12 of 12 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.