The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Collector’s Edition
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 179 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin
Audio: English - Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian – Monaural
May 18th, 2004
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, one of the films that helped propel Clint Eastwood to Hollywood stardom, is arguably the most well known, and probably the best “Spaghetti Western” ever made. And as any fan of the genre worth his or her salt will know, it is also the third film in the "Man With No Name" collaborations between tough guy Clint Eastwood and director Sergio Leone. For the record, the previous two film, A Fist Full of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More also deserve mention on the short list of the most popular westerns.
Set in New Mexico during the Civil War, the plot of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly centers on the film’s three main characters battling against each other to retrieve $200k in gold buried inside of a cemetery. The first pair of characters is a couple of gunmen who have teamed up to make easy money. The “Ugly” Tuco (Eli Wallach) is a wanted criminal with a price on his head. His partner (the Good), “Blondie” (Clint Eastwood) occasionally turns him in to the authorities, collects the reward, and then rescues Tuco before he can be hanged. After this little charade, they split the cash and travel to other towns to repeat their act.
Despite their success, however, theirs is an uneasy partnership, and occasionally one of the men will become pissed off and put the screws to the other man. In one such instance, the two charlatans encounter a troop of dying soldiers, and learn the location of $200k in buried gold, but each man only knows half of the story, so they must work together to retrieve the booty. Blondie knows the particular grave where the gold lies hidden, while his part-time partner/part-time rival knows the name and location of the cemetery housing the grave. Unfortunately for Blondie and Tuco, another gun-for-hire, “The Bad” Angel Eyes Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef) also finds out about the treasure, and once he learns who knows how to get to it, he hatches a plot to grab the loot for himself!
On the surface, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly may seem like a simple treasure hunt. Fortunately, Sergio Leone, arguably the genre’s most creative director, takes this simple premise and turns it into a richly detailed, highly entertaining three-hour journey! He also infuses the film with some unexpected twists and satisfying payoffs, making the film an artistic experience that truly rewards multiple viewings. Indeed, after watching this film twice for this review, it is easy to see why it is still so popular (it is on cable TV what seems like all the time, almost four decades later), and why Clint Eastwood would become a film legend.
Indeed, so much has been said about Clint Eastwood’s terrific performance in this film that I almost don’t know what I can add to the discussion. To make it simple, let me just say that the charismatic “unnamed” character he created in this film is extremely memorable, and even though the nameless gunfighter sometimes violates the law, he has real quality to him. For instance, he never does things in a fashion that a reasonable person would consider morally unconscionable, so not only is this character the foundation the picture is built on, but he is also an enigma - an honorable man living in an era ripe with immorality and lawlessness. In my opinion, in addition to the character being so fascinating, Mr. Eastwood’s performance is one of the main reasons this movie became the defining Spaghetti Western experience.
On a similar note, Eastwood’s co-stars, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef, leave some pretty big impressions on the viewer as Tuco and the bad-ass Angel Eyes Sentenza, respectively. Indeed, these characters exhibit such richness and personality that they each mesmerize the viewer in their own way, which is good since Tuco appears to have the most screen time. Another element of the film that impresses me is the effectiveness of its pacing, and how Sergio Leone blended in just enough humor and little slivers of humanity to keep this movie fresh throughout its three-hour running time.
Yet another interesting twist employed by Leone is how he imposes the harsh realities of the Civil War, when members of the same communities cruelly gunned each other down in many cases, on his characters. One of the things I liked best about this approach was that it swept away some of the ridiculously unrealistic portrayals of the American West found in so many other cinematic interpretations of the “Old West”. And believe me, Sergio Leone did his homework for this film. The Civil War did indeed reach New Mexico, which is something I never learned in high school, college, or graduate school, despite taking many history classes (this is covered in the bonus features).
Interestingly, despite a three-hour running time, there is very little dialogue in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This is typical of Leone though, who appears to have preferred to relay his stories and messages visually, by allowing viewers absorb everything the majestic cinematography had to offer, while still moving the plot along. Indeed, many sequences are completely devoid of chatter, carried forward instead by masterful camera work and extremely precise editing. Again, at the risk of repeating myself, Leone achieved a minor miracle in this regard, as this very long film is well paced, not to mention almost perfectly shot and edited.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly also contains one of the most affecting, and catchy scores ever put on film. Even if you have never seen the film, you have probably heard parts of Ennio Morricone’s brilliant, often mimicked musical contribution to the film at one point or another (probably in other films). Honestly, it is a magnificent score that ties in perfectly with the film’s subject matter, and really enriches the sensory experiences offered by this film.
