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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



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#1 of 24 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted May 22 2009 - 02:56 PM



The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Blu-ray)
Directed by Sergio Leone

Studio: MGM
Year: 1966
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 179 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 English, 5.1 Spanish, French, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, others
Region: A
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: May 12, 2009
Review Date: May 22, 2009


The Film

4.5/5

Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the iconic westerns of the 20th Century. A compelling story of greed and ruthlessness, this movie will be forever associated with its director, its three stars, its composer, and its “spaghetti western” genre. It’s also one of the most entertaining westerns ever made. Great characters on a journey of discovery form the basis of one of modern cinema’s true marvels. (Incidentally, though the disc’s liner notes insist that this is the 161-minute version of the film, the running time is actually 179 minutes.)

Three nefarious westerners learn of the existence of a $200,000 cache of gold buried in a specific grave in a specific graveyard, but none of the three have all of the information needed to find the treasure. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) had been engaged in a bounty scam but after a couple of payouts and a near-mishap, they go their separate ways before each learns of the treasure. Gunman for hire Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) likewise learns about the gold’s existence during one of his hired kills and is eager to find the man who holds the final piece of the puzzle, but the confederate soldier dies before he can get to him. With none of the trio trusting the other and all after the same prize, the ultimate winner is up for grabs to the very end of the picture.

Sergio Leone’s picaresque western is all about juxtapositions. In addition to his signature style of alternating extreme long shots and panoramas with extreme close-ups of faces or just eyes, the film piles on these contrasting elements throughout the enterprise: a bubble bath as a prelude to murder, a brutal beat down staged to a lovely ballad that’s almost a lullaby, a character called “Angel Eyes” who’s more devil than cherub, and a character dubbed “the good” who’s as ruthless and capable of violence as anyone. With three leading characters, there are long stretches of the movie where we focus on only one or two of them, and moments where enemies turn into guarded partners as allegiances switch and sway with the wind. It’s very clever of Leone to do this, always tempting the audience with a disappearance but knowing that the character could turn up at any second. By setting his story during the Civil War, he also opens up a war scenario that’s secondary to the central story, of course, but is again always in the background or on the sidelines waiting to take over certain portions of the narrative. Just a pullback and sweeping pan of a vast battlefield two-thirds of the way through the movie takes one’s breath away, the sheer size of the area and the hundreds of participants (and potential victims) stop us in our tracks momentarily putting the focus on the search for gold on the back burner. But Leone masterfully handles many unforgettable scenes from the hanging scam Blondie and Tuco have going to treks through the hideously burning desert and later desperate attempts to escape a Union prisoner of war camp.

You’ll never find two actors with more opposing performing styles than Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach. Eastwood’s minimal acting style and Wallach’s broader, more theatrical interpretation give the film an almost Laurel and Hardy feel that adds considerably to the film’s entertaining ambiance. Lee Van Cleef’s quietly menacing gunman continues the persona he milked for many years through many marvelous performances. Together, these three remarkable actors’ portrayals make one of the most memorable westerns ever made even more unforgettable.


Video Quality

3.5/5

The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image has unquestionably been processed to remove grain, and while the image is mostly clear and clean, the picture seems somewhat softer than it should be. The close-ups are certainly detailed, but long shots do not have the sharpness of the best high definition transfers. There are a few white specks here and there and a couple of stray hairs on the lens have not been digitally removed. Black levels vary from quite good to merely fair, but shadow detail is just fine. DNR processing hasn't given extreme waxiness to facial features, but those with large projection screen set-ups may not find the image to their liking. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

Audio Quality

3/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 repurposed audio track features directionialzed dialogue and some ambient sounds piped to various surround channels. But Ennio Morricone’s iconic score can sometimes sound very shrill in the upper registers of the guitars, and since the dialogue was completely ADR produced, the purity of the lossless encoding often gives it a hollow tone. The original mono track in English and Italian is also available for selection.


Special Features

3.5/5

There are two audio commentaries. From a previous DVD release, film critic Richard Schickel contributes a rather droning talk (he’s better in the documentaries, but his speaking style is not notably attention-getting). Better is the new commentary for the disc, Leone biographer Christopher Frayling who speaks interestingly and well about the film and the director though he’s often guilty of describing what we’re seeing on screen as we’re seeing it.

“Leone’s West” brings together Richard Schickel, English translator Mickey Knox, producer Alberto Grimaldi, and co-stars Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach in interviews about the making of the film that last for 20 minutes in 480p.

