BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID THE ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION #28 Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 1969 Length: 110 minutes Genre: Western/Comedy Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 2.0 mono English 2.0 stereo French 2.0 mono Subtitles: English & French Film Rating: Release Date: June 6, 2006. Film Rating: / Starring: Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (The Sundance Kid), Katherine Ross (Etta Place) Written by: William Goldman Directed by: George Roy Hill Not that it matters, but most of it is true. It’s the film that is said to have brought the “buddy movies” in Hollywood. With its slick writing and perfect pacing, it’s no wonder that Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, the story of America’s favourite real-life outlaws of the west, has become a favourite modern western to movie lovers. Finally, on DVD, Fox has given this set a 2-disc special edition treatment. The opening of the film lets us understand their characters immediately: Butch Cassidy has no guns, but has the brains and the humour and is a great at outsmarting the other. The Sundance Kid is the exact opposite; he’s a killer who keeps to himself, his shyness makes him more difficult to read, he has a bit of a temper and he’s a great marksman. The two of them are a pair and best buddies and give a meaning to “best friends.” Both Redford and Newman are applauded for their excellent work to make this come across on screen. The pair are on the road for long periods of time and when they get back they sometimes find a bit of a leadership challenge from their own “Hole in the Wall Gang” or love (or lack of) in their personal lives with Sundance’s lover Etta. But things quickly get to normal as they continue their train robberies. But without warning a train robbery goes wrong and Butch and Sundance find themselves on the run for days from a super posse that is determined to have them killed. There is only so much running these men can do day and night, dirt and rock, so in a quick decision they decide to head for Bolivia with Etta. For what seems to be a chance to make a change in lifestyle, you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. This film is light-hearted and fun all of the way through and like they should, the stars steal the show and pushed both Paul Newman and Robert Redford further into stardom. This film also won three academy awards for Best Cinematography (great at the beginning of the film), Best Score and Original Song (Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” – I guess best for 1969) and Best Screenplay because as you may know, this is a great little film. If you didn’t, now you know. Using a recently popular method of wrapping, the disc’s keepcase comes tucked in a thin cardboard sleeve that allows you to slide it out of the top or bottom. It’s not as nice as the much more robust ones that come with the Cinema Classics Collection but it keeps consistent with the rest of Fox’s Collector’s Editions. VIDEO QUALITY / I’m not very sure what film element was used for this title or how many are available/exist and the condition of each even though that would be great information to know. Given the fantastic amount of work and effort Fox has been putting into all of their specialty sets, this release is a bit of a disappointment. While I don’t have the original 2000 release, I am going to say that based on the information I have there has been no upgrade to the video on this new collector’s set, so we are in fact watching a six-year old transfer and times have changed. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that I was losing my vision or watching the video through a distorted window. I’ve chosen the harshest comments first because they are my initial reactions once the opening sequence concluded. The film starts with the opening credits and a vintage film shot for this movie playing on the left of the screen. As if we were still watching that vintage footage we are introduced to the main characters in sepia until it opens up to full-glory colour…well, at least it should have. As the men rode on their horses in the landscape I found the image dull, flat, under saturated, blurry, out of focus, etc. This continued throughout the film and at times the images on screen were even surrounded by a blue halo – but I think that may be from the original photography because it looks like a sort of lens flare. On that note, I think the original photography does contribute to the less than stellar presentation here. Extreme wide shots are blurry and objects in the distance have no definition at all; almost as if the camera wasn’t focussed before shooting. The colour quality of this film is inconsistent. The quality of colour can change on almost a scene to scene basis as if the film used in each camera was somehow different. The trees, leaves, landscape, colour of clothing and faces all lack vibrancy. It is very bland looking and I can’t imagine that this was ever an intended look. Black levels aren’t deep and they are also very undefined. Images get lost in blackness and there is little discrimination between them on screen. The film is 2.35:1 and has considerable film grain and other dirt artefacts that are rather unforgiving on a large screen. Was this the best available print? I’m not sure. But there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to clean it up to the standards of Fox’s more recent classics. AUDIO