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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Man with No Name Trilogy



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#1 of 19 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted June 13 2010 - 04:35 PM

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The Man with No Name Trilogy

Release Date: Available now
Studio: MGM
Packaging/Materials: Three-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover
MSRP: $69.98

Though "The Good the Bad and The Ugly" came out on Blu-ray last year - and appears to be the same disc included in the collection - this marks the first Blu-ray appearance of the earlier installments of the trilogy. At this time there aren't separate releases for each film, meaning those who already own "The Good" will have to double dip and try to sell the first release if they want the complete trilogy. It's a familiar situation, but it doesn't make it any less annoying for buyers. Those who were disappointed with the transfer will probably also find it difficult to pony up the money to buy the release a second time. Nevertheless, the collection offers a respectable technical presentation and thorough set of extras for a trilogy that all collectors should have in their library. Anyone who hasn't taken that step yet, should be pleased with the purchase overall.

Overall score for the collection: 4/5

A Fistful of Dollars

Year: 1964
Rating: R
Running Time: 1:40:00

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1 Standard and high definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French 5.1 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French Variable

The Feature: 4/5

An opportunistic stranger (Clint Eastwood) enters a town controlled by two feuding crime families and works each side for his own financial gain. When the more ruthless of the organizations finds out what he's been doing, he's nearly beaten to death, but manages to escape, eventually returning to exact his revenge.

"A Fistful of Dollars" is a story we've all seen before -- not simply because it's a remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" -- but because it deals so strongly in myth and archetypes. We know where the enigmatic and morally ambiguous hero's journey will lead and end, but it's no less powerful for that familiarity. In fact, if you hold to author Joseph Campbell's writings, it's because of that familiarity - a centuries long narrative blueprint embedded in our culture and civilization - that it has such power. Told in almost purely cinematic terms by Director Sergio Leone, the "Fistful" myth embeds itself in one's memory at the same time that it resonates with something much deeper.

Video Quality: 3.5/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Though showing some degree of white "sparkle" throughout, the image is otherwise free of major blemishes. Contrast is inconsistent, but its varying quality seems tied to production limitations (e.g. the day-for-night scenes weren't done particularly well and look especially drab). Blacks are similarly limited, making even daylight scenes look a little flat. Sharpness is consistent, however, and detail is decent, though heavy grain inherently affects the rendering of fine textures. Though there are some mild edge halos during high contrast scenes, there are no signs of excessive noise or grain reduction measures. While it's understandable to have hoped for a nicer presentation of this seminal film, the limitations of the image suit the film's low budget origins, if not seem true to the source.

Audio Quality: 3/5

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track makes minimal use of the surround channels and has a moderately wide soundstage in the front. Voices can sound a little edgy at times, but otherwise seem reasonably clear and detailed. LFE is absent, but the track has decent dynamic range and depth throughout. Seeming true to the source material, there's nothing remarkable about the track, but also not much to complain about.

Special Features: 4/5

The set of extras carries over items from the 2007 DVD release and adds a couple new ones featuring Leone biographer Christopher Frayling.

Commentary by Christopher Frayling: Though some might complain about his tendency towards scene description, it often serves as a lead up to a point or insightful observation and Frayling is a veritable font of information about the production and Leone himself.

The Christopher Frayling Archives (18:40, HD): Frayling shows off his impressive collection of posters and other marketing materials from the film's European release.

A New Kind of Hero (22:54, SD): Produced in 2005, a slightly younger looking Frayling talks about the film's production background, offers some analysis, and discusses the technical components of Leone's filmmaking. Much of the material is covered in the new commentary track, but "A New Kind of Hero" offers a quick and dirty overview for those who don't have the time for it.

A Few Weeks in Spain (8:33, SD) Culled from 2003 interviews (much of which was used for the documentaries on the DVD release of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"), Eastwood talks about how he became involved in the film and his experiences during production.

Tre Voci (11:12, SD): Three of Leone's friends - Producer Alberto Grimaldi, Screenwriter Sergio Donati, and actor Mickey Knox - talk about working with Leone and their part in making Spaghetti Westerns.

Not Ready for Prime Time (6:20, SD): When the film premiered on TV in 1977, standards and practices required a moral justification for the main character's actions. Consequently a prologue was shot to provide that bit of morality. Monte Hellman, the director who was hired to shoot the piece, talks about the experience, including how he cast actor Harry Dean Stanton in the lead role.

