H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [Blu-ray]

 

(Sergio Leone, 1966)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Studio:

Theatrical: MGM

Video: MGM Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:58:41.669

Disc Size: 48,394,575,533 bytes

Feature Size: 41,931,319,296 bytes

Average Bitrate: 31.29 Mbps

Chapters: 32

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 12th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2887 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2887 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DUBs: DTS Audio German 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Thai 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English (text for both commentaries), Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, French text, German, German text, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Portuguese text, Spanish, Spanish text, Thai, Thai text, and None

NOTE: 'Text' is for the commentaries.

 

Extras:

Audio Commentary by Richard Schickel
• Audio Commentary by Christopher Frayling
• Leone's West (19:53)
• The Leone's Style (27:43)
• The Man who Lost the Civil War (14:22)
• Reconstructing 'The good, the bad, the ugly' (11:08)
• Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and 'The good, the bad, the ugly' parts 1 + 2
• Deleted scenes
• Extended Toco torture scene (7:15)
• The Socorro sequence (3:02 reconstructed)
• Unrestored US trailer IN HD! (3:20)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

 

The Film:

Arguable one of the best Westerns ever made, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is Leone’s first masterpiece. Having invented the spaghetti-western a few years prior by virtually copying Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” frame by frame as “A Fistful of Dollars” to such a degree that Toho sued him, Leone used the spaghetti-western as a form to attack the, in Leone’s opinion, dominating morality of American Puritanism.

 

In order to do so, Leone re-invited the genre. By re-examination the last days of the “West”, an American torn apart by civil war, about to be civilized by the railroad, his protagonist was “the man without a name”, a mythical figure raised by the American spirit, but without the crippling morality: It was in “A Fistful of Dollars” that we saw a gun fired and the bullet hitting its target in the same frame, a presentation originally forbidden by MPAA. The fact that Eastwood's character ("The Man without a Name") is a criminal, who robs and lies, and yet is the hero, with whom we sympathize, marked a significant change in the paradigm in the Western. The characters in Leone’s Westerns are selfish and completely without any moral: Sentenza shoots Stevens and his son in cold blood, then takes his money and goes and kills Baker, and “Joe” (Eastwood) backstabs Tuco for no reason.

 

Re-inventing the genre, Leone re-invented the imagery. “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is full of almost surreal imagery: the ghost towns, the lonely house in the middle of nowhere, the huge cemeteries, the trenches: all noting upon the films central motif: Death. Where lonely houses or settlements aren’t unusual in Westerns, they are normally surrounded by lifestock or fields: In the Westerns of Leone, they are surrounded by dry land. Notice the opening sequence: broken down wagons, broken barrels, torn posters – all suggesting decay and an end. We are likewise constantly introduced to imagery of noses, guns, cemeteries and dead people. It if wasn't for the films boyish humour, this would very well be the most depressing and bleakest Western by Leone.

 

As an extension of re-inventing the genre, Leone also re-invented frame compositions: not only transitions between extreme close-ups and extreme long shots, but he introduced the now iconographic Leone close up (EECU – Eyes Only), on which Eastwood once joked, “in those days I was such a bad actor, they only shot by eyes.” The cinematography of Colli is breathtaking in its use of scope and how it composes in space. Another Leone element is snailcrawling pace: All his Westerns are incredible slow. Where the tendency in American Westerns moved towards a faster pace and more graphical killings (especially by Sam Peckinpah), Leone did the exact opposite. His Westerns spends eons of time, before a sudden shooting.

 

As revisionism, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” stands directly opposite Leone’s other seminal Western, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, with its cynical view on both the genre and the west, full of humour and pathos. Where “Once Upon a Time in the West” is serious and full of drama, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” has the same tone as films like “Gunga-Din”, full of boyish action and often corny humour: Actually, there are many similarities between “Gunga-