“The Leone Style” continues the on-set stories about the director and the cast by the same participants from the previous featurette in a 23 ¾-minute documentary in 480p.

“The Man Who Lost the Civil War” is a 14 ½ minute documentary by Peter Spiner on the infamously disastrous Peter Sibley Campaign during the Civil War. It’s in 480p.

“Reconstructing The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is an 11 ¼-minute 480p documentary about the cuts that were made from the original release of the film for its U.S. theatrical engagements and the efforts to put the original film back together by the restoration team who did the work.

“Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone” is the two-part tribute to the internationally famous music from the film and its celebrated composer. Music expert John Burlingame hosts both parts of this tribute, the first part a visual/aural essay on the man’s career runs 7 ¾ minutes in 480p. The second part, an audio essay discussing specific themes used in the movie, runs 12 ½ minutes.

The deleted scene section includes the complete torture sequence and a reconstruction of the Socorro scene using film snippets and stills along with text summaries of the action in the sequence. Together these scenes run 10 ¼ minutes in 480p.

Both U.S. and French theatrical trailers are offered for viewing in 1080p. Each runs 3 ½ minutes.


In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of those films that one always looks forward to revisiting. Though picture and sound on this new Blu-ray release aren’t exemplary, it’s the film that counts, and this package is a reasonably good high definition alternative to the other available home video releases for this title.


Matt Hough
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#2 of 24 OFFLINE   RickER

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Posted May 22 2009 - 03:49 PM

I just watched this. I thought it was a mile better than either of the previous DVD versions i had. To say nothing of my old LD!

My only wish, that the US version was also included.

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#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted May 22 2009 - 03:55 PM

3.5 out of 5 is probably the score I would give the PQ too- though to be honest I have no frame of reference to how good the film could or should look. I can however see that it is a major step up over the SE DVD in many passages and almost indistinguishable in others. On the whole I find it a net plus. As someone who does not appreciate processed looking discs like The Untouchables (haven't seen Patton or Longest Day), I'm a bit baffled by all the vitriol spewed over this one. I had it out again the other night stepping thru a few more chapters. At one point there was an extreme close up of Wallach that seemed like it was a little softer than it should be and for a moment I thought maybe I was finally getting hip to everyones complaints. That was until I noticed the rim of his hat just edging the top of the frame. It looked to have stood out about 8-12" or so from his nose and it seemed razor sharp with plenty of fine detail. I now have to question how many issues that people have here can be chalked up to the focus inherent in the original photography.
Even if the disc fails to be a demo disc stunner, I picked it up for under $20, and unlike many big MGM catalog titles from just a year ago, it has a full suite of special features.
This is not a release I feel ripped off by at all.

#4 of 24 OFFLINE   Roger_R

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Posted May 23 2009 - 04:26 AM

The movie was shot in Techniscope which uses two perfs for image height instead of four. It may contribute to the lack of definition in the picture.

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted May 23 2009 - 01:37 PM

It seems that the fairest comparison would be to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which AFAIK is the only other Techniscope film released on BD as of yet. That was mastered from the OCN apparently with all its grain intact. I'm not sure if that would have been possible with TGTBATU, as the elements were not in the best of shape if I recall correctly (some damage).
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#6 of 24 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted May 23 2009 - 05:20 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H
It seems that the fairest comparison would be to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which AFAIK is the only other Techniscope film released on BD as of yet. .
Is Techniscope a film 'stock' or a film(frame) size?
Is it possible that the stocks used in the mid 60's on TGTBATU, differed, in any way chemically, from the stock used on BWTCP?
Is it possible that the conditions the two films were stored in for the last 30-40 years differed?
Could this difference affect any characteristics related to the (appearence of) granularity of the film stock?
These are even before you get into the legion of other variables having to do with the people using the tools and their artistic choices and/or limitations.
I don't know the answers here, just asking. Hopefully someone that does can chime in.

#7 of 24 OFFLINE   Roger_R

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Posted May 24 2009 - 09:15 AM

Techniscope - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - there's a bit about it here. Basically it uses 35 mm film, but each frame takes up half the area to save on film stock and you end up with a native image close to 2.35:1. Regarding grain, I assume it'd appear larger because of this. Techniscope is a cheaper format and Leone was also able to do close-ups without the optical errors that comes with anamorphic lenses.