The Network Prologue (7:44, SD): The full version of the prologue and the interesting story behind how collector Howard Fridkin managed to record it.

Location Comparison: Then to Now (5:22, SD): Compares archival stills and clips from the film to video shot in 2004 at the original location, Almeria, Spain.

10 Radio Spots (6:00): Presented in 224 kbps Dolby Digital stereo.

Double Bill Trailer (2:03, SD): For "A Fistful of Dollars" and "For A Few Dollars More."

Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)

Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


MGM turns in a respectable presentation of the seminal "Man with No Name" film, seeming true to the source material in both sound and picture. Extras include material from the previous DVD release as well as a couple worthwhile additions.


For A Few Dollars More

Year: 1965
Rating: R
Running Time: 2:12:00

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1 Standard and high definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, Spanish Variable

The Feature: 4.5/5

Two bounty hunters vie for the reward money from the dead-or-alive capture of psychopathic miscreant Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) and his gang. Though the nameless hunter (Clint Eastwood) has purely monetary ambitions, Colonel Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) has more personal motivations, and a common memento from his and Indio's past hints at the enormity of their connection.

"For A Few Dollars More" shifts from mythic tones of "A Fistful of Dollars" and becomes operatic, aided in large part by Ennio Morricone's beautiful film score but also upping the ante in story and character development. Eastwood's nameless one remains an enigma, but has a looseness about him that exudes a different, more relaxed, confidence. More intriguing, however, is Mortimer, depicted with steely intensity by Van Cleef. Though his back story and connection to the villain only gets revealed in the final moments of the film, it's a testament to the value of having a sympathetic character for the audience to latch onto, even if it's just a simple tale of retribution. Even more significant, however, is the relationship between the two men - that there is a relationship at all - a master-student dynamic that makes the film notably different from the others in the trilogy. Though each film has its distinctive themes, this is the only one where the Man with No Name forges something deeper with another person. It ultimately makes the film the most poignant -- and my favorite -- of the three.

Video Quality: 3.5/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. The increased production budget shows with an improved overall look to the image. Blacks are deeper and contrast more consistent, though the picture is still subject to occasional edge halos and has a general noisiness that some may find off-putting. It's the latter that had me wondering if the image was over-sharpened, but ultimately it was hard to decide whether I was seeing natural film grain or a byproduct of the transfer process. Nevertheless, most will find the picture quality superior to the first film's and most likely the third's, generally looking the most film-like of the trilogy.

Audio Quality: 3/5

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track makes more aggressive use of the surround channels compared to the previous installment, but comes off as a bit over-manipulated or blunt in its execution. Specifically, directional pans and placement of dialogue after perspective shifts can sound jarring, and ultimately kind of gimmicky. Consequently some viewers may prefer the mono track, even though it's in the lossy Dolby Digital format. However the lossless track exhibits greater dynamic range, detail and clarity, ultimately making it the more satisfying of the options.

Special Features: 4/5

The set of extras carries over items from the 2007 DVD release and adds a couple new ones featuring Leone biographer Christopher Frayling.

Commentary by Christopher Frayling: Though some might complain about his tendency towards scene description, it often serves as a lead up to a point or insightful observation and Frayling is a veritable font of information about the production and Leone himself.

The Christopher Frayling Archives (19:02, HD): Frayling shows off his impressive collection of posters and other marketing materials from the film's European release.

A New Standard (22:54, SD): Produced in 2005, a slightly younger looking Frayling talks about the film's production background, offers some analysis, and discusses the technical components of Leone's filmmaking. Much of the material is covered in the new commentary track, but "A New Standard" offers a quick and dirty overview for those who don't have the time for it.

Back for More (7:08, SD) Culled from 2003 interviews (much of which was used for the documentaries on the DVD release of "The Good the Bad and the Ugly"), Eastwood shares mores experiences from production.

Tre Voci (11:05, SD): Three of Leone's friends - Producer Alberto Grimaldi, Screenwriter Sergio Donati, and actor Mickey Knox - talk about working with Leone and their part in making Spaghetti Westerns.

The Original American Release Version (5:18, SD): Includes three scenes trimmed by United Artists for the North American release. The first reveals that Eastwood's character did have a name, the second is an extended version of Indio's maniacal laughing episode, and the the third an extended version of the fireside beating scene.

Location Comparison: Then to Now (12:16, SD): Compares archival stills and clips from the film to video shot in 2004 at the original production locations.

