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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

    Ian Jane

  • Good, The Bad And The Ugly, The

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: July, 2017.
    Director: Sergio Leone
    Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach
    Year: 1967
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    The Movie:

    The third and final film in the 'Dollars' Trilogy' takes what Sergio Leone showed us he was capable of in A Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More and perfects it. If his first two westerns are the bastard offspring of Akira Kurasawa and John Ford, then The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly is where he made the genre his own and really perfected his technique. While he would repeat this technical achievement in his later Once Upon A Time In The West, (possibly even surpass it depending on who you ask) The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, still remains a slicker and inexplicably cooler picture that rightfully holds its place as one of the finest films ever made.

    Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Dirty Harry) and Eli Wallach (The Godfather Part III) play two gunfighters who form a temporary partnership during the era of the American Civil War. Tuco (Wallach) has a record a mile long and is wanted in pretty much every county. Blondie (Eastwood) turns him in to collect the reward money only to spring him at the last minute so they can move on to the next town and repeat the scheme.

    When the get into an argument, Blondie leaves Tuco in the desert, but Tuco swears revenge, tracking him down to take his life for betraying him. While in the desert, Tuco finds that a soldier on his deathbed has given Blondie the location of a sizeable treasure - $200,000 in Confederate gold. Little do Tuco and Blondie know though that a man they'll soon dub with the moniker of Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef of Day Of Anger) is also looking for this same treasure and is hot on their trail.

    The first ten minutes of the film are completely without dialogue - all we hear are sound effects and Ennio Morricone's amazing score. The rest of the film, while far from silent, isn't overly dialogue heavy either. Leone instead shows off his ability to let the pictures do the talking instead of the characters, and here actions really do speak louder than words. The three main characters at one point or another through the duration of the story represent both good, bad and ugly aspects of humanity and are played out as larger than life, almost super human. How else could it be, if these men are simply average and bound by the same laws we are, that Tuco and Blondie could blow up the bridge in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of enemy soldiers?

    Eastwood shines as the anti-hero lead in the role that solidified his rising star in Hollywood. He plays his part with a consummate cool rarely rivaled - squinting his way through the story without any obvious hesitation. Eli Wallach, as the rat bastard Tuco, is equally good in his part. He's a true scumbag but you can't help but feel for the guy during the Mission scene where he confronts his brother, Father Ramirez (Luigi Pistilli of The Nude Princess). He does an amazing job of bring both a sense of disdain and a sense of pathos to his role. Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes Sentenza is as good if not slightly better than his two co-stars are. He's a cold, calculating man who can and will do what it takes to bring in the gold. In the role he was born to play and is probably best remembered for, the actor who never really got his due shines like a diamond in the rough. He's snide and smarmy and his on-screen relationship with Eastwood is often imitated but never duplicated.

    No matter how great the leads in the film are though, deserving of equal billing are of course the trademark Leone visuals. Extremely wide angels zoom into tight ocular close ups of the characters, building tension and piling on the style. Unorthodox close ups such as a shot of a man's spurs against the bar he's standing at or a medium close up of the back of Eastwood's head as he talks to a secondary character give the film a truly unique and carefully constructed look. The camera at times could almost be a participant in the action - it documents everything in such a way that once again we get the feeling that we're watching the story of three men who are something more than human.

    The story, while simple at first glance, is actually quite dark when you think about it. There are no truly good characters in the film, aside from Tuco's brother, but even he shows the chinks in his armor when he gets mad at his brother, rather than forgiving and forgetting as his religion should have taught him to do. While Blondie may be pointed to as 'The Good,' he screws over the other characters and isn't above shooting someone if the money makes it worth his while. Throw him into the mix with the obvious antagonists of Tuco and Angel Eyes and set them against a backdrop where a country is killing itself in a civil war and this is hardly a feel good movie - yet it is not without a strong sense of black humor. All three leads have got a few good one liners (Tuco's 'If you have to shoot, shoot… don't talk!' being one of the more famous ones) that keep things from getting too downbeat, even if at times it seems that they should be.

