We all now Leone was one of the most important directors of the late 20th century.
Alas, the representation of his filmography on BD and DVD is very spotty with cut versions, or recut versions, missing soundlines in dubs, missing mixes replaced with 5.1 fold downs, badly remixed 5.1 with added sound-effects etc.
The reason is that most of his films were european co-productions, with the films rights broken around. Thought MGM owns most of the world copyrights, actual material is italian exclusive, with germany a close second. This results in a variety of different releases, each with their own plus and minuses.
All the MGM release are miss which is a shame as they are the "general" most widespread releases, often scanned from IPs, cut, recut and remixed, dub tracks in wrong keys/tones, mono foldowns of the 5.1 remixes with new foley and gun sounds instead of the original mono tracks, DNRed, EEd... They are a catalogue of everything that is wrong with hacks handling classic films reissues with no care for the material other than furthering their own publicity agendas. The only reason to buy those discs is for the bonuses and even those are lacking in professionalism. Those discs are basically a spit in the face of Leone heritage.
The Italian are way ahead, as they have access to the negatives, while the german, who do care, work on issuing versions of interest they mostly reconstruct in the digital domain from the available sources.
The situation is so crazy, fans have taken steps to custom build their own "releases" from the available materials, bypassing copyrights restrictions, with reconstructed audio or video! Someone even made available an avisynth script (a series of text commands) that allows anyone to conform their prefered soundtrack from the MGM GBU to the superior italian disc video! So basically you have "home-made" versions superior to the actual releases. This is quite shocking, but that is the state of Leone's output on Blu and DVD.
It's very hard to get information on the official different releases online, as fans do scatter their remarks on each release on different forums, so I thought of starting this thread here, where we can, time after time, in one place, add remarks and update this first post with a quick guide to the best releases.
Everyone who loves Leone films, feel free to contribute. I will update this first post accordingly with amazon links etc.
Quick guide for the best releases:
A Fistful of Dollars: Italian RHV Blu-ray (full framing, original english mono, superior PQ)
German Version Link (same master)http://www.amazon.de...tful of dollars
For a Few Dollars more: Germany Universum disc (full framing, uncut, original english mono) NOW 9,99 € only, NO BRAINER
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Italian Blu-ray for full framing, superior PQ & the real director's cut, (but italian dub only and no subtitles)
1998 MGM DVD for the international cut (includes the original mono tracks in both english and french, thought it sightly cut out of two moments). 4.99 $ only for revisiting the true sound and nearly true international edit. A bargain!
Once Upon a Time in the West: updated soon
Once Upon a Time... The Revolution: italian CVC DVD seems uncut and 50s longer than the MGM... but ita only with no english subs or dub. updated soon
Once Upon a Time in America: international Blu-ray for the old theatrical, italian Blu-ray for the extended (includes english audio and subs, but region B locked) updated soon
See below for more details on the issues.
The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)
There's a german Blu-ray of the 2h20mn version. The master is full of damage (unstable image, negative damage) but apart from that it looks superb. It's the only version on Blu-ray right now. Italian and german dubs only, german subtitles. Not english friendly.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
MGM disc is dull looking and zoomboxed, in essence, a complete joke not even worth 1 buck. Italian RHV Blu-ray disc is absolutely superior with the full picture in display (no zooming), the right colors, plus it also have the original english mono and subs. See a review comparison here: http://www.dvdbeaver...ars_blu-ray.htm
Confirmed the mono on the MGM disc is a mixdown of the 5.1. A total farce.
German buyers: There is a german release which uses the same picture restoration as the italian, only with a sightly darker contrast and reddish color. Links will be posted soon here.
About the french dub: Sergio Leone spoke french and is said to have supervised the french dubs himself. It's pretty clear as the french dubs are excellent straight adaptations of the italian dialogues, not the english. Since the french mono was never released officially, except on VHS, due to contractual problems with the right owners, and since when the rights were cleared, french got the 5.1 remix only, fans have bypassed this by ripping a VHS and syncing it to the italian release. Do not ask us where to find it, we don't know, but it's out there.
For a Few Dollars more (1965)
MGM disc is filtered and cut by 44 seconds + the so called mono track english is actually a mixdown of the 5.1 doctored mix not the original mono track! You want more accident in waiting? The french track is pitched wrong when you compare it to all the others tracks, so essentially all french fans get the shaft on this one. Anyone who knows the movie can't listen to this travesty of a remix in the wrong pitch / tone. All the Morricone tracks sounds offkey. It's especially infuriating as Leone, who understood french, did supervise the french original dub and mix, and all french fans regards his french dubs as THE dubs.