12 Radio Spots (7:36): Presented in 224 kbps Dolby Digital stereo.

Theatrical Trailer 1 (2:29, HD)

Theatrical Trailer 2 (3:44, HD)

Recap

The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5


MGM turns in another respectable presentation of the second "Man with No Name" film, and one some will find the most film-like in appearance. Extras include material from the previous DVD release as well as a couple worthwhile additions.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Year: 1966
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2:59:00

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1 Standard and high definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English Mono, Original Italian Mono, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1 / DTS: German 5.1 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Thai Variable

The Feature: 4.5/5

Three men are on the hunt for a fortune in gold and will do anything - even work with each other - to get a piece of it. Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) has been looking for it the longest, but only catches a break when he inadvertently crosses paths with the criminal Tuco (Eli Wallach) and a man without a name (Clint Eastwood), each of whom holds separate clues to finding the treasure. Getting to it would otherwise be simple, but with war ripping apart the country, sometimes the best they can do is to stay alive.

With the Civil War as its backdrop, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is significantly more epic in scope compared to the previous films, incorporating hundreds of extras and some grand action set pieces. The narrative is also more complex, with multiple character threads interweaving at different points in the film. Leone handles the increased demands with aplomb; watching the films in sequence its intriguing to see the progressive advancement of both the budget and storytelling. Leone, Morricone and Eastwood are truly at the height of their powers in this final installment, making the film's enduring popularity unsurprising. Though the second film is the most poignant, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" stands as the most accomplished, leaving no doubt that its legacy will continue as long as there are people to watch it.

Video Quality: 3/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Out on Blu-ray for over a year, most everyone has already heard the bad news about the use of noise reduction on the image. Indeed, detail is often lacking in facial textures and only in the Leone's most extreme close ups do things start to look acceptable. Another indicator is the lack of detail and general haziness in wide shots, scenes that would have been perfect for showing off the format's high resolution capabilities.

DNR issues aside, contrast is good and blacks are suitably deep. Colors - though consisting mostly of earth tones - also show good depth and fidelity. Edge haloing is visible from time to time and there's some sparkle and physical artifacts in the image, but nothing to the point of distraction. Though the noise reduction is an obvious issue in the transfer, some may find it less objectionable than others, especially in light of the transfer's strengths. It's just unfortunate that the overall experience could not be uniformly excellent for everyone.

Audio Quality: 3.5/5

Though sporting a 5.1 mix to give a "bigger sound" to match the scope of its visuals, the track has little in the way of gimmickry. That's not to say there aren't instances when placement of sound effects in the rear channels seems a little unnatural, but those times are fairly infrequent, those channels being used most often for emphasis in the score and general atmosphere. Though some might prefer the mono track, which is available in the lossy Dolby Digital format, the lossless track bests it in dynamic range and overall detail, qualities that become more appreciated in the latter part of the film when characters are dodging cannon fire or when Morricone's score soars to operatic heights.

Special Features: 4/5

The set of extras carries over items from the 2007 DVD release and adds a commentary featuring Leone biographer Christopher Frayling. Since the disc is merely a re-packaging of last year's Blu-ray release, there isn't anything truly new to the package.

Commentary by Richard Schickel: Multiple reviewers (including our own Matt Hough) have pointed out the deadly dull qualities of Schickel's commentary, due mostly to his voice. I didn't sample this one myself, but given the option I would choose Frayling's engaging commentary first.

Commentary by Christopher Frayling: Though some might complain about his tendency towards scene description, it often serves as a lead up to a point or insightful observation and Frayling is a veritable font of information about the production and Leone himself.

Leone's West (19:55, SD): Provides background on the film's production, and includes interviews with Eastwood and Wallach, among others. Much of the Eastwood interview material was re-purposed for the previous two films' special features.

Leone's Style (23:48, SD): Describes the signature components of the director's filmmaking methods.

The Man Who Lost the Civil War (14:24, SD) Recounts a pivotal battle in the Sibley Campaign, which took place in the same area as depicted in the film.

Reconstructing the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (11:09, SD): Describes the effort to restore the film to the original cut that first premiered in Italy.

Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Part One (7:48, SD): Music professor and writer for Daily Variety Jon Burlingame talks about Morricone's career, techniques and approach to composition.

Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Part Two (12:26, SD): Burlingame talks about musical themes used in key scenes in this standalone audio commentary. Though interesting, it would have been better if samples from the score were included for reference.

Deleted Scenes (10:49, SD): Includes an extended version of the Tuco torture scene, which was deemed too problematic to re-incorporate into the film, and a scene reconstruction (using stills and text), where Tuco begins his search for Blondie in the town of Socorro.

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:21, HD)

French Theatrical Trailer 2 (3:44, HD)

Recap

The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


Though DNR issues are known to bother some more than others, it's disappointing that it exists at all for the most popular film in the "Man with No Name" trilogy. While the image is certainly watchable, that's not the highest of compliments either. The film ultimately deserves better, but given limited time and budgets, the transfer it should have will not be forthcoming for some time to come (if at all). Though it's disappointing, ultimately I wouldn't let it be the deciding factor in whether to add the trilogy to your collection, since I would rather enjoy the films in their limited form than not have them at all. But of course that comes with the usual "your mileage may vary" qualifier.

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#2 of 19 OFFLINE   Shawn DuHast

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Posted June 25 2010 - 11:26 AM

Excellent Review /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


 BUT For A Few Dollars More is still missing about 12 seconds of dialogue. It's at about 95 mins when the gang are beating up Eastwood & Cleef. Volante stops laughing then jumps off the wall and says "Stop it. See that they're tied and keep an eye on them." One of the henchmen says "Why let them live?" as they are walking back in and Volonte says "All things at the right time" Henchman "What do you mean?" then we're back inside and back with the Blu-Ray when Volonte says "What's he doing now the Sheriff in El Paso?"

When you've seen it properly as per the TOBIS/Paramount DVD released in Germany it's then a really jarring jump cut on this MGM Blu-Ray as I've just done a back to back.



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#3 of 19 OFFLINE   AppleSpider

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Posted June 25 2010 - 01:20 PM

Watch the bonus feature entitled "For A Few Dollars More: The Original American Release Version".

That alteration and others are addressed in that feature.



#4 of 19 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted June 25 2010 - 08:14 PM

The footage is in the supplements but still not edited into the film; scuttlebutt had it that MGM found it *just* in time to add it to the SD DVD as an extra, but too late for the feature. No excuses this time.


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#5 of 19 OFFLINE   Shawn DuHast

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Posted June 28 2010 - 11:04 AM


No excuses this time!


Thank you John I could not have put it better myself.


If you also add in the incorrectly framed Fistful of Dollars and the old transfer for Good, Bad, Ugly then you have here a very lazy cash cow release!


Metal Damage, Brain Damage...Are you listening Bronze? I am the Nightrider. I'm a Fuel Injected Suicide Machine......

#6 of 19 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted June 28 2010 - 05:27 PM

Nice review, but where is "High Plains Drifter"? By far Clints best.


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#7 of 19 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted June 29 2010 - 04:53 AM

I want to buy this. Really, I do. In fact, I had the set in my hands at BB, ready to pay. Suddenly, something made me backtrack and put it back on the shelf. I think it was that voice of reason in my head that tells me I shouldn't throw money away on half-assed jobs by a studio in financial trouble. I've developed a "fail-safe" that blocks me from buying inferior product. Although, another voice is telling me that because of the low budget nature of these films, that this will be the best we will get short of photochemical restorations of the films. But then there's that "studio in shambles" thing again...


 

RIP Roberto Gomez Bolanos. 


#8 of 19 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 29 2010 - 07:09 AM

I struggled with the decision on whether to buy this lackluster effort, too, Luis. While I usually pass on such efforts, I finally decided on purchasing in this case because (1) I really love these films, (2) I was able to get the set for a decent price through an online sale, and (3) due to the financial mess at MGM, we may never see a better release on BD.


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#9 of 19 OFFLINE   M

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Posted October 31 2010 - 05:40 AM



Originally Posted by Shawn DuHast 



If you also add in the incorrectly framed Fistful of Dollars and the old transfer for Good, Bad, Ugly then you have here a very lazy cash cow release!


Please, can you explain what do you mean with "incorrectly framed"...??? Thread starter wrote that all 3 films are CORRECTLY framed.

Now... almost 5 years ago, I started discussion (my first post on hometheaterforum!) about a certain sound issues:


http://www.hometheat...20#post_2825284 


Again, I need to know about those details on blu-ray edition. Is the sound original, or changed (butchered) like sound for 2004 2-disc special edition?