    And of course, one can't even think of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly without instantly conjuring up the sounds of Ennio Morricone's score. While the opening theme may be the most recognizable cue in the film, just try to not get chills down your spine when The Ecstasy Of Gold plays during the climatic and inevitable showdown. Morricone had only really been scoring films for roughly five years when the film was made (though he had already worked with Leone twice before on A Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More). Even without the decades of experience he has now, the already prolific composer was still able to turn in one of the finest pieces of film music to ever come out of Italy or for that matter, anywhere. The wailing, the guitar strings, the unusual percussion bleed raw emotion into whatever scene they're designed to enhance, demonstrating why Morricone is often referred to as 'the Maestro.' The otherworldly qualities of the score also lend it an almost supernatural feel in spots - raising these men up a notch or two and filling their actions with a sense of importance by way of music that almost seems to be speaking for them at times.

    Kino's new two disc 50th Anniversary Blu-ray release includes the film's original theatrical cut (on Blu-ray for the first time and with the original United Artists logo intact), cut down from the longer restored edition that's bene released on Blu-ray previously. This reconstruction of the theatrical cut was based on the previous DVD release from MGM which does incorporate a few shots that reportedly weren't included in the original theatrical cut which was last seen on Laserdisc/VHS.

    The longer version adds eighteen minutes of new footage into the version of the film that we've previously had on home video here in North America. This footage was originally included in the 1966 Italian theatrical release but trimmed from the film for its 1968 North American release. These eighteen minutes represent the newly dubbed scenes that have been the topic of much debate because of the voice work that was done. Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood did their own voice work here but understandably they sound older than they did in 1967. Lee Van Cleef had passed away by the time this was being done, and so an impersonator was hired to dub his lines.

    As to the added content in the longer cut, in a nutshell, here's what's new:

    -A scene where Tuco reunites with his old hoodlum friends and talking them into joining him on his quest to kill Blondie is included.

    -We see Angel Eyes searching for information on Bill Carson at a Confederate Army camp. He finds out that Carson has either died on his way to Glorietta, or he's been captured and tossed in a POW camp.

    -We see Tuco wash his feet in a bucket of water in the desert, right in front of a parched Blondie's sun-beaten face.

    -Just before Tuco and Blondie show up at the Catholic Mission, Tuco, in disguise and claiming to be Bill Carson, stops at a Confederate camp and asks for help. He is turned away.

    -On their way out of the mission, Tuco and Blondie discuss the best route to take.

    -After leaving the POW camp and on their way to the cemetery, Blondie and Angel Eyes stop to rest for the night at the side of a river. Some of Angel Eyes's thugs show up.

    The majority of the added footage enhances the already pessimistic view of the war going on around the three central characters, and it also fills in some of the blanks. It isn't as much of a shock when Angel Eyes turns out to be a Confederate, and we already know he's on the trail of the gold, which is also explained better. It fleshes out the film as a whole and sheds some light on some of the more questionable aspects of the characters and their motives in the last half of the film.


    Kino presents each cut of the film on its own separate BD50 disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. For this release, Kino has taken the existing 4k restoration that most complained was too yellow and color corrected it to reduce that yellow, but the end result is inconsistent. Some shots look more natural, some shots look a bit flat. Some shots look pretty much perfect, other shots look less colorful than they should. There are scenes where the blues in the sky don't quite look right and there are scenes where the previously warm yellows, now considerably reduced, resulted in warmer visuals that now look cold. It's a trick thing all the way around. On top of that, there are issues that were likely in the master that they had to work with that couldn't be eliminated in the first place, such as some clipping and some issues with the black levels. Having said that, this is hardly an unwatchable abomination. Detail is pretty solid throughout, especially in those trademark close-ups that play such an important part in the movie's effectiveness, and there's good depth here as well. There are some mild compression artifacts present here and there but there doesn't appear to be any obvious edge enhancement or noise reduction. The image is also very clean, there aren't any problems with print damage or debris, while film grain resolves fairly well throughout. It might be a cop out to say this in a review, but whether or not it looks better than the previous domestic Blu-ray offerings really does boil down to personal preference.

