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"The Man with No Name Trilogy" {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: MGM Home Video Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
6/10/10
Special Features:

Featurettes, commentary tracks, documentaries, poster gallery, trailers, restoration featurette, “Three Friends” interview about Sergio Leone, Interview with Clint Eastwood, Comparison featurette

Review:

Establishing his iconic character in three films Clint Eastwood moved form TV star to movie star with Sergio Leone's trilogy of films the first of which was a remake of a Kurosawa film. Made on a small budget and shot in Spain, Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" was written with Steve McQueen in mind and offered the role to Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson (both of whom would appear in “Once Upon A Time in the West”) and another of other Hollywood actors/leading men before offering it to “Raw Hide” TV star Clint Eastwood (and the reason that Eastwood wears the iconic poncho? Leone wanted to beef up Eastwood's thin frame). Eastwood bought his own awful tasting cigars (cutting them to make them last longer for shoots—it wasn’t pleasant as Eastwood didn’t smoke) and brought much of the wardrobe himself for the shoot. A remake of Yojimbo (1961), which itself was based on the as yet unadapted 1929 novel "Red Harvest" by Dashiell Hammett, "A Fistful of Dollars" was delayed initially because United Artists had to make a settlement with Kurosawa and the "Yojikbo" writers because they were threatening to sue. It was for good reason the film is a scene for scene remake (with Leone even cripping some camera set ups from Kurosawa's film). ***

Sergio Leone's classic trilogy of films with Clint Eastwood arrives on Blu-ray (and also in a separate DVD release with the same title) under "The Man with No Name" title with varying results. All three films "A Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" (the last film previously released on Blu-ray before this set)have their individual issues but, on the whole, all three films have more positives than negatives when it comes to their debut on HD. *** I'm going to skip the plot summaries since others have already done a good job with that. ---

Image & Sound:

"A Fistful of Dollars" clearly isn't the same transfer as the European edition; skin tones tend to be a bit red and the framing is a bit different than the European restored edition. Still, it looks pretty good with good detail. Overall the transfer looks quite good and digital noise reduction doesn't mar this one quite as badly as it does "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" (which still looks good even with that issue). Audio sounds quite nice as well. ***

"For a Few Dollars More" looks exceptionally good with nice detail, colors that mirror the overseas edition of the film and, again, the extras from the DVD edition. This is probably the best looking of the bunch here. ***

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" looks extremely good even with occasional heavy handed DNR applied to the film (more to do with eliminating grain since all three films were shot on film stock that tended to be extremely grainy to begin with). The detail is still surprisingly strong this doesn't look as bad as, say, the latest edition of "Predator" where everyone has waxy skin completion but it isn't quite as strong looking as "For A Few Dollars More" either. ***

Part of this could be due to the fact that "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" underwent a restoration some years back and this could an older HD print for the film whereas the other two films received more recent transfers. The overuse of digital noise reduction (which tends to reduce detail, cause skin textures to look smooth like wax but smoothes out grain often eliminating it if overused)was pretty common as recent as three to five years ago. That's no excuse just the facts. I doubt given MGM's current financial crisis and Fox's recent trend towards overusing DNR ("Predator" again as an example for a recent catalog title or "Patton")that we were going to get a new HD transfer. It's not something that should prevent you from buying this set although you will notice it on TV sets 50 inches and above. ***

The video bit rate for all three movies is quite good with an average of 30Mbps ("Fistful" has the highest at 36 while "Good" which is the longest film of the three has the lowest at 26Mbps) which translates as a good, consistent picture. ***

Audio is strong for all three films. As previoulsy mentioned the extras from all three previously released DVDs are included as part of the set usually in standard definition though and on the same disc as the movie. We get multiple langauge tracks including English, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian and Turkish. Subtitles are available in English only. ---

Special Features:

We get all the extras from the previous edition on DVD that was released in "The Man with No Name Trilogy" and "The Sergio Leone Collection" (the only difference between those two DVD releases was that "Duck You Sucker" was included with James Coburn was part of that package). ***

Sir Christopher Frayling a Leone biographer and film scholar provides the commentary track for “A Fistful of Dollars”. We also get the other extras from the original set including “A New Kind of Hero” a featurette about Eastwood’s character “Joe” (as he’s called in the first film);”Not Ready for Prime Time” where director Monte Hellman discusses the TV premiere of the movie (which featured special footage shot for the movie to “explain” why Eastwood’s character acted the way he did); “Three Friends Remember” featuring three of Leone’s collaborators discussing the late director; “Location Comparisons” that give us contemporary shots of the location shooting and footage for the films as well as a double bill trailer and the radio spots for the film. ***

“For A Few Dollars More” features Frayling again providing a shot-by-shot description of the shoot on the commentary track and Frayling also shows up for a featurette on the making of the movie. Again we get comparison footage then and now as well as Eastwood in “Back for More” discussing the making of the sequel. “Three Friends” is the second part of the interviews with friends of Leone remembering the director. Things are wrapped up with a comparison between the American cut of the film and International, radio spots and trailer. ***

Noted critic and Eastwood scholar Richard Schickel provides the commentary track for “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. Once again we get location comparisons, a discussion on the 18 minutes of restored footage and “Leone’s West” a featurette on the director’s genre and decade defining approach to the western. ***

“The Man Who Lost the Civil War” is a documentary on the civil war. We also get a featurette on restoring the 18 minutes of footage including redubbing the sequence by Eastwood and Eli Wallach as well as a featurette on composer Ennio Morricone where we discover that at first Leone didn’t care for the score that Morricone had written but as it was played realized it was a perfect counterpoint to the visuals of the film. Things are wrapped up with a poster gallery with international poster designs for the film’s debut. ***

All three films are packaged in a slim line 3 Blu-ray case within a cardboard box and film credits printed on the inside of the outer sleeve. I would have liked to see Fox (which is handling MGM releases in the U.S.) include replicas of the lobby cards like they did with the previous single DVD sets and/or a booklet similar to the one that came with "The Sergio Leone Collection". ***

Final Words:

So is the transfer for "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and the framing issue for "Fistful" a deal breaker? No. You'll enjoy these films and they really have never looked this good on home video before. Be aware however that there is a region free European edition that doesn't have the framing issue for "Fistful" and the skin tones are a bit more muted for that restored edition. It all comes down to if you have a fistful of dollars to spend. ***

Most fans won't notice these issues and for those that do there is an alternative should you want to pick up the European edition of the film. It could be debated as to which framing is correct for the film we get a bit less on the sides with the MGM/Fox release and a bit more on top for “Fistful”. ***

A note on the cover--for some reason Fox has chosen to reuse the cover from "The Sergio Leone Collection for the Blu-ray (and DVD) of "The Man with No Name Trilogy". Recommended.

 

 
 
 
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