THANK YOU



#10 of 19 OFFLINE   Shawn DuHast

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Posted November 01 2010 - 11:42 AM

http://www.dvdbeaver...ogy_blu-ray.htm


All you need to know is there...


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#11 of 19 OFFLINE   M

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Posted November 02 2010 - 04:38 AM



Originally Posted by Shawn DuHast 

http://www.dvdbeaver...ogy_blu-ray.htm


All you need to know is there...


I've read that prior to posting here. Sorry, but nothing I need to know is there. DVDbeaver reviews are usually more detailed. Can someone please just simply tell me does blu-ray soundtrack has that distinct 'double syllabal' explosion, or changed one ("like painball pellets being fired") from 2004 2-disc edition? That was big issue in 2004. No-one mentions that now? Thank you.



#12 of 19 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted November 02 2010 - 05:05 AM

I picked this up blind a month or so ago since I saw it for $15. I have to agree with the reviewer, they look ok, but from memory, not a huge leap over the DVD set that came out a few years ago.  Not in the way some Blu upgrades are anyways.  I'm glad I paid only $15 for it.


Well done on the review.



#13 of 19 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted November 02 2010 - 09:09 AM



Originally Posted by Russell G 

I picked this up blind a month or so ago since I saw it for $15. I have to agree with the reviewer, they look ok, but from memory, not a huge leap over the DVD set that came out a few years ago.  Not in the way some Blu upgrades are anyways.  I'm glad I paid only $15 for it.


Well done on the review.


Where in the heck did you find this for only $15?! I paid twice that at amazon--and it was a day that it was on sale....



#14 of 19 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted November 02 2010 - 09:13 AM


Originally Posted by benbess 




Where in the heck did you find this for only $15?! I paid twice that at amazon--and it was a day that it was on sale....



Local Future Shop had them on a $15 rack, I'm guessing by accident. I got lucky.  Posted Image



#15 of 19 OFFLINE   Shawn DuHast

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Posted November 02 2010 - 09:49 AM



Originally Posted by M 


Question by M: Please, can you explain what do you mean with "incorrectly framed"...??? Thread starter wrote that all 3 films are CORRECTLY framed.

Answer By M: Sorry, but nothing I need to know is there. DVDbeaver reviews are usually more detailed


What????????????


Has ALL the detail about the framing/cropping issues which is enough for me not to bother at all worrying about the sound...its a No Sale.


As I've said before I'll wait for Paramount to do the job properly as they did with the DVDs.


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#16 of 19 OFFLINE   M

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Posted November 08 2010 - 09:28 AM



Originally Posted by Shawn DuHast 



What????????????


Has ALL the detail about the framing/cropping issues which is enough for me not to bother at all worrying about the sound


Sorry, I was away, and sorry, maybe I sould have been more specific. Yes, DVDbeaver explained about cropping (which is a small disaster, in my opinion), but nothing about the sound issues I've mentioned. But maybe that's not important anymore, because I don't like this cropping thing, so I think I'll skip this anyway.
By the way, sound - in all Leone westerns - is equally important as the picture.



#17 of 19 OFFLINE   Shawn DuHast

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Posted November 09 2010 - 07:02 AM



Originally Posted by M 

By the way, sound - in all Leone westerns - is equally important as the picture.



I could not agree with you more on that Posted Image


Paramount Germany also restored the sound to an even higher standard than the MGM, especially the original mono soundtrack which has miles more clarity than any of the multiple MGM soundtrack versions.


Metal Damage, Brain Damage...Are you listening Bronze? I am the Nightrider. I'm a Fuel Injected Suicide Machine......

#18 of 19 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted November 09 2010 - 08:06 AM

Such a pity that Paramount Germany didn't have the rights to The Good, The Bad & The Ugly as well isn't it? Worse I suppose is the fact that Paramount Germany show no signs of releasing their Leone westerns on BD. Torsten (of TLE Films who did the work for Paramount) is a member here; wonder if he has any news?


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#19 of 19 ONLINE   Osato

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Posted May 26 2011 - 02:05 PM

I just watched the first two films in the set recently. I was curious if it is known who or which company did the mastering for the set?

I am pretty pleased with the transfers and audio on the first two films. I'll watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly very soon.

I really have enjoyed the extras on the set too. Great commentaries and very good video features. Nice of them to include some radio spots for the films too!!!!