14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
After being disappointed by Mill Creek's two horror double-features, it was a relief to see the company put out a Blu-Ray that at least looks like a Blu-Ray, even if the subject matter and price clearly means that this isn't going to be one of those million-dollar restorations.
The film-prints are scratched and faded in places. However, the transfers aren't that bad if you're not too picky, definately better than Mill Creeks's previous DVD, though not quite the quality of a Warner Brothers or Sony high-definition transfer.
The movies themselves are alright, nothing special. However, I think Blu-Ray fans should definately buy this in order to show "the suits" that there's a market for non-Hollywood, non-blockbuster, and not quite cult-classic releases to the format.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
No points for originality, but here's a rundown in good Italian western tradition:
The Good: Technically, there's a tremendous amount of positives to talk about for this release. Both films included on this double feature are also available on the Mill Creek set 10,000 Ways to Die: Spaghetti Western Collection, and, cutting to the chase, if you are a fan of either of these films, then this upgrade is a no-brainer - in comparison with the previous prints available. There may be other compilation packs that include these films - it's hard to tell with the proliferation of inexpensive and low quality sets - but I'd guess that there is a good chance any other prints out there match up well with '10,000 Ways to Die'. Since I have the previous prints on DVD, I was able to to compare them to this blu-ray version, and not surprisingly, the blu wins out handily.
Some specifics: 'The Last Gun' is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TV's (no black bars) - a huge improvement over the non-anamorphic widescreen presentation on the DVD (black bars on top, bottom, and sides). 'Four Dollars of Revenge' is listed at 2.46:1, which looks about right, and again, another improvement over '10,000' with its 4:3 pan and scan. The blu-ray includes three audio options for both films, all in 2 channel - dolby digital, DTS-HD, and PMC uncompressed audio, but STILL no subtitles (C'mon, have a heart, Mill Creek). Unfortunately, it appears that little or no clean-up of the prints was attempted in the transfer, but everything is still sharper, clearer, and brighter - what one might expect from this transfer process. Just don't expect a pristine cut - there are plenty of artifacts remaining in the picture. On larger televisions, pixellation was a small problem on the DVD prints - that's gone here as the picture is smooth throughout. One last small note, on 'Four Dollars', English titles are used on the blu rather than the Italian of the DVD.
The Bad: Not really bad, but mediocre anyway - 'Four Dollars of Revenge'. Not a lot of heavy lifting here as Robert Wood stars as a U. S. Calvary officer who's cashiered out of the service and sent to jail after leading his men into a massacre. Escaping from jail, he goes in search for those who set him up and framed him, and he just happens to have a dollar apiece to place beside their cooling corpses. Written by Bruno Corbucci (brother to Sergio), this film has a promising premise, but I don't think Robert Woods is the man to carry it - he has a little too much wholesomeness about him to convincingly portray the desperate, angel of vengeance the story calls for. Only average, but it has its moments.
The Ugly: Well...unless you're a Cameron Mitchell fan. Ugly is going too far, but 'Last Gun' is below average at best, mostly in production quality. The story plays on the masked gunman/mild mannered shopkeeper alter ego trope, which isn't a problem in and of itself - its just that the entire thing is pretty predictable, and missing out on any of the gritty or more complex charicterizations that made the Italian western genre so unique in the late sixties. 'Last Gun' is more akin to average American westerns from the fifties than anything Leone or Corbucci put out at the height of the fad.
The Bottom Line: Even though I have '10,000 Ways to Die', I hadn't made my way all the way through it yet, and didn't pay attention to the fact that I was going to be duplicating these two films. If I had already seen them, I probably wouldn't have bought the blu-ray - these films are ok for one viewing, but I doubt I'll watch them too many times again. Having said that, since I HADN'T already seen them, I enjoyed watching them on blu-ray - in fact, this is such a tremendous upgrade that it is almost like watching another movie entirely. Still, the overall effect would certainly dull as the price goes up. Since price fluctuates so much, it's worth keeping an eye on - I bought the set for around six dollars, and I can safely recommend the set to Italian western enthusiasts for that price, even with the fact that I was buying duplicates. If one didn't own these films already, a few more dollars might be justified, but only if the buyer understands that these are only average films. One can only hope that Mill Creek puts out a vol. 3 (vol 1 was never released due to a conflict over rights to 'Django'), and include some of their other obscure films (hints: 'Beyond the Law', 'The Grand Duel', 'It Can Be Done, Amigo').
Two and half stars for 'Last Gun', three for 'Four Dollars' and four for the overall appearance of the package. Definitely worth a look.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Mill Creek's first Spaghetti Western Double Feature Blu-ray (after rights issues forced them to cancel their planned release of Django and Now They Call Him Sacramento) brings together a pair of forgotten and forgettable spaghettis in unimpressive dubbed English transfers complete with enough scratches and print damage to convince you you're in the back row of the cheapest cinema in the worst part of town.
Cameron Mitchell takes the lead in 1964's The Last Gun aka Jim, Il Primo aka Killer's Canyon, but gets surprisingly little to do as the once notorious gunman who has, unbeknownst to the denizens of the small town he's settled down in, reinvented himself as a mild-mannered shopkeeper. But wouldn't you know it, when bad men descend on the town and no-one will stand up against them, he has to adopt a somewhat ridiculous Zorro-like masked secret identity to take them on. Yet, one intriguing scene where his refusal to publicly stand up and get himself killed destroys his marriage aside, the film doesn't seem particularly interested in him, with the dubbed Mitchell making considerably less of an impression than Carl Mohner as the ambiguous drifter tagging along with the gang who is the only one to know of his past infamy. He may be introduced miming the title song (sung by spaghetti regular Pete Tevis) over wildly unconvincing shots of him strumming a guitar as he rides along the hills but Mohner has more screen presence than our hero even if his part doesn't call for much more than constantly smiling. Owing more to John Wayne's early pre-stardom singing cowboy Westerns of the 30s than the more violent paella Westerns that Leone and others would usher in only a year later, it's no more than a time-filler for the very undemanding.
Despite being co-written by Django and The Great Silence's Bruno Corbucci, 1968's 4 Dollars of Revenge is another forgotten helping of Western pasta that sees Robert Woods' Union cavalry hero who's being groomed for political office framed for the murder of his men and the robbery of a small fortune in Confederate gold. Escaping prison, he sets out to repay the men who were really responsible a dollar at a time, but what's most memorable about the picture is just how odd it all looks. Aside from the occasionally inadvertently comical uniforms (not just the cavalry: the prison guards look like they're wearing leftover Russian uniforms from Doctor Zhivago, which is entirely possible since this was also shot in Spain), production design and spelling that you're not sure is deliberately wrong or not, there's some strange casting, like the David Walliams lookalike as our hero's drunken cousin, while some of the Spanish bit players move very strangely indeed as if they don't know quite how to use their bodies normally whenever a camera is pointed in their general direction. Still, it's odd enough to be a harmlessly undemanding watch, has a particularly catchy title song even if the English lyrics are indecipherable thanks to poor sound recording and it wins points for ending not with a gunfight by with a particularly badly choreographed swordfight instead.
While the dubbed prints used are poor, the transfers on the region-free disc are decent enough and certainly better than you'll find on many bargain-basement public domain collections of spaghetti westerns, though there are no extras. Not recommended but at least watchable for the tolerant Italian Western completist, though not a patch on Mill Creek's subsequent Region A-locked Grand Duel / Keoma (Spaghetti Western Double Feature) [Blu-ray].