QUALITY / Once I got past laughing from the music in this film (as a first time viewer, I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it) I was actually able to concentrate on the audio quality. It’s encoded in Dolby Digital and available in both mono and stereo. I will warn you not to listen to this soundtrack at reference level. I’d advise you to drop the volume because it is very fatiguing to listen to. All aspects of this the audio are limited and I may have been somewhat forgiving for giving it a grade of two stars. It is strained to the point that anytime it seemed like there was going to be a dynamic moment in the audio there was something holding it back. The result is a compressed and distorted sound that is painful to listen to. Background hiss is also quite apparent. Dialogue sounds veiled and not well integrated with the rest of the soundtrack. Because of the limited quality of this recording, sound effects don’t sound real at all. In fact sometimes it gave off the impression they were recorded from another room. I’ve heard films made in the ‘30s and ‘40s that sound far greater than this. I really think this was a lazy audio production and no one took the time to put a little effort into it. The stereo version of this film isn’t very stereo, in fact it sounds just like the mono version just with a little more of a spread of the sound outwards from the center. The mono audio is clearly more defined in the center of the soundstage while the stereo sounds a little processed. At least this stereo version doesn’t sound splashed all over the soundstage like some other terrible stereo attempts. There are no discrete left/right sounds, although during one musical segment it did sound like some instruments were placed half-left and half right. SPECIAL FEATURES / In addition to all of the special features that were included on the 2000 release, Fox has done a nice job to give consumers a little more for this double-disc release by providing all-new interviews with Paul Newman and Robert Redford and more. What is the same on this release are the commentaries by director George Roy Hill, associate producer Robert Crawford and cinematographer Conrad Hall and another one by screenwriter William Goldman. All of the 1994 interviews are still here featuring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross, William Goldman, and Burt Backarach. You’ll also find the same on-the-scene footage using old film by Crawford in the 1994 Documentary The Making of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (42.09. 4:3). The film footage that appears non-stop is voiced over by many involved with the making of this film. It’s a treat. But for those of you looking for something new to make this new collector’s set worth your purchase, Fox has included a new 2005 documentary All of What Follows it True: The Making of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. In this thirty-five minute piece, it has new interviews with Newman, Redford, Richard Zanuck, and more. They each think back to the film and recollect the production and the response by the audience. I believe you will find this new insight a treat to listen to. It looks like it is shot with SD cameras but is presented in full 16:9 so it might have been framed for cropping. Fox should just buy a couple of HD cameras for this stuff…at least they’ve responded to the call for releasing most of their special features in 16:9. For that I thank them. To offer even more, the older documentary History through the Lens: Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid: Outlaws of Time. This is a much more extensive look at these characters in its hour and a half running time. Also of interest is a fact or fiction featurette about the real men. The Wild Bunch: The True Tale of Butch and Sundance (25.11, 16:9) features some experts on these historical guys who have done a lot of research and they attempt to sort through what was fact and what was Hollywood. Of most interest to fans is the deleted scene that was shot but never seen until now. George Roy Hill went to lengths to have this scene included on this DVD and now fans can see it for the first time. Since the dialogue tracks have been lost the dialogue can be read at the bottom of the screen. It is the 4-minute ”Tent” scene where Butch, Sundance and Etta happen to see a short film of themselves while in Bolivia, and much like we know, they are disbelief about exaggeration of their lives with filmmaking. Lastly, this disc includes: an alternate credit roll production notes three theatrical trailers (all enhanced for widescreen TVs!) The Films of Paul Newman (trailers - From the Terrace, Hombre, The Hustler, The Long Hot Summer, Quintet, The Towering Inferno, The Verdict, What a Way to Go!. IN THE END… Those of you who haven’t seen this film before (like me) should choose this set over the old edition (I don’t think it’s available anymore anyways). There are a lot of quality features on this disc even though some of them are a port over from the previous release. The new interviews in the new featurette are a must to own for fans, but for those casual viewers who appreciate the film for what it is, I’m not sure if it’s worth the upgrade because it uses the same video transfer. I liked Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to view it. After hearing great things about the movie for so many years from so many different sources I wasn’t at all disappointed from the hype. You won’t be either. Michael Osadciw June 8, 2006.