OK, now everyone knows The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is widely regarded as a great film, so what is up with this new-fangled two-disc collector’s edition? In terms of differences from the previous DVD release, three deleted scenes (totaling 18 minutes of footage) have been reinserted into the film, and there are plenty of extras, including a commentary, featurettes, and a booklet authored by renowned film critic Roger Ebert.
The soundtrack has also been remixed into 5.1, along with new dialogue re-recordings for the deleted scenes by Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Simon Prescott, who substitutes for the late Lee Van Cleef. Even though the voices of Wallach and Eastwood reveal their advancing age (Wallach is almost 90), it is a real treat to see these scenes as a part of the film again!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Let’s get this out in the open right away – this restored version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly still has some image imperfections. However, since the source material is four decades old, it would be unreasonable to expect perfection, and MGM Home Entertainment has really done a marvelous job of cleaning things up to this degree. Presented in its original aspect ratio (2.35:1), which has been anamorphically enhanced for 16:9 televisions, this Sergio Leone masterpiece looks better than ever on home video, and let me assure you that whatever image imperfections are evident are not a fault of this transfer.
Despite the fact that much of the film takes place in arid desert landscapes, and the film’s age, colors are well saturated and vividly rendered. In like fashion, flesh tones are reproduced in a warm, natural, and accurate manner. On the other hand, blacks contain a little low level noise, but not enough to cause any major distractions, and shadow detail is acceptable. Better yet, compression artifacts were not a problem, and I did not notice any signs of edge enhancement.
Unfortunately, there is still a fair amount of grain present, the occasional shot is soft to the point of being nearly out of focus, and a few scenes tend to flicker a little bit. Again, these do not appear to be flaws from the transfer process, just the effects of time (which shows no respect for cinematic masterpieces) on the film stock. The bottom line is (and I do not profess to be the “authority” on this film) that it looks great to me, and I have to imagine that all but the most strident videophiles will be pleased.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Unlike the previous DVD release of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which contained only monaural audio, this new “Collector’s Set” offers viewers a choice between an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack or an Italian 2.0 monaural track. In simple terms, the remixed Dolby Digital track is a major step up from what was available on the previous release, and sounds much cleaner and warmer to my ears. Dialogue, in particular, sounds very pleasant, and it is never a chore to hear what the characters are saying (not that this film is chock full of dialogue! ) . Ennio Morricone’s extremely memorable score is also given slightly more room to breathe in 5.1, and it sounds fantastic!
To be sure, most of this movie’s audio information is rooted squarely in the front of the sound field, but the engineers did manage to “create” some ambient surround channel information. True, it doesn’t exactly sound the way a native 5.1 mix would, but it works well enough, and at the very least, it offers a new sonic perspective on this classic film. And lastly, the low bass response and sound effects sound a little weak, and appear to be emitted almost entirely from the very center of the listening space, but it is important to remember that this is an older film, and only so much can be done to spruce up antiquated analog source elements.
As an aside, since it was an Italian production, dialogue for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly was re-recorded in the studio, not live on the set, so lip-synchronization is not always exact. I expect that most, if not all, of the people who frequent this Forum will already know that, but I am just covering my bases. And if you did not know, don’t fret….there is nothing wrong with your DVD player (or disc)!
Feature Length Audio Commentary:
Feature length commentary for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is provided by film historian Richard Schickel, who is extremely informative, and just as boring to listen to. I really hate to be mean-spirited, especially considering Mr. Schickel did make the effort to contribute, but this is a long film, and it will be extremely challenging for even dedicated fans to get through Mr. Schickel’s commentary. This really is too bad, because he does offer a wealth of insight into the film, in addition to a ton of interesting anecdotes.
I guess I can’t fault the guy too much for the way he speaks, as his commentary is quite educational. Bottom line, if you are a fan of the film, or the Spaghetti Western genre, you will need to give this a listen. Just have plenty of coffee on hand!!!
“Leone’s West”, which runs for 19 approximately minutes, is an interesting retrospective documentary that features new interviews Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, translator Mickey Knox, producer Alberto Grimaldi, and historian Richard Schickel, who discuss the process of putting this story on film. They also talk about the reasons why Leone’s films were the only “Spaghetti Westerns” to make an impact on American cinema, the low budget nature of the films (and how the financiers were always fighting), and the difficulty of synchronizing the English audio with the Italian actors’ lips.
