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The Sergio Leone Anthology (A Fistful Of Dollars / For A Few Dollars More / The Good, The Bad And The Ugly / Duck, You Sucker)
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A Fistful of Dollars is best known in America for spawning the "Man With No Name" marketing campaign that made Eastwood a star, although Eastwood's character is clearly named "Joe" in this cleverly adapted low-budget remake of Akira Kurosawa's samurai classic Yojimbo, in which Eastwood's lone drifter vies for strategic advantage in a corrupt Mexican town divided by a bitter family feud. The operatic qualities that grew increasingly lavish in Leone's later films are evident here on a smaller scale, along with the modern, innovative score of Ennio Morricone, whose legendary collaborations with Leone (on all four of these films) were vital to the director's deliberate defiance of Hollywood's Western traditions. Fistful was an instant success in Italy and its immediate sequel, For a Few Dollars More, is often cited as the definitive Spaghetti Western, with a bigger budget ($600,000) and a charismatic costar with Eastwood (Lee Van Cleef) in an uneasy alliance between gunslingers that introduced a hint of humanity to Leone's increasingly de-mythologized vision of the West. While teaming Eastwood, Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach in a ruthless Civil War-era quest for buried Confederate gold, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly completed Leone's "Dollars" trilogy (filmed primarily on locations in Spain) on a truly epic scale, introducing the darker cynicism, grander ambition, and artistic maturity that defined Leone's later films.
Leone vowed to quit making Westerns after his 1968 masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West (a Paramount release not included in this set), but circumstances led him to seize the directorial reins of Duck You Sucker, a dynamic yet deeply disillusioned study of revolution that can now take its rightful place among Leone's greatest films. Like several of Leone's films, Duck You Sucker suffered a long history of cuts, re-cuts, and censorship, and the fully restored 157-minute version (unseen since the film's 1971 Italian premiere) more effectively explores the complex friendship between an Irish rebel explosives expert (James Coburn) and a brutish Mexican bandit (Rod Steiger) who becomes a reluctant revolutionary in 1913 Mexico. With explosive action sequences that remain among the most impressive ever filmed, Duck You Sucker now gives richer meaning to the film's original Italian title Giù la testa ("Keep Your Head Down"), asserting Leone's theme that family is far more important than the devastating violence of revolution. In the Leone Anthology (a variation on previous DVD sets released in England, Germany, and Japan), Duck You Sucker is the long-awaited crown jewel in a box-set of cinematic treasures. And while Leone purists will endlessly debate over the image quality (generally quite impressive) and 5.1-channel soundtrack mixes included here, there's no denying that The Sergio Leone Anthology is the definitive Leone tribute for a technically demanding 21st-century audience, and that's cause for enthusiastic celebration. --Jeff Shannon
On the DVDs
Listed is the eight-disc set (also including cast lists, scene selections, brief synopses, and behind-the-scenes details), the bonus features found in The Sergio Leone Anthology provide a comprehensive study of Leone's career, themes that dominated his work, and the historical contexts that inform Leone's classic "Spaghetti Westerns." With an even balance of lively authority and erudite scholarship, acclaimed Leone biographer and British film historian Sir Christopher Frayling provides informative commentary on A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and Duck You Sucker, while Time magazine critic Richard Schickel's equally astute commentary remains on MGM's previous two-disc release of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (Many of these features were prepared for the U.K. version of The Leone Anthology, including interviews conducted in 2003 and 2005.) In addition to a wide variety of vintage American radio promotional spots for these films, the meticulously researched and delightfully fascinating "location comparisons" show "then and now" scenes from all four films, with original film clips perfectly matched to location photos taken in 2004 by devoted Leone fans Donald S. Bruce and Marla J. Johnson.
