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THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966)) BLU-RAY REVIEW

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

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Stars – Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach * Director- Sergio Leone
* Released by Kino Studio Classics*Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

The Good – The restored mono audio sounds fantastic! That American theatrical cut is back the way we remember it!* The Not So Bad – The look of the film is far less yellow than it used to be. To be fair it looks pretty great although that might not be the kind of great you were expecting. The Ugly – The extras ported over from the DVD set are all out of whack. They have a staccato movement and the quality is rendered very poorly.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is many people’s idea of the best western ever made, at least the best Spaghetti Western. It is an immensely satisfying experience to take in. Director Sergio Leone serves this up with a very apparent love of American Westerns. He delivers on the action. He gives us such cool characters with plenty of memorable lines. There are so many little bits to be cherished. When Eli Wallach goes into a gun shop he has the proprietor lays out all of the best six guns. He takes several apart. He looks through the barrels. He rolls the cylinders back and forth between his hands as he listens to them. He then builds his own pistol from the best parts. The last time we saw an actor do this kind of intense scene stealing gun fetish stuff was when Steve McQueen rode out to the graveyard with Yul Brynner at the beginning of The Magnificent Seven (1960). McQueen shook a shotgun shell to his ear to see if they were ok. If you love westerns you eat this stuff up! Lee Van Cleef has that pipe and the steely eyes. Leone gives his actors plenty of extreme close ups. Clint Eastwood has that classic catch phrase. Even though it is dubbed in afterwards we can still appreciate the long pause he takes before he simply says, “…yeah”. Word was he used to cross most of his lines out of the script. All three leads do their own voices and it makes a real difference to hear them. Even though Leone creates an epic tale set against the civil war on an operatic scale he still stays true to the things that make westerns work. Along the way though there is an artfulness and a majesty that elevates this picture to one of the greats. When you add in Ennio Morricone’s amazing and memorable score this is the full house of all westerns that just can’t be beat.

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I want to get this story in because it was where I fell in love with this film. Back in the late sixties there was a theatre on Broadway that had an incredible multiple bill. They advertised it in the papers as Spend The Day With Clint Eastwood. Four films were shown: Hang ’Em High (1968), Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966). This was likely done to help extend the revenue for Hang ‘Em High. As kids we were used to seeing the James Bond double bills like From Russia With Love and Dr. No. but this was four pictures. Clint’s new one and the Dollar trilogy. This was a Sunday in the dead of Winter. Brutally cold. It had to have started early, well before 10:00 AM. My buddy and I had these ridiculously big winter coats on. We stopped off at a Blimpie’s and got subs, a bottle of soda and chips. The sandwiches went down the inside of the sleeve. You couldn’t move your arm but the sub was hidden. Sodas went in the left pockets and chips in the right. Don’t push me on my right side, man, I got chips in there. We got our tickets without being spotted as smugglers. Hang ‘Em High was ok but seeing the three others in a row like that was magical. By the end we had that move down. Throw your poncho over you shoulder, adjust the stogie cigarette in your mouth, give that stare and wait,…. Then say, “…Yeah” So cool. The length of that four picture show was long but we really had gone on an adventure of epic proportions with Tucco, Angel Eyes and Blondie. So much of that imagery and the sweeping soundtrack were imbedded inside our growing cinema souls. The extreme close ups of the eyes and those long vistas of open space made an impression. I’ll never forget though the rush that came with seeing Tucco running madly through the graveyard at the end. The background of gravestones went by him so fast they became a blur. The edits came faster and faster. The music swelled. The trumpet cut right through you. Spending a day with Clint Eastwood and seeing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly that day became a milestone. Kids don’t normally devote that kind of time to movies but we did. And that day they became so much more than movies.

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Video – 2.35:1
Without a doubt Kino has dialed back the offending boost that the yellows got in the last 4K transfer. Others colors have been reigned in, too. On that front things are fine. In fact the film looks great. The only quibble would be it might not be everyone’s idea of what great is. The film is much more naturalistic looking. It is almost modern in the way it has been muted and toned down. Detail is very strong. Black levels behave fine. Grain though still plenty apparent is not out of hand at all. Previous versions before the last 4K Blu-ray had a brighter level throughout. That brighter look fits my recollections of seeing the film on screen better. The look in the MGM 2009 Blu-Ray feels close in those terms. There are other aspects of that transfer that look better here. I wish I could lay out these different transfers on a table just like Eli Wallach did with the pistols and put together my favorite parts.
* This is the first offering in Blu-Ray of the US theatrical cut from a 4K transfer. There are few minor discrepancies in the theatrical cut. They did not affect my enjoyment of it at all. Kino has done the best they could with this and it works fine.

Audio – Newly Restored 2.0 Mono Audio, Italian Dolby 2.0 Mono, English 5.1 DTS with subtitles offered in English

So much has been said about how this film looks that I feel like I want to leap up on a desk and shout , “Just listen to that mono mix!” Sure the look of the film is very important but so much of my experience with it came from the soundtrack. The mono track is robust and with a good rig delivers in spades. Morricone’s score ebbs and swells throughout. The combination of surf guitar, solo whistling, choral voices, orchestration and that lone trumpet is nothing short of magnificent. Then you add in the dubbed voices of the lead actors in a way that we have all come to recognize so well. But the real cherry on top is those echoey pistol and gun shots. This is one of the things that makes this film so iconic. The cannon blasts also get this treatment. Listening to this film is the movie equivalent of Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound in rock n’ roll. He used to call them his symphonies for the kids. Ennio Morricone’s score and the elements that make up the sound effects combine to give us one for the ages. I love this new mono track!

Extras – New Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas, New Trailers From Hell” with Ernest Dickerson, Alternate Scene: The Optical Flip, Deleted Scene 1: Skeletons in the Desert, Deleted Scene 2: Extended Torture Scene, GBU on the: animated behind-the-scenes image gallery, Promoting GBU: Posters & Lobby Cards animated image gallery, Sergio Leone Westerns: Original Theatrical Trailers

The following extras were ported over from the DVD box set. They were also included in the MGM Blu-Ray box and single editions :Audio Commentary By Acclaimed Film Historian Richard Schickel, Audio Commentary By Noted Cultural Historian Christopher Frayling

These  other extras were done at the wrong speed and don’t work well at all : Leone’s West: Making Of Documentary , The Leone Style: On Sergio Leone Featurette , The Man Who Lost The Civil War: Civil War Documentary , Reconstruction The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, II Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Featurette, Deleted Scenes.

The new commentary from Tim Lucas is loaded with info. I have not gotten through it yet but always enjoy his contributions. The Trailers From Hell bit is short and fun. The previous film extras included some excellent interviews with Christopher Frayling but were done at the wrong speed so you can’t really enjoy them.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Excellent for the Mono sound and the Theatrical version.
Very Good for the overall look. Excellent for the new extras
and Poor for the older ones that were ported over

Movie – Classic