Overall, this is a highly entertaining, very informative, and well put together featurette!
The Leone Style
Essentially, “The Leone Style” is an interesting an informative 23-minute mini-documenary that offers look at the career of the talented and influential director Sergio Leone, through an examination of the director’s works and unique style. Clint Eastwood opens up by talking about the differenced between his method of storytelling and Leone’s, and Mickey Knox and Richard Schickel discuss Leone’s love of contrasting wide shots with extreme close-ups. Scenes from the film are used to exemplify the latter topic.
Subsequently, it is revealed that Sergio Leone would derive inspiration for particular shots from paintings, and that he never used shooting scripts. And finally, the extremely dangerous nature of the stunt-work in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is covered in depth by actor Eli Wallach. Just like “Leone’s West”, this featurette is well worth the 23 minutes it takes to watch it!
The Man Who Lost The Civil War
Narrated by Morgan Sheppard, this 14-minute featurette illustrates the operations conducted in New Mexico (“Sibley’s Campaign) by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It is very detailed and also very interesting, and offers an in-depth look at the ambitious plans and grand failures of Henry Sibley. And here I thought Sergio Leone was just making stuff up!
Reconstructing The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
This bonus feature allows viewers to take a comprehensive look both the process of restoring the film and the actors’ dialogue re-recordings for this longer cut of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Though it only runs for 10-minutes, this featurette is pretty informative, in terms of describing the methods employed to return older films to their former glory.
Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Hosted by Jon Burlingame, this featurette focuses on the memorable contributions of composer Ennio Morricone to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Interestingly, he did not start scoring films until 1961, so he was somewhat “inexperienced” when he worked on this film. However, his classical training and unique approach served him well in creating memorable and offbeat melodies and themes.
--- “Extended Tuco Torture Scene”
This bonus feature consists of a “never-before-seen”, longer cut of the sequence where Tuco is being tortured. Apparently, this sequence could not be reinserted into the newly restored cut of the film because of damage to the negative.
--- “The Socorro Sequence: A Reconstruction”
This is a reconstruction of an infamous scene, where Eastwood’s character ended up in bed with a young woman. Unlike the sequence where Tuco gets tortured, it could not be included because it was never finished. Instead, the sequence is completed for us via film clips, still photographs, and text overlays.
--- French Trailer
Includes film clips that were deleted from the final cut of the film.
The “Poster Gallery” features eight theatrical posters that were used to promote the film internationally.
Original Theatrical Trailer
The original, two-minute theatrical trailer for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is included.
To access these Easter Eggs, highlight “Leone’s West” on the Special Fetures menu, and press left for the first one, and then down once, twice, or three times to select the other three.
--- “Uno, Due, Tre”:
An interview excerpt with Eli Wallach, who talks about the directions given to an actor by Sergio Leone.
--- “Italian Lunch”:
An interview excerpt with Clint Eastwood, who discusses the slow-motion effect caused by the long lunch breaks taken on the set of A Fistful of Dollars.
--- “New York Actor”:
A very short clip of Eli Wallach theorizing what horses thought whenever they would see him.
--- “Gun In Holster”:
Another interview excerpt featuring Eli Wallach, who offers an amusing story about why he kept his gun in his pocket.
Once again, MGM has dared to be different, and this time, I can honestly say that I like the packaging for this “Collector’s Edition” of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly quite a bit! Basically, the set is housed in a classy white cardboard box, with each disc resting comfortably in its own holder on opposite sides of the box. Sandwiched in-between sections (when the box is closed) is a booklet written by renowned movie critic Roger Ebert, a small one-sheet that promotes Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack, and postcard sized theatrical posters for the film, which I consider a very nice touch!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is an exceptional movie for its smart direction, wonderful photography, and the interesting backdrop the Civil War provides, among other reasons. I shouldn’t even bother to state the obvious, but what the hell - the acting and music are also extremely memorable. Forget the term “Spaghetti Western”, this is one of the greatest Western – scratch that – it is one of the greatest films ever made!
Thankfully, the new-fangled Collector’s Edition re-release of this gem is a winner! Simply put, this DVD belongs in every collection, and this DVD, which features a different version of the film, elegant packaging, better than ever visuals and remixed sound, and a bounty of extras, is more than worth a double-dip! Saddle up gunslingers, and give this 2-disc set a spin! Highly recommended!