Italian RHV disc is superior with better colors and nearly uncut, but lacks one second of violence, and is zoomboxed.
Recent German disc is the current preferred version, totally uncut, presents what appears to be the full picture, uses a composite of the unfiltered MGM master, italian master, and another source for the added 1 second of violence (Clint's beating). However it misses a few frames in places in comparison to the italian version.
Also the german Blu has the intro card in german instead of english.
Of course, Fans online have reedited the correct US title card in the movie (the german one is newly made and jarring) to improve the presentation. The opening credits of the Blu-ray are in english, so it's a mystery why they put in that german card there (or why the US card doesn't play when selecting the US language option).
Here's a cap comparing the german and italian releases (italian looks cropped and zoomed a bit) http://screenshotcom...comparison/9569
The German disc have the english mono and 5.1, so it's a no brainer for US/UK buyers.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966)
The actual international release version only exists on the 1998 MGM US DVD with the correct mono tracks. This is the actual US and French and other countries cut (some countries further cutted it down, but that is of no interest: this is the version that was dubbed entirely from beginning to end in 1966 by Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach thus Leone "international cut").
This same international version exists on Pal MGM DVD but is CUT because of a glitch on one of Tuco's lines which was then missing from the french dub mono track. Someone decided it was better to just cut it out completely instead of Tuco screaming silently. This is at the moment where "The Good" title appears on screen. Now missing on that farce that is this Pal DVD is Clint's line "quelle ingratitude quand je pense au nombre de fois ou je t'ai sauvé la vie !" as well as Tuco insulting him. So this Pal early DVD is useless. Stick to the US NTSC DVD.
MGM new Blu-ray is like a sick joke: it is what can only be called a fan reconstruction of the "Rome Premiere Cut" that Leone never intended for wide release. It looks all brown as if the characters just stepped out of a charcoal mine, with zero definition (the italian disc compressed to SD and uprezzed to 1080p offers actually more detail than this travesty. Yes someone actually tried it just for laughs).
Don't believe me? You think your Blu from MGM you bought with your hard earned cash is worth it? Try this comparison between MGM BD and Mondo BD http://www.caps-a-ho...ess=1#vergleich
It's badly remixed in 5.1 too. With the gunshots changed. A bit like if I decided to add different colors to the Mona Lisa. Also the mono track is said to be a fold down, not the actual mono! I'm surprised John whatever is name, who produced these restoration, is allowed to compliment himself in the bonuses, when anyone with an eye to competent work can see he is totally off his head. There is no acceptable defense to producing such shoddy Blu-ray, and selling it to the masses. All in all, it's a really bad looking and sounding disc except for the bonuses.
Update: A note to german buyers: THE GERMAN AUDIO IS IN THE WRONG PITCH / TONE so this Blu-ray is useless to you if you want to listen to it in german, all the Morricone tracks sounds offkey. Bravo John Doe.
Update 2: I have read reports that the french audio remix is pitched too low on that one too...
The actual director's cut is the Italian Blu-ray which is superior to MGM in every way, but lacks the english dub. This DC is the same as the MGM minus the grotto scene (and with a much better PQ), and as originally dubbed in 1966 entirely in italian only. It's been on youtube for the last six months, but I will not post a link here.
Update: the DC actually have a couple of differences with the US Blu-ray, mainly the torture scene is different, and the last of Blondie's line at the end "sorry Tuco" is missing in the italian cut. It is there in the US version.
Differences between the restored MGM cut and the Italian BluRay release:
- The "Il Grotto" scene is exclusive to the MGM cut
- The torture sequence is missing a reaction shot of Angel Eyes on the Italian BD
- Finale of "The Trio" is slowed down and contains a wailing horn on the 5.1 mix of the Italian BD
- "Sorry, Tuco" scene is missing on the Italian BD
- Different shots of Tuco screaming "You dirty son of a ..."
Update 2: It's hilarious how in the bonuses, they talk about having problems syncing Tuco's last line in the film: in another difference with the US fan edit cut, the line was shot twice, first with Eli Wallach mouthing off the words in english, and then in italian (to allow for a perfect sync for both versions). What version did they use on the MGM?
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
The US Blu-ray is pretending to offer the US Theatrical cut (it doesn't that would be the one with 22mn cut out and missing the outpost scene) + a "restored" version which is not the actual Leone DC but an approximate reconstruction of the US first "limited" cut, with added material that shouldn't be in it (the rising scene, which should only be in the general release US cut missing otherwise 22minutes of other scenes). There is an excellent article on this in Video Watchdog #110.
