"The Man With No Name Trilogy" Blu-ray Review
June 22, 2010 by Zach Demeter
Anyone has perused the top 200 list on IMDb has noticed the title “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo.” sitting comfortably at #4 for some time now. Unless you speak the language, however, the title will remain a mystery to you until you click on it and discover that it is none other than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the most famous of the spaghetti westerns and perhaps Clint Eastwood’s most famous role (outside of Dirty Harry, at least) ever to grace the silver screen. With several equally as acclaimed sequels releasing after this one, it certainly isn’t the only classic western out there—but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard the title or the films awe inspiring music by Ennio Morricone. Despite having released a collection of all Fox owned Leone entries in the 2007 The Sergio Leone Collection on DVD, Fox has opted to release only the Eastwood driven films in a The Man With No Name Trilogy, which includes the other two Leone/Eastwood films A Fistful Of Dollars and A Few Dollars More, on Blu-ray.
Sergio Leone's trilogy of operatic spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood made the former television star into an international sensation as the scraggly, silent Man with No Name, a wandering rogue with a scheming mind and a sense of humor drier than the dusty, wind-scoured desert. The first in the collection, A Fistful of Dollars, a unique take on Kurosawa's cynical samurai hit Yojimbo, reveals the transformation of the Western hero into a crafty mercenary. The follow-up, For a Few Dollars More, teams Eastwood up in an uneasy alliance with Lee Van Cleef (High Noon) in a tale of revenge. But the masterpiece of the set is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, an epic scramble for buried gold set against the violence of the Civil War. In this film good is a relative term as three criminals make a series of tenuous partnerships broken in double-crosses and betrayals in Leone's epic vision of the American southwest as endless deserts and clapboard towns infested with gunmen.
It’s only been a year since I first saw The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, so watching it again after seeing the first two films in the trilogy was not only a refresher course but also a kind of awakening into the progression of Eastwood’s character throughout the films. Yes, yes…I’m one of those who haven’t seen this 1966 classic, but really…can you blame me? I wasn’t born until over twenty years after this movie first came out in theaters, so it wasn’t exactly something that was “big” when I was growing up and…to be completely honest, I’ve only just recently gotten into the western genre. Needless to say I was eager to check out this film if only for the accolades and praise it’s gotten over the years…and I’m quite happy to say that I was not disappointed in the least. While I’ve certainly had more fun watching other westerns, there’s an undeniable charm and uniqueness about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that is still felt today.
I think what made this film such a treat to watch even after watching a myriad of other “modern” westerns was the fact that this film had some genuine humor contained within it to back up its three hour run time of action and adventure. While a lot of the film is a lot of talking and walking, there’s something almost peaceful about waiting for the film to progress to the end. Whether it’s the constant in-and-out of the characters that disappear and reappear from the screen, the action on screen is always fresh and fast, even as we sit through long camera pans and repetitious shots that would make John Woo comment on their long windedness.
But it’s hard to even fault a classic like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for slightly irksome flaws like the above. I take issue with drama that’s made up because the camera or characters move slowly around one another, but somehow it didn’t bother me nearly as much here; it created just the right tension and I think I’m just used to it creating the wrong kind of tension in various mediums over the years that since I’d never seen it done right, I’d always just found it to be a stupid ploy to extend the scene. In fact, writing that off as a “flaw,” there’s really only one other one I can think of: the poor dubbing. Half of the time when the words being uttered didn’t match the mouth movements, I couldn’t tell if they were speaking a different language or if it was just dubbed over without much finesse. Of course I later found out that these sequences were ones added in from the Italian version, which makes sense as to why it was off by more than a little bit. So it’s hard to fault the re-dubbed footage for looking bad…the lines were re-recorded decades after the fact!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is really just the definition of classic and to call it anything other than that would be a travesty. It’s easy to see why the film has garnered such praise over the years: on top of being filled with great action and dialogue, there are moments between Blondie and Tuco that have you smirking or laughing and the violence level, while not “extreme” R, is violent enough that it still feels like it wasn’t hindered in the least.
