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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
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By far the most ambitious, unflinchingly graphic and stylistically influential western ever mounted, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an engrossing actioner shot through with a volatile mix of myth and realism. Clint Eastwood returns as the "Man With No Name," this time teaming with two gunslingers (Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef) to pursue a cache of $200,000and letting no one, not even warring factions in a civil war, stand in their way. From sun-drenched panoramas to bold,hard close-ups, exceptional camera work captures the beauty and cruelty of the barren landscape andthe hardened characters who stride unwaveringly through it. Forging a vibrant and yet detached style of action that had not been seen before, and has never been matched since, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly shatters the western mold in true Clint Eastwood style.
Clint Eastwood (the Man with No Name) is good, Lee Van Cleef (Angel Eyes Sentenza) is bad, and Eli Wallach (Tuco Benedito Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez) is ugly in the final chapter of Sergio Leone's trilogy of spaghetti westerns (the first two were A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More). In this sweeping film, the characters form treacherous alliances in a ruthless quest for Confederate gold. Leone is sometimes underrated as a director, but the excellent resolution on this digital video disc should enhance appreciation of his considerable photographic talent and gorgeous widescreen compositions. Ennio Morricone's jokey score is justifiably famous.
- 14 minutes of never before seen Italian footage
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Enjoy the most stylish climax scene ever shot!
As for this release, Amazon likes to dump all of the reviews for a film into one cache of reviews, so the DVD I'm talking about is the Extended Cut 2-Disc Collector's Edition from 2004 released by MGM. The print is flawless and looks like it was filmed yesterday. The audio is good, too; however, purists like me will be annoyed that the sound effects from the 1966 release (gun shots, etc.) have been rerecorded, so instead of classic gunshot sound effects circa 1966, we get modern 2004 sound effects. Not a plus. Also, the added scenes that weren't originally dubbed in English are included, newly dubbed by Eastwood, Wallach and a Lee Van Cleef-impersonator (Cleef was long dead by 2004), and these men sound nothing like they once did, so it sort of takes the viewer out of the movie. As for bonuses, the 2nd disc has a few featurettes, but nothing special. Also included in the set are a collection of mini-posters that were released around the world for the movie back in 1966; they are a neat inclusion. All in all, this set is impressive, but the bonuses are on the short side, the audio rerecording is a drag, but the picture is good and the box everything comes in is nice. Beware, however, the discs are set into the covers of the box, so it doesn't take much for the discs to fall out and get scratched. Mine did. Either way, a good set, but not fantastic.
Spaghetti Westerns can sometimes seem comic in nature and conception. The recipe is simple. Take an Italian director and crew, add in Spain to substitute for the American Old West. Throw in a mostly Italian and Spanish cast. Then, to spice it all up hire an up and coming American actor or a well-known actor on the slide downward to be your low-cost main stars and you have a spaghetti western. The Italian directors and crew took their westerns very seriously and tried to recreate classic American westerns but with their special Italian touch. Sergio Leone was the king of the Spaghetti Westerns, which were wildly popular in Europe at the time, and for the most part only Leone's westerns made it to the American screen.
One could fill pages writing about THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY--the quirks, the masterwork of artistic talent, the cast, the crew, the location, the story and so on. This film stands above the others for so many reason. Ennio Morricone's jarring and haunting score is unlike anything before since. Hear the theme to THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY and it will stay with you a lifetime. It never leaves you.
Leone set out to create his vision of a western and tried to recreate an authentic setting in the Spanish desert. Leone is very visual in his films. He lingers on long shots and extreme, very extreme close-ups of his actors. The extreme close-ups of Eastwood's, Van Cleef's and Wallach's eyes create a sense of forboding unlike no others. In a scene where the three are about to have a shootout--the camera focuses on their eyes and the their nervous fingers on their guns and back to the eyes and then a return to the hands. The camera lingers and makes a scene even longer.
Speaking of lingering, the Italian premiere version went on for 177 minutes. United Artists had Leone trim 25 minutes for the American version. The DVD version I watched had scenes re-inserted but nowhere does it say the length of the film and that leads to a big Leone problem. THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY drags on and on. The three stars are always trying to outwit and out fight each other. Each is on the search for money buried in a cemetery. Their paths cross and separate and cross again and then there are the union and confederate soldiers doing battle. Leone throws everything into one story and much of it is unnecessary in a tale of three men and their greedy quest.
Van Cleef as "Angel Eyes" is "The Bad" in the story. He's a man of pure evil. Eli Wallach throws a more comic tinge to his portayal of Mexican bandito Tuco "The Ugly." Here is a Mexican bandito as in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. He has his role down perfectly. Finally, Clint Easwtood is simply known as "Blondie." He THE GOOD in the story but he really is not that much better than the other two--less cutthroat but still devious and prone to violence yet he is also portrayed with occasional heart as he comforts a dying confederate soldier.
Leone's film is sprawling. If Blondie rolls down a hill, we see him roll down the entire hill. If a dog is walking across a street, we see the entire walk in long shot. It appears Leone did not like to edit anything out and could have told his story in half the time.
It should also be noted that Leone is fascinated by faces. Eastwood is the only "pretty" star in the cast, although Van Cleef has some allure. The rest of the cast is full less conventionally attractive faces and some rather odd and quirky faces. It is all about the faces and especially the eyes for Leone.
In this cast of faces, there are actors speaking English, Italian, Spanish and no doubt other languages. THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY is an odd film to watch closely since it's clear that most of the voices are dubbed. Yes, Wallach and Eastwood are speaking in their own voices but even Van Cleef seemed to be dubbed (and from the bonus features, they do say his voice was dubbed in scenes that were re-inserted). That brings us to the pure gem of the movie. The American actors spoke their lines in English to actors who might be speaking their dialogue in Italian. Depending on the market, certain voices were dubbed. The American voices were dubbed for the Italian market. The American voices stayed for the English language market. It really is amazing to imagine this Tower of Babel production.
THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY is a masterpiece. There will never be another movie like it nor another director like Sergio Leone or a magical score from the likes of Ennio Morricone. It is a one in a million film. It is a literal epic in length and in production. It is not to be missed.
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