Extras on A Fistful of Dollars begin with "A New Kind of Hero" (22:53), Frayling's behind-the-scenes analysis of the film's innovative anti-hero played by Clint Eastwood, whom Leone hired (when first choices Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Lee Marvin, and Charles Bronson proved too expensive) after seeing Eastwood in a 1961 episode of Rawhide. In the interview featurette "A Few Weeks in Spain" (8:33), Eastwood recalls the experience of making the film on location, and "Tre Voci" (or "Three Voices") is an 11-minute combination of retrospective interviews with producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati, and Mickey Knox, an American actor living in Rome who provided many of the post-synchronized voices for the English-language versions of Leone's films. In "Not Ready for Prime Time" (6:20), maverick American director Monte Hellman describes the circumstances that led to his direction of an explanatory Fistful of Dollars prologue for the film's American network TV premiere on August 29, 1977. Featuring Harry Dean Stanton, and filmed as an attempt to "legitimize" the Man With No Name's seemingly immoral behavior, the rarely-seen prologue (7:44) is introduced by obsessive Leone fan Howard Fridkin, who saved his Betamax recording from the one-time-only 1977 broadcast.
Frayling examines For a Few Dollars More in "A New Standard" (20:15), a "making of" featurette with emphasis on the film's male/male dynamic (described by Frayling as Leone's "invention of the brother he never had"). In "Back for More" (7:08), Eastwood recalls how he'd begun to watch Leone to inform his own directorial ambitions. "Tre Voci" (11:05) continues the retrospective interviews with Grimaldi, Donati, and Knox, and "The Original American Release Version" (5:19) examines three edits (including removal of the name "Manco" so Eastwood's character could remain "nameless" in the film's American marketing) that were made for the film's U.S. release.
Extras on The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are highlighted by "Leone's West" (19:53) and "The Leone Style" (23:47), a pair of excellent documentaries exploring the film itself and the evolution of Leone's visual style as his budgets and production values grew to epic proportions. Featuring interviews with Clint Eastwood, critic and Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel, and others, these are must-see features packed with entertaining observations and anecdotes. Lending historical context to Leone's film, "The Man Who Lost the Civil War" is a 14-minute excerpt from a documentary about ill-fated Confederate general Henry Hopkins Sibley's botched campaign to expand Confederate dominance in the West. The "Reconstruction" featurette (11:07) is a detailed study of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly's painstaking restoration to Leone's intended 179-minute extended cut, featuring an interview John Kirk, the MGM director of technical operations who supervised the film's meticulous reconstruction. The essential contribution of composer Ennio Morricone is celebrated in the "Il Maestro" featurette (7:47) and film music historian Jon Burlingame provides an excellent audio-only survey (12:29) of Morricone's most popular soundtrack. Deleted scenes include the extended "Tuco torture" sequence (in which the brutal beating of Eli Wallach's character is masterfully cross-cut with the melancholy performance of a prison-camp orchestra); the brilliant "Socorro sequence" that was drastically edited in previous cuts; and a French trailer revealing shots and alternate angles not seen in the film's various theatrical releases. The poster gallery includes eight posters from the film's international marketing campaigns.
For Duck You Sucker, Frayling's film-by-film analysis continues in "The Myth of Revolution" (22:10), a behind-the-scenes study of Leone's deepening artistic maturity, as manifested in the film's cynical view of political revolution. "Donati Remembers" (7:20) is a continuation of the retrospective interview with screenwriter Sergio Donati (who by the early '70s was urging Leone to return to smaller-scale filmmaking), and "Once Upon a Time in Italy" (6:00) explores the ambitious effort that went into creating the definitive traveling exhibit of material (props, posters, costumes, etc.) from Leone's archives and beyond, first shown at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage, in Los Angeles, California, in July 2005. In "Sorting Out the Versions" (11:37), film historian Glenn Erickson narrates a visual survey of the various cuts and changes made to Duck You Sucker during its tortured history of global distribution, and in "Restoration Italian Style" (6:07), MGM director of technical operations John Kirk outlines the painstaking effort to restore Duck You Sucker to its original Italian premiere length of 157 minutes, resulting in the first-ever English language version based on the film's Italian-language restoration of 1996. The disc concludes with the enjoyable "Location Comparisons" (9:32), six rare radio spots from the film's original U.S. release in 1972, and (as with all other films in this set) the original theatrical trailer. --Jeff Shannon
Top Customer Reviews
"Fistful of Dollars" looks very good in its new DVD transfer lovingly restored although there is an odd strobe like effect in one sequence. We get a terrific commentary track from Leone scholar Sir Christopher Frayling discussing the making of the film, the delayed release in the United States (part of which was related to Akira Kurosawa's lawsuit. It was legit though since "Fistful" is an unauthorized remake of Kurosawa's classic "Yojimbo" although Leone's version of the same story is equally compelling), how Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson (who called it one of the worst scripts he had ever read...interesting considering he later appeared in "Once Upon a Time in the West")both turned down the lead role.