    It does appear that both cuts of the film use the same source (and fine, these aren't the exact same frame but they're close enough to provide a point of reference):
    Theatrical Cut:

    Extended Cut:

    Audio options are provided in the same DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix we've heard before but also in the original Mono mixes in both English and Italian with optional English subtitles provided that translate the English audio. The 5.1 track does feature some of the change sound effects found on previous releases, making the English Mono option the way to go here due to the voice work. The Italian Mono track is a great variant and it's nice to see it included here, however. As to the quality of the Mono track, it sounds fine. It's properly balanced, it sounds clean and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to note. It suits the film much more accurately than the 5.1 track does. The audio options are the same for both cuts of the movie, but when the extended cut shifts to the added scenes the Mono track is mixed down from the 5.1 track (again, no original audio exists for these scenes so this is probably the best way that this could have been handled).

    Extras are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:

    DISC ONE - The Theatrical Cut:

    First up is an exclusive audio commentary track from Tim Lucas. If you're familiar with Lucas' commentary work you've got a good idea of what to expect here: a meticulously researched talk that covers a whole lot of ground. Lucas' talk is specific to the theatrical cut and he covers the differences between the two versions of the movie, but he also details the title sequence and its impact, the locations used in the film, pretty much everyone in the cast (not just the three leads but almost all of the bit part players as well), Morricone's score, the cinematography and the importance of various shots used in the film and a LOT more. This is a really solid track by anyone's standards (and of course, with Lucas being Lucas, he makes a Bava connection or two along the way - and with good reason).

    Also new to this release is a Trailers From Hell installment featuring Earnest Dickerson. This three and a half minute piece allows Dickerson to offer up his thoughts on Leone's style and the influence and importance of this particular film.

    Also on the first disc are an alternate scene and two deleted scenes. The alternate scene, 'The Optical Flip,' runs just shy of a minute and shows two quick variations on the Tuco showdown scene. The first deleted scene is 'Skeletons In The Desert' which shows Eastwood finding an unexpected surprise out in the desert. The second deleted Scene is the 'Extended Torture Scene' and it's a slightly more graphic depiction of Tuco when he's tortured. Both run just over a minute in length.

    The Good, The Bad And The Ugly On Set is an interesting eight minute collection of behind the scenes photos shot on set during the production of the film that give us a look at what it might have been like to 'be there' as it was all going down. Promoting The Good, The Bad And The Ugly runs nine minutes and it's a large collection of promotional materials used during the film's theatrical run.

    Also found on the first disc is the film's original American theatrical trailer.

    DISC TWO - The Extended Cut:

    The first extra on Disc Two is a feature length running commentary by film historian and author of Clint Eastwood: A Biography, Richard Schickel. Given the authors resume, it's no surprise that much of the time spent on this track is dedicated to Eastwood, but it's all in context. There is a wealth of excellent information to be gleaned by listening to this track, if you can get used to Schickel's monotone speech patterns. This can be more difficult than it may sound, as he doesn't sound enthusiastic at all about his subject, despite the fact that as he's talking, he is relaying a lot of great anecdotes, behind the scenes information, and technical facts. It's admirable that Schickel was able to come up with so much information about the film and unfortunate that it was presented in a more exciting manner. He spends a lot of time describing and detailing Leone's sense of style and composition but could have gone into more detail about the historical context that the film is set in and some of the history surrounding it. All in all though, this is an interesting commentary even if the delivery leaves something to be desired. A second commentary is also included here, featuring Sir Christopher Frayling (the author of the seminal Sergio Leone: Something To Do With Death) supplying his typically strong balance of facts, trivia, thematic elements and biographical information and insight. He's more interesting to listen to than Shickel and he also clearly knows his stuff. Lots of insight here into the themes that Leone explores as well as the importance of certain shots, the effectiveness of the iconic score, the locations and of course the performances.

    Up next is Leone's West, a making-of documentary that runs just under twenty-minutes in length. The focus of this piece is on the arduous process of getting the film made and the impact that it had on American cinema. Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Alberto Grimaldo (producer), Mickey Knox (translator), and the aforementioned Richard Schickel are all interviewed on camera, lending their own individual experiences and memories. Leone's West is a well-rounded and interesting look back at the making of the film and at what went on behind the scenes and serves as a nice primer and introductory piece.