I have no idea about the difference in film stock between the two films.

#8 of 24 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted May 24 2009 - 01:34 PM

Is there a book version of this release too or just the plastic keepcase?

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#9 of 24 OFFLINE   Tino

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Posted May 24 2009 - 01:54 PM

Just the keepcase.
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#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted May 24 2009 - 11:20 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H
It seems that the fairest comparison would be to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which AFAIK is the only other Techniscope film released on BD as of yet. That was mastered from the OCN apparently with all its grain intact. I'm not sure if that would have been possible with TGTBATU, as the elements were not in the best of shape if I recall correctly (some damage).

I think a much fairer comparison would be with the Italian Blu-Ray of A Fistful of Dollars, reviewed here by DVDBeaver. It was shot two years earlier than TGTBATU, but looks miles better than the latter.
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#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Tino

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Posted May 25 2009 - 04:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Borst
I think a much fairer comparison would be with the Italian Blu-Ray of A Fistful of Dollars, reviewed here by DVDBeaver. It was shot two years earlier than TGTBATU, but looks miles better than the latter.
Have you actually compared the two or are you just comparing screenshots?
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#12 of 24 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted May 25 2009 - 05:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tino
Have you actually compared the two or are you just comparing screenshots?

Screenshots. I know that's perhaps not the right way, but Fistful of Dollars only contains the Italian audio, and I'm still on the fence about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, so I have to compare them using screenshots.
But I'm only saying that these two films would look more alike than TGTBATU would look to another film like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
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#13 of 24 OFFLINE   RDarrylR

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Posted May 25 2009 - 06:00 AM

I watched TGTBTU yesterday and was overall pleased. I'd give it 6/10 or 7/10 for PQ. I knew what to expect going in so that helped. Hopefully the others will come out on Blu as well in NA.

#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Osato

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Posted May 25 2009 - 09:20 AM

Thanks for the review and posts about this film. I'm a huge fan and have the SE DVD.

I'm a bit puzzled why MGM didn't release the 3 films (Fistful, For A Few Dollars More, and Good The Bad and The Ugly) in a box set.

If they had released the box set, I would've picked it up.

Hopefully they can get a set out soon.

#15 of 24 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted May 27 2009 - 08:31 AM

I borrowed this disc from a co-worker. Last night, I loaded it onto my Panasonic BD60 and loaded the SD DVD (from the set of 4 Leone westerns) into my Toshiba HD A2, and switched back and forth between them. Frankly, they looked about the same. The Blu-ray might have had slightly richer color, but it was no great improvement, nor did it look more DNR'd than the DVD.
I feel I really do not need the disc, and am content to watch the DVD Version in the set. However, I loved having Sir Christopher Frayling's commentary, which was sorely missing (indispensable, really) on the DVD of TGTBTU, so I'd buy it on sale for $14.99.

#16 of 24 OFFLINE   Osato

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Posted January 30 2010 - 03:37 PM

 I can't bring myself to buy this blu ray. I'd really like to hold out for the set of the 3 Eastwood / Leone films. Or even the set that was released in the summer of 2007 that included Fistful of Dynamite / Duck You Sucker. 

#17 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark-P

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Posted January 30 2010 - 05:59 PM

For those of you who feel that this is an inferior transfer, keep in mind that the Dollars trilogy was shot in Techniscope. What this means is the OCN is 2-perf 35mm, not the 4-perf 35mm shot with an anamorphic lens which has much greater resolution.

#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted January 31 2010 - 12:17 AM

Please note that the first part of this thread is approx. 9 months old.


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#19 of 24 OFFLINE   EricW

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Posted January 31 2010 - 05:46 AM


Quote:
For those of you who feel that this is an inferior transfer, keep in mind that the Dollars trilogy was shot in Techniscope. What this means is the OCN is 2-perf 35mm, not the 4-perf 35mm shot with an anamorphic lens which has much greater resolution.
well then i guess you'd have to compare it to other films that were made the same way and see if there was a lack of detail in those transfers as well. 

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#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted January 31 2010 - 09:08 AM

Again, read the first part of this thread. If you look above, you will se examples of films to which TGTBATU can be compared. The consensus is that while we all know that Techniscope films will not be as sharp as Scope or conventional flat films (less frame real estate), that's no excuse for DNRing the transfer to the point that all the characters look like they belong in Madame Tussaud's.

"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert


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