on July 17, 2004
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is Sergio Leone's magnum opus. An audacious undertaking, it would have flopped miserably in any other director's hands. Only someone so commited to his artistic vision as Leone could have pulled off this bombastic pageantry of human nature in all its facets, its capacity for cynicism, greed, bloodlust, revenge, heroism, redemption and honour.
This movie must be *experienced.* Put the DVD in, turn the stereo all the way up and let it pummel you from the moment the Lardani titles blast onto the screen in a blaze of Technicolor fury. The montage of colour, interspersed by stark black and white visages of Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach is a tough act to follow, like Saul Bass' mesmerising titles for Hitchcock's "Vertigo."
The wait is now over! Last year, MGM/UA issued a restored 35mm print, which showed at the Film Forum in Manhattan. First restored in Italian by Cineteca Nazionale, the English-language restoration was spearheaded by Martin Scorsese, whose efforts with the Film Preservation Foundation have helped fund preservation of America's celluloid heritage. Both Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood returned to the sound studio to dub new dialogue for approximately 20 minutes of restored footage. Both sound a little older and scratchier, but these added scenes help to explain both Tuco's and Angel Eyes' gangs and some plot points that were previously unclear. However, they both sound great! (Van Cleef's voice was dubbed by a professional voiceover artist, and sounds almost on target). The movie now has the true feel of a sprawling epic, one that's earned its right to take its time.
This special edition DVD features the movie restored to its original length in the Italian version, and comes jam packed with interviews with Eastwood, Wallach, producer Alberto Grimaldi and -- most importantly -- Mickey Knox, who wrote the English language dialogue. Knox crafted lines that lived up to the larger than life screenplay. You'd swear the original was in English, the dialogue is so perfectly tailored!
But the vision is singularly Leone's. It starts slowly, as a band of bounty killers home in on their prey, small-time bandit Tuco Ramirez (THE UGLY, played by the venerable Eli Wallach). They pile through a saloon door, then the camera imediately pans away laterally. Suddenly, his body hurtling through the front window in a rain of glass, Tuco bursts onto the street -- in what has to be the most absurd grand entrance in screen history -- revolver in one hand, a chicken leg in the other. It's total chutzpah on Leone's and Wallach's part.
If you think *that* can't be topped, watch Wallach's entire performance. Animated is putting it mildly. More than a performance, Wallach is a one-man band, nay, Army. Never has such a selfish, petty, ratty and shifty little man been played so larger than life. Wallach smirks, scurries, grimaces, chuckles, shouts, bellows and slyly oils his way across the screen in what has got to be the hammiest performance ever by a method actor. Or *any* actor: He makes Orson Welles, Burt Lancaster and Charles Laughton look like the grey and sullen cast of Woody Allen's "Interiors," he's so alive with passion that he literally sweats his performance out through the filthy pores on his stubble-ridden face. And he's wonderful!
If that's a tough act to follow, you haven't met the bad. They don't come any badder than Angel Eyes, Lee Van Cleef's hired killer who's got ice water running through his veins. Van Cleef is ruthless, bold and heartless. Riding out of nowhere onto a doomed man's rancho, Angel Eyes pays a visit, carrying out a murder for hire. The price: $500. But the victim offers him $1000 to look the other way. No dice: Angel Eyes isn't in it for the money. Rather, he's a man who loves his work, and always sees the job through. So, the poor sod dies anyway.
Clint Eastwood is as cool as a cucumber as The Man With No Name (but really one with sort of a name, in this case "Blondie," which is Wallach's moniker for him). It's fun watching the ongoing relationship between Blondie and Tuco as bounty hunter and prey. In another life, they would have been great pals, but in this life ("we're all alone in this world," Tuco confesses to Blondie, half seriously, half cynically) their love of money is thicker than friendship. So, they invent ingenious and cruel ways to exact revenge of each other.
It's during one of Tuco's sadistic plots - in which he marches the pale-skinned Eastwood across 100 miles of scorching desert - that the plot finally comes to a head: A driverless stagecoach full of wounded Confederates happens across their path, and through a twist of fate, Tuco and Blondie each have two halves of a secret which, if put together, will make them a quarter of a million dollars richer. But, without each other the two halves are worthless. Thus does Tuco do a 180 from brutal executioner to Blondie's would-be saviour. Now that he could be rich, he suddenly realizes how valuable their friendship is.
It's not before long that they wind up with Angel Eyes, as they're captured by Union soldiers. At the prisoner of war camp, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins. Van Cleef is now more restrained and less thuggish as he deals with Tuco to extract the secret; his henchman Wallace (Mario Brega, a Leone stalwart), pummels it out of Tuco.