Eastwood reveals in a featurette that he wrote much of his own dialogue for the film, made his own script notes all of which contributed to truly making the role his own.
"For a Few Dollars More" looks exceptional.Read more ›
All films are restored to their full running times (or as close as possible) and appear in glorious 2:35.1 anamorphic widescreen. They all come in English Dolby 5.1, but see comments below.
"A Fistful of Dollars," the first in Italian director Leone's "Man with no name" trilogy, looks smashing -- far better than you'd expect for a low-budget pic from 1964. Images and audio are dead-on. If you haven't seen the film for a while, you're in for some serious fun. The film holds up beautifully and young Clint Eastwood's performance is a hoot. Quentin Tarantino calls it "the best-directed movie of all time."
The marginally less-successful sequel "For a Few Dollars More," with Lee Van Cleef, exhibits a fair amount of speckling on the otherwise decent color images. The dubbed English stereo audio option proved a bad choice -- voices wandered around the front soundstage for no apparent reason. Leone purists will be listening to the straight-shot mono on these titles, anyway. You might as well join them. [...].
In "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel does the heavy lifting in a commentary that, amazingly, runs on fumes only near the end of three hours. He maintains that Leone's artistry was lost on critics of the 1960s because of the debate over the film's violence (the New York Times pan was titled "The Burn, the Gouge and the Mangle").Read more ›
All three of the "Man With No Name" trilogy are included. This is a bit of a misnomer; although all three movies star Clint Eastwood (in roles that would make him a major movie star), he does not play the same character. In the first film, A Fistful of Dollars, Eastwood plays a mercenary gunfighter who plays both sides in a gang war in a small Mexican town. A re-make of Yojimbo, this movie was made on a small budget, but already, in the first film in which Leone could truly express himself, he has created a minor masterpiece. As with all the movies in this set, this film comes with tons of extras including commentaries and behind-the-scenes material; especially amusing is an incompetent attempt by a TV studio to add a prologue to give the movie a bit of moral standing.
The follow-up, For A Few Dollars More, ups the ante by including Lee Van Cleef as a rival bounty hunter whose motives may be more complicated than the mere pursuit of money. And both Eastwood and Van Cleef would be back for the third "Trilogy" movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bought these for my son for Christmas and ended up watching some of them with him! He loves them!Published 3 months ago by Angie Page
Every movie in there is good, except the one you probably didn't hear of before.
There is a reason, you haven't seen "Duck you sucker" AKA "a fist full of... Read more
Awesome!! I've watched all the movies, the picture clarity was better than I expected. Eli Wallach is terrific in The Good The Bad and The Ugly!
Delivery was very fast!
Such a great box set, wouldn't part with it even for the bluray versions.Published 15 months ago by Gerardo Fernandez
The Sergio Leone Anthology contains four of Leone's most famous entries,A Fistful of Dollars(released Sept/64),For a Few Dollars More(released Nov/65),The Good,The Bad and the... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Robert Badgley
The Sergio Leone Anthology of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and DUCK, YOU SUCKER is something of an essential release. Read morePublished 17 months ago by gobirds2
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big Sergio Leone fan and I love all his movies and so-called "spaghetti Westerns". But - where are all his other movies(i.e. Read morePublished 17 months ago by C.G. the Music Machine
Arrived in excellent condition. Not one scratch on any of the disc's.Published 21 months ago by Jake Spiegelhalter
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