budget roots I have to believe that this presentation closely resembles its theatrical presentation in terms or lighting/color. The print isn’t pristine but the encoding looks pretty solid with the overall result being acceptable and more than likely the best this film has looked since coming to video. Video score = 72
The original mono audio track is included however I chose the DTS-HD multi-channel option during my evaluation. The front three channels (primarily the center channel) carried the majority of the film’s audio which sounded somewhat compressed. I never had a problem understanding the voiceovers or hearing sounds or effects but I felt they lacked depth, separation and dynamics. Dialogue through the center channel was intelligible but never attained a position of prominent across the front soundstage. With the exception of Eastwood the dubbed male voices were distinctly lacking in refined intonation and differentiation. Once again this is source not encoding related but it is part of the experience nonetheless. I did enjoy Ennio Morricone’s memorable music score which sounded airy, detailed and smooth. Audio score = 64
For a few dollars more comes to Blu-ray Disc from MGM featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.6 Mbps.
The 2.35:1 framed video had a granular texture that gave it a gritty edge that seems appropriate for the film’s dusty scenery and hard edged theme. The print was in fair shape with minor speckles and debris that were clearly visible but not overly distracting. I thought that colors were represented well and had a naturally pleasing depth with clean rendering and ample saturation. Blacks were not very deep but shadow detail was above average which provided a better sense of visual dimensionality during many of the dark sequences. Bright scenes had plenty of pop with good dynamic range and stable contrast. Images appeared better resolved here and offered appreciable refinement and stable sharpness that drew out ample detail and discernible texture in near field backgrounds and in physical features among the members of the cast. The vista views of the deserts and wide angle shots of the various locations used in the film didn’t offer acute dimension and lucid clarity but objects that were closer to the camera appear better resolved which enhanced depth perception.
I noticed some extraneous video noise/anomaly which appeared to be exacerbated by grain and was predominantly visible against light backgrounds, specifically the daytime sky. I first saw it in the opening sequence during the mid level shot of the man sitting on the train where it was quite obvious in the background sky (though the window). Another example occurs at the 1:10:00 minute mark in the background sky as Clint rides into Santa Cruz. I couldn’t say for certain what the problem was however it wasn’t a prevalent issue. The film has a noticeably grainy texture but I didn’t find it bothersome. The print isn’t pristine but the encoding looks pretty solid with the overall result being acceptable and more than likely the best this film has looked since coming to video. Video score = 76
The original mono audio track is included however I chose the DTS-HD multi-channel option during my evaluation. This soundtrack appears to have been remixed and offers more directionality and envelopment than A fistful of dollars. The front channels produce the majority of the audio with some discretely placed effects and splashes of ambience bled to the rear speakers. Imaging is fair with appreciable channel separation that in some cases (during camera perspective changes) isn’t smoothly transitioned which feels abrupt and a little distracting. The recorded elements show their age as gun shots, explosions, and galloping horses lack dynamism. On the other hand there are instances where the audio mix opens up a bit and lends weight to things like the power of a locomotive’s steam engine. This also benefited Ennio Morricone’s music which was spread throughout the listening area and sounded wonderful. Dialogue is intelligible but never attains a position of prominent across the front soundstage. With the exception of Eastwood and Van Cleef the dubbed male voices sound distinctly lacking in refined intonation and differentiation. Once again this is source not encoding related but it is part of the experience nonetheless. Audio score = 72
* Revised*The good, the bad, and the ugly comes to Blu-ray Disc from MGM featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.5 Mbps.
The 2.35:1 framed video exhibited fair high definition with a granular texture that wasn’t as prominent as the first two films. The print was in good shape with minor speckles and debris that were visible here and there. Colors were naturally rendered with vivid hues and good tonal balance. Resolution was good as images had good dimensionality and discernible definition. There were instances where sharpness fluctuated and the video had a smoother finish which left fine detail unresolved and film grain diminished. Close ups rarely suffered from this however it was occasionally apparent there as well. This is the result of digital manipulation.