In epic fashion, after a shootout in a deserted town and a bridge demolition that explodes across the screen, Tuco, Blondie and Angel Eyes make their way to the cemetery where the treasure is buried. In a fanfare of brass, percussion and chorus, the three face each other down in the cemetery plaza. It's a gorgeous and cathartic set piece. Credit must go not only to composer Ennio Morricone but also to musical director Bruno Nicolai, who conducts the score con fuoco.
on July 9, 2004
I am so ashamed for watching this movie for the first time just a few weeks ago. Just like another reviewer here mentioned- when I was a little kid, westerns never interested me, and growing up through my teenage years, it just seemed like a boring genre. After watching this film: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I made sure to slap myself for thinking such a thing. Upon just one viewing of it (I'll refer to it as GBU to save space), it's now in my top 3 films of all time. I've never seen a movie combine so many elements together so perfectly. There are long shots that would normally be boring in any other movie, but it's part of the style here. But I'll leave all that up to you, since I could go on for hours (and I have) about how much I love this movie. But the big twist at the end, that never fails to give me a big stupid grin.
This is how it goes- Blondie [the good] and Tuco [the ugly] run a little partnership. Tuco is an outlaw wanted in just about every town, and Blondie turns him in for the reward. When Tuco's about to be hung, Blondie shoots the rope, and Tuco escapes on horseback. They repeat this, earning a lot of money in the process. But, for seemingly no reason, Blondie breaks their partnership and goes off on his own. Tuco seeks revenge, and hunts his once-partner down. Along the way, they both talk to a dying soldier (one at a time) and learn about a grave full of gold. Tuco knows which cemetary it's located in, but Blondie knows the name of the grave it's in. In turn, this causes them to join forces again, even if reluctantly, to get the gold and split it. But then, Angel Eyes [the bad] finds out about it as well, and joins in on the chase. A lot of action happens, and it's impossible to go into detail with a limit on how much I can put in this review, but you won't be disappointed.
All I'll say about the music is that it's the first soundtrack to a movie that I've bought in years. Go read my review for the soundtrack instead. But it is fantastic, and so many movies have since tried to reproduce this sound.
The print looks perfect. I remember seeing commercials of GBU a few years ago and it looked muddy and grainy. All of that is gone now, and if I didn't know any better, I'd swear this version was filmed within the past 10 years. No scratches, no blurry textures, no weird looking colors, everything is almost flawless. Almost, in that there are some scenes with notable dust particles. But that doesn't take anything away from the film one bit. You only notice it if you're looking for errors really.
The audio is just as good. The voices are clear, and the sound effects are booming. There's nothing bad to say about it except for the scenes where Clint and Eli went back to dub their voices in. Clint's voice sounds about the same, but it's quieter. Eli however, well I want to be nice about this. It sounds terrible. Since I hadn't seen the movie until I bought this version, and I read that him and Clint were adding their voices, I figured he'd sound like your typical elderly man. Oh no, not by a long shot. If you haven't seen the movie yet and want to know what was added back in, just listen for Eli. I couldn't even tell it was him talking. I thought Winnie the Pooh had made his way into the movie somehow. Really now, imagine how Winnie the Pooh would sound after getting his tonsils removed, and that's how Eli sounds. I'm not trying to offend the guy, but they should've gotten someone else to do the voice. Luckily, it doesn't make the new scenes seem silly, and you won't be bothered much by it.
The special features are pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but not bad either. On the first disc, there's just a commentary track which has to be the most boring commentary I've ever heard. Instead of getting Clint or Eli to join in and do it, or even a good film critic/historian like Leonard Maltin or Roger Ebert, they got Richard Schickel. Honestly, it took me 2 days to watch the film with the commentary on. He's just so boring that it gets annoying. He gives us no new information- just rehash of what's on disc 2. A lot of words are dragged out, followed by tons of "uh" and "um"s which make it even more annoying. On the second disc though, are interviews with Clint, Eli and other people that worked on the set. They're very interesting. Eli mentions how he could've been killed during the scene with him getting out of the handcuffs with the train. He didn't notcie that some of the carts had little steps on the sides. Had he moved his head up just a few seconds earlier, he would've been taken out. Also included is a deleted scene (which is sort of misleading- it's an extended Tuco Torture scene) and a description with frames of a scene that they couldn't include because the film negatives were damaged beyond repair. It's a good scene though, it added some comedy to Tuco finding Blondie's cigar butts.