    From there, check out Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone And The Good, the Bad & the Ugly. If you couldn't tell by the title, it takes a look at Morricone's immeasurable contributions to the film by way of his now world famous and instantly recognizable score. This piece gives us a little bit of background information on Morricone, his relationship with Leone, and the way that his music enhanced the film. Variety critic Jon Burlingame provides most of the details such as his tendency to play back some of the score on set during filming to get the actors in the mood.

    Clocking in at twenty-three minutes in length The Leone Style documentary is a detailed look at Leone's all too short film career. By taking a look at Leone's body of work, the featurette gives an interesting perspective on his unique talent for creating intensely visual and flamboyant films that draw the viewer into the action in a way that has barely been rivaled since. His use of wide angles contrasted with close-ups of his characters' eyes was something that had never really been seen before and it makes for interesting analysis. Plenty of clips from his films are used to exemplify how good his films always looked, and Leone fans will most certainly enjoy this piece that looks back the cinematic legacy he left behind.

    Next up is The Man Who Lost the Civil War - a documentary about Sibley's Campaign, run by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Morgan Sheppard narrates this fourteen-minute segment that gives a brief but informative history lesson which puts the film into a historical context relating to actual historical events that many of us may be unfamiliar with. Henry Sibley had some seriously grandiose ideas, and some equally grandiose failures when he tried to live them out.

    Reconstructing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is a documentary that focuses on the audio re-recording process that the film went through before this DVD was released. Anything and everything you could want to know about how the 5.1 mix was created for this featurette and how the redubbing process went is revealed here in this piece which runs approximately ten minutes. For anyone interested in film restoration, this segment is worthwhile and contains quite a bit of technical but fascinating information.

    The second disc also contains four brief bonus vignette clips: Uno Due Tre, which is a brief interview with Eli Wallach in which he discusses working with Leone. Italian Lunch which features Eastwood discussing the effects that a large lunch had on the motivation of the cast members. New York Actor,is a clip of Eli giving his theory on horses. Finally, Gun In Holster, another clip of Wallach, this time explaining why he always kept his gun in his holster.

    Aside from the documentaries, there are two deleted scenes included here that are not in the extended cut of the film. The first one, The Extended Tuco Torture Scene, is a longer cut of the sequence in the film where Tuco is being tortured. Damage to the original elements prevented the inclusion of this scene into the restored film. The second scene is entitled The Socorro Sequence - A Reconstruction and is a montage of film, storyboards and still with text overtop that recreates the scene in which Eastwood's character went to bed with a lovely young lady. Because this scene never reached completion it obviously could not be included in the film.

    A French language theatrical trailer is also included. The extras on this second disc, all ported over from the previous MGM Blu-ray release, are heavily compressed and don't look so hot due to something strange having been done to the frame rate.

    Both discs in the set include menus and chapter selection. Kino has also afforded this release some slick reversible cover art, each side featuring some original poster art for the film.

    The Final Word:

    The Good, The Band And The Ugly is rightly considered one of the greatest films ever made - it's tense, exciting, dramatic and at times darkly comic. It's beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and its score is nothing short of iconic. The powers that be at Kino clearly tried very hard to get this right, but where the transfer is in some spots improved from past editions, so too are there moments where it's worse. Having said that, including the closest approximation we have yet to the true theatrical cut of the movie as well as the extended version of the film is a big plus, and on top of that we get the mono tracks and a few new extras including a really strong commentary from Tim Lucas making this the best edition on the market to date, even if it is flawed.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    • Mark Tolch
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      The mono tracks are a nice touch, but I'm finding it hard to convince myself to shell out for another flawed release of the film

    • John Bernhard
      John Bernhard
      Senior Member
      John Bernhard commented
      Editing a comment
      Colors look poor to my eye, that yellowy tinge is baked in but good.
      As this is the single most released film in the history of home video, there will be another release to ponder before too long.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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