There exist an uncut CVC italian DVD (italian dubs only), longer than any of those, alas it's not the actual Leone cut either as like both the US discs, it as the "Harmonica rising on the plateform" scene, which was never supposed to be in any of Leone actual director's cut. (It's supposely made from Leone's own print, but it doesn't mean it's a DC. More like it was a print with all the footage shot he made for archival purposes, or maybe they added the rising scene from another source just to make if "full". In essence if you cut out of it the rising scene, you have the nearest to a correct extended cut but that is not a director's cut).
The real Leone DC is the german, or french cut, which isn't available officially, thought some VHS or TV german rips of this complete cut have appeared on youtube until they were taken down. It of course doesn't have the "Rising" scene (which Leone only added in the US cut when they cut out the Outpost scene), and have correct outro music timing. Why do I say it's the DC? All other countries had botched releases and the film tanked there. The only places it was a huge hit were countries where that same cut was on general release, so that edges off any debate or reconstruction: like the italian GBU which is Leone's real DC, the french/german OUATITW is the DC. Oh and that horrible rising scene that destroy the whole edge of the outpost scene shouldn't be in it.
Once Upon a Time... The Revolution (1971) aka Duck, You Sucker! aka A Fistful of Dynamite
Restored partly on DVD, airs in HD on MGM HD, alas have several audio restoration problems (youtube links comparison below)
These concerns missing dialogue and misplacement of music. Original DVD had correct mono tracks but was cut. The current release still lacks the complete Mao quote at the beginning. Plus of course, the mono track on the DVD is a fold down of the 5.1 mix not the original mono track.
Addition: the Chairman Mao quote can only be read in full on the Image laserdisc (the one with the full final flashback). It´s taken from a VHS and so is of limited visual quality. The MGM DVD has a shortened quote
There is a CVC italian pal DVD with better PQ than the UK/FR pal DVD, which have differences in running time. French DVD is the same as the US DVD only in Pal speed, so I will use it as comparison here because the CVC is also Pal format. Both versions are completely in sync until the massacre at about 1h25mn into the movie, where they both go offsync, so one release is lacking. Guess which?
The FR Pal DVD is 2h30mn24s16. The CVC Pal DVD is 2h30mn52s15. You can shave about 9s of the MGM logo out of the FR Pal MGM so that makes the actual movie as FR 2h30mn15s16 vs ITA 2h30mn52s15 which means a difference of about 37 seconds. From this deduction, it would appear the so called uncut DVD SE is cut. It looks that some of the violence is missing (no dubbed lines seems gone in those 37 seconds, but I may have to check it out).
It's not about the UK version being cut. UK BBFC site says only 6s were cut and the UK DVDs in those cases usually differ from the french DVDs which are "uncut", so it's a case of another botched worldwide release by MGM.
The real intended international title is Once Upon a Time... The Revolution. Again, this was the title in the places where the film succeeded (and the title on the screenplay). The other titles were retitles for countries who cut the film, based on the italian title.
It is my opinion that those titles should only reflect cuts mirroring their actual releases (ie releases that were cut down and do not reflect Leone intended cut) as they represent the theatrical cuts released in the UK and US. Those still do not exist either on DVD or Blu. The correct international title should be reserved for the "uncut" edition. That would be historically accurate, but of course at this point, why would MGM care. (I'm available to help coordinate a definitive restore of all those by the way. I'll even do it for free.)
The actual american theatrical cut do not exist on DVD, or Blu, nor the actual UK cut does. A documentary in the DVD thought offers an insight on those cuts.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Two different releases, the Warner disc is the general release which is from an old outdated master originally made for the DVD release, and there is a new, extended Italian Blu-ray, which have a color timing problem but adds 26mn to the movie. However it's region B locked.
The actual american theatrical cut do not exist on DVD, but it airs some times on cable channels. That was a cut where all the film was re-arranged chronologically. I saw it at least twice on HBO in the 80's, so it's probably still around.
I believe to be historically accurate, the US Blu should be a twofer with both the US recut and Leone european release cut.
On a general note, all the films (except perhaps Fistful) now miss their "intermission" time. Originally they played in two parts. I know, I saw em that way. It was good to take a leak in the middle of Once Upon A Time... The Revolution. No pun intended.
My Name is Nobody (1973)
French Blu-ray is superior to the italian Blu which have a green tint all over the master.
A Genius, Two Partners & a Dupe (1975)
Edited by HDvision, August 06 2013 - 10:35 AM.