There are a few easter eggs as well on disc 2: when the menu shows up, hit the left arrow. Some new icons should show up if you keep hitting left. They're very short tidbits with Clint and Eli, telling stories from the set. One hilarious one is about Leone's original idea for where Tuco should keep his gun [on the noose around his neck]. But after Leone demonstrating, and resulting in trial and error, he quickly changed his mind.
You can't go wrong with this collector's edition. Let's just hope the sales for it do well enough that A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More get the same treatment.
on August 9, 2009
Saturday night. The kids were in bed and my wife went upstairs to read so I popped some corn and fired up my newly purchased Blu-ray of one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Started out ok. Nice detail in the close ups. But then something went wrong. The image was not very detailed in the medium and far shots. Eveything looked muddied out. No fine film grain either. I watched for about a hour and became more and more disappointed. It was painfully obvious on my 58 inch Sony TV that way too much digital noise reduction has been used on this transfer. What a shame. This is almost unwatchable on a large screen. I suspect that the film was processed down due to the long running time. Removing image detail equals less disc space. In order to cram the film and all the nice extras onto one Blu-ray MGM has sacrificed on image quality. This should have been a two disc set. Anyway, my copy will end up in a used bin at some point. I know the use of DNR is controversal. Some people don't care. But for me it's a show stopper.
on July 6, 2004
Forget about the over rated John Wayne, this is what the Western is all about...man's greedy nature unleased in a savage land! The italian actors are not always realistic,given the setting of the film, but the interplay between Eastwood and Wallach is astounding! Watching these two weather beaten character's leathery faces made me want to beg for a glass of cool water!
The film has many comedic touches and has a feel of Odysseus wandering in America, with gold is the object of the qwest. Fantastic setting and music, with relevant commentary about life that resonates even today. It will send chills down your spine.
on June 27, 2004
I've seen this movie dozens of times, only recently fullscreen in a movie theater, and it just gets better and better. The most surprising thing is how really, really good Eli Wallach is in his character. Certainly his character is written with the most depth, and Eli fills that volume completely. It's worth watching just for the richness of his character, let alone the great mythology of the rest of the movie. By far Leone's best Western, despite his own claims.
This is probably the best western movie ever made. The first 10 minutes are completely silent and no human character speaks during that first 10 minutes. Yet, it is one of the most engrossing scenes ever filmed in screen. The ending is absolutely entertaining and one of the best ending scenes captured in movie history. These two scenes--the opening and ending--show that Sergio Leone had mastered the spaghetti western formula by the end of this man-with-no-name trilogy. Clint Eastwood's performance shows that he had also perfected the character by this third movie in the trilogy. Eli Wallach steals every scene he is in with his antics and intensity.
Together with the first two movies, this trilogy is the best compliment handed to Akira Kurosawa for his samurai trilogy. While Leone is no Kurosawa and Clint is no Mifune, the trilogy is an homage to the best director and the best actor the world has seen to date. There are scenes in the middle of the movie that could have been edited out to shorten the length of the movie. But, that is a small hiccup. Kurosawa and Mifune must have approved of Leone and Eastwood's work.
on December 26, 2007
It was with great anticipation, and enthusiasm, that I put this restored/remastered version of my favourite western in my DVD player. Sincere accolades to the video restoration: it looks great, and the added scenes (deleted only for North American release despite much protesting by Sergio Leone)are most welcome.
The audio, however, I believe could have been much better. It is poor enough to be a regular distraction from my enjoyment of the movie. Most, though not all, of the music comes only from the centre channel. The panning of voices is very uneven both in smoothness and in timbre and tone. Instead of a smooth movement from one area to another (actual panning), the voices frequently emanate solely from one speaker and then from another. In doing so, the tone and volume of the voice is different in each channel - a major distracion.
Triage Studios obviously do excellent work with video. The remastering and remixing of the soundtrack should, perhaps, have been done elsewhere.
So, this restored version of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" only gets four stars. Had the audio been better, I would certainly award it the full five. Thank you, Sergio Leone, for a great movie.
on March 5, 2005
"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" is Sergio Leone's ultimate spaghetti western with a plot centered on a gold treasure buried in a cemetary. It stars Clint Eastwood as the "Man With No Name" a gunfighter in the amoral/lawless American west who engages in actions that are not always legal, but never wrong. Naturally, Eastwood butts heads with Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef); a murderer without a conscience, and Tuco (Eli Wallach); a conflicted bandit who remains beyond redemption. Like most of Leone's great masterworks, visual style and long stretches of seemingly silent moments tell far more than any amount of dialogue could. Thus, the film is a rare example in which style is transformed into substance.