So why did I review the last of the trilogy first? Well mainly because I’d already written the review last year when it hit Blu-ray for the first time. Also simply because it was my first exposure to the character and Leone’s style, it still acts as my initial reaction to everything. Truth be told while I was eager to watch the first two films in the trilogy, I honestly didn’t find them all that different from one another. The character Eastwood play is fundamentally the same and since his name changes from film to film we never really get any true sense of who he is exactly…which is fine, as that’s the way it should be. Eastwood is indelible in all of the films and it’s easy to see how he shot to fame shortly after their debut, but it’s the third film of the trilogy that really shines on this set. I definitely appreciated the character more after viewing the “whole story”, as it were, but in the end my feelings didn’t change at all. The idea that Leone made superb films and that Eastwood is a freakin’ genius in everything he’s involved in still remains true.
Overall The Man With No Name Trilogy comes Highly Recommended. Big surprise, right?
The set arrives in an embossed slipcase that houses a standard Elite Blu-ray case width case (yup, three films in one-width…gotta love it) with a nice little bit of modified cover art adorning the front (modified since it was originally used as the 2007 “Sergio Leone” collection). Inside is the usual and, sadly enough, the disc for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is the same as the previous release.
I say sadly because with the AVC (@18mbps) encoded 2.35:1 transfer, although in full 1080p, the film over-utilizes DNR and as a result washes away copious amounts of image detail. At first I thought it was just the opening sequence, as there would be shots that switched between the armed men in the beginning, where one would look incredibly waxy and the other you could count the stubble on his face…but as the film progressed, it’s obvious that they wiped away the grain along with the detail for this film. It’s a genuinely muddy looking mess most of the time and while it’s certainly better than the previous DVD release, it just doesn’t look good at all. I’m surprised by this since it seems as if Fox had stopped using DNR on their releases after the early efforts…but, alas. That isn’t the case here. Now when it comes to the other two films we get a much, much nicer and cleaner looking presentation. While still not gems in of themselves, they have a fantastic image quality about them that just demands your attention. Although Ugly is well…ugly, A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars More
The included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a bit lacking, with the aged dialogue and sound effects often sounding like a stretched mono track, never leaving the front channels (this goes for all three films). Occasionally the gun fire in the films would force a subwoofer pound or a bit of surround action, but rarely were any of the sound effects felt in this film. While disappointing, it’s not all that surprising—the films in this collection are nearly fifty years old and the fact it even sounds this good is remarkable. But if you were looking to watch this collection in brilliant HD glory, you’ll find the transfers of both the video and audio more than a little disappointing.
Extras are repeated from the previous DVD releases and include:
A Fistful Of Dollars
•The Christopher Frayling Archives: A Fistful of Dollars
•Commentary by Film Historian Christopher Frayling
•A New Kind of Hero
•A Few Weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood on the Experience of Making the Film
•Tre Voci: A Fistful of Dollars
•Not Ready for Primetime: Renowned Filmmaker Monte Hellman discusses the Television Broadcast of A Fistful of Dollars
•The Network Prologue with Actor Harry Dean Stanton
•Location Comparisons: Then to Now
•10 Radio Spots
•Double Bill Trailer
A Few Dollars More
•The Christopher Frayling Archives: For A Few Dollars More
•Commentary by Film Historian Christopher Frayling
•A New Standard: Frayling on For A Few Dollars More
•Back for More: Clint Eastwood Remembers For A Few Dollars More
•Tre Voci: For A Few Dollars More
•For A Few Dollars More: The Original American Release Version
•12 Radio Spots
•Theatrical Trailer 1
•Theatrical Trailer 2
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
•Commentary by Film Historian Richard Schickel
•Commentary by Film Historian Christopher Frayling
•The Leone Style
•The Man Who Lost the Civil War
•Reconstructing The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
•IL Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - Part One
•IL Maestro: Part Two
oExtended Tuco Torture Scene
oThe Socorro Sequence: A Reconstruction
•Easter Egg #1 Uno, Due, Tre
•Easter Egg #2 Italian Lunch
•Easter Egg #3 New York Actor
•Easter Egg #4 Gun in Holster
Overall, as evidenced by the plethora of extras listed above, this is a fantastic set for the extras, so it’s a shame the video and audio weren’t more of a pleasing affair. Recommended for those who don’t own the previous versions, but if you own the previous DVD releases already you have to ask yourself if a muddied transfer and a few new extras are worth the upgrade…although if you’re a true fan of the film, you’ll want this regardless.
The Man With No Name Trilogy is now available on Blu-ray.