Contrast and Black levels struck a good balance which translated positively to the images onscreen. Blacks were hearty and noise free while complimented by discernible shadow delineation that brought out the essence of shapes and objects in the dark nighttime sequences. Colors were naturally reproduced with lots of sepia tones and occasional splashes of bright, vibrant hues that popped off of the screen. I wouldn’t this presentation as ideal, spotless or pristine but it is a step above standard definition. Video score = 74
MGM opted to touch up the audio as part of the restoration process and the improvement is tangible. The original mono audio track is included however I chose the DTS-HD multi-channel option during my evaluation. The mix is primarily focused in the front channels but it makes effective use of the entire surround platform to extend the soundstage. This film has the most bombastic soundtrack of the trilogy and benefited from the revamped audio mix. There is a fair level of envelopment which added depth and enhanced presence. Ennio Morricone’s music score sounded sweet as it delivered smooth highs, and discerning instrumentation with broad aural strokes and silky timbre. “The ecstasy of gold” (the sequence where Tuco runs through the graveyard) has never sounded so beautiful. Dialogue is intelligible with average room penetration that rarely attains a position of prominence across the front soundstage. With the exception of Eastwood, Van Cleef, and Wallach the dubbed male voices sound distinctly lacking in refined intonation and differentiation. As previously noted this is source not encoding related but it is part of the experience nonetheless. Gunshots, cannon fire, and explosions had ample dynamic impact with tangible low frequency resonance. There was no real deep bass contained in this mix however the low frequencies present integrated well with the rest of the system as well as with the source material. Audio score = 78
In my opinion the work done on these films to restore them has born fruit. While not perfect they do look and sound better than they ever have on any previous home video release. Kudos to MGM for bringing them to Blu-ray.
A fistful full of dollars:
- (HD) The Christopher Frayling archives: A fistful of dollars – 18 minutes
- Commentary by film historian Christopher Frayling
- A new kind of hero – 23 minute documentary hosted by Christopher Frayling
- A few weeks in Spain: Cling Eastwood on the experience of making the film – 2003 interview (8 minutes)
- Tre Voci: A fistful full of dollars – 11 minute featurette
- Not ready for primetime: Renowned filmmaker Monte Hellman discusses the television broadcast of A fistful of dollars – 6 minutes on the making of the prologue which originally aired on TV
- The network prologue with actor Harry Dean Stanton – 7 minutes
- Location comparisons: Then to now – 5 minutes
- Radio spots, trailers
For a few dollars more:
- (HD) The Christopher Frayling archives: For a few dollars more -
- Commentary by film historian Christopher Frayling
- A new standard: Frayling on For a few dollars more – 19 minute featurette
- Back for more: Clint Eastwood remembers For a few dollars more – 7 minute interview
- Tre Voci: For a few dollars more – 11 minute featurette
- For a few dollars more: The original American release version – 3 deleted/comparative scenes – 5 minutes
- Location comparisons – 12 minutes
- Radio spots, trailers
The Good, the bad, and the ugly:
- Commentary by film historian Richard Schickel and Christopher Frayling
- Leone’s west – 20 minute featurette
- The Leone style – 23 minute featurette
- The man who lost the civil war – 14 minute documentary
- Reconstructing The good, the bad, and the ugly – 11 minute featurette on the restoration process
- IL Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, the bad, and the ugly – part one – 7 minute featurette
- IL Maestro: part two – 12 minutes
- 2 Deleted scenes
- Easter eggs, trailers
A fistful of dollars, For a few dollars more, and The good, the bad, and the ugly are classic “spaghetti” westerns that introduced audiences to a new kind of hero, and style of filmmaking. Visionary director Sergio Leone and star Clint Eastwood combined to reinvigorate the genre in a way that would impact cinema for years to come. Each of these films has been restored and the results vary however there is no denying that they have never looked this good on home video. MGM has put together a terrific supplemental package that is truly a fan’s delight and features wonderful insights from film historian Christopher Frayling, Clint Eastwood, production staff and marvelous tidbits and trivia that spans all three films. This Blu-ray Disc offering from MGM/20th Century Fox is simply a must have and belongs in the collection of every film enthusiast.
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