THE TRANSFER: The previously issued DVD of this film was excessively troubled by age related artifacts and a non-anamorphic transfer. Although we have been given an enhanced 16X9 transfer this time - the age related artifacts are still present - if slightly tempered. Colors remain dated, though, unlike the previous incarnation, are not as faded. Many scenes remain softly focused with minimal grit and dirt. The Techniscope widescreen process (an absolutely inferior widescreen format)dillutes the film images. The "restored" scenes are not terribly well integrated into the film. At one point the entire image turns jaundice yellow, which is obtrusive to say the least! Fine details and definition are sometimes poorly rendered, that its best to say that this visual presentation is true to its shoddy original film stock. The audio has been remixed to 5.1 but is nevertheless strident and very unnatural sounding.
EXTRAS: Audio commentary that is very informative, and several fine documentaries about Leone, the film's composer -Ennio Morricone, the civil war and the Leone's style. Also, some deleted scenes.
BOTTOM LINE: This is by far the best that the film has looked on any home video format. But the improvements, while substantial, still do not bring the video quality of this presentation up to par with films of the same or similar vintage.
on July 16, 2004
It took an Italian to revolutionize the American Western. Everything was strange and new about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Perhaps the strangest was that it was not a contest between good and evil -- the white hats and the black hats -- as was the typical western, but instead had a plot driven by the greed of the three characters -- one of whom is charitably called good, the other two certifiably bad and ugly.
The music is extraordinary -- one of the best and most original soundtracks ever. The photography is weird -- no one had ever focused so close-up on people's eyes or the pores in their skin. The violence is brutal and surreal. The three-cornered gunfight is one of the great scenes from cinema. The scenery is off. It doesn't look like the American west -- and in fact it isn't. The movie was made in Spain. The characters are incredibly seedy. Most of them look like they took a bath about a decade ago and haven't changed their clothes since. And nobody gets the girl -- because there isn't any girl.
I love this movie! It makes my all-time top ten list. Clint Eastwood is cool beyond belief; Eli Wallach is a hoot; and Lee Van Cleef is really, really bad.
on July 16, 2004
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is Sergio Leone's epic masterpiece. While it is part of his Spaghetti Western Trilogy( all three films have different characters and plots), the film stands on its own and really shows you how good a movie can really be. This movie has it all. It has action, drama and even some comic relief in it. It is a timeless classic that is unforgettable. When I first saw it, I was a little kid and couldn't truly appreciate it as I can now at age 22.
Blondie (The Man with No Name) isn't your typical good guy. He mainly does things that suits his own agenda. However, when compared to the murderous Angel Eyes and the greedy Tuco, Blondie is saint. This tale involves bloodshed, shoot-outs, search for treasure, and double-crossing. And it all takes place while the Civil War is going on, which makes things a lot more "interesting" for the notorious three. The West has never been wilder or more unpredictable than it is now. With an incredible score, excellent acting, and superb story-telling, this is one memorable film that you will never forget.
As I said in the beginning, the first time I saw this was when I was a little kid. When I just recently purchased this new edition of the movie, it truly was like I was watching it for the first time. Coming from a guy who isn't a big fan of Westerns (I don't mind them, but I don't watch too many of them), I absolutely LOVED this film. In fact, I wanted to give it a standing ovation when it was all said and done due to how moved I was by it. This really is filmmaking at its finest. I wasn't terribly impressed with Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America," but he is absolutely flawless with this amazing and timeless Western. It is slower than the second film ("For a Few Dollars More"), but I think that makes this all the better. The build up of tension is much more present in this film, and you really get the sense that these characters are real people. Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach are brilliant in their roles, and a lot of props need to go to Lee Van Cleef as he is absolutely chilling in his role.
This new edition really does the film the justice it deserves. The film has been restored to the director's original vision as much as possible, giving you an extra 18 minutes. You will notice the added scenes as the voices have been re-dubbed (the first time you will notice this will throw you, as I think that specific part has the worst re-dubbing, but the other added scenes are done a lot better, even if you still notice it). The picture looks incredible and the sound is great. Extras included are commentary from Richard Schickel, a couple of documentaries and featurettes, poster gallery, deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer. Along with the nice packaging, you get an 8-page booklet that includes pictures from the film along with Roger Ebert's most recent review of the film. And, you get some mini-posters included inside the packaging as well. A superior edition of the movie, without question.
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is a pure triumph in filmmaking and should be seen by everybody at least once. Don't let the fact that this is a Western throw you. I think this can be enjoyed by everybody, and even by those who are not big fans of Westerns. A film filled with authentic emotion and action, this is one that shouldn't be missed by anyone. I LOVE this movie, and I cannot express that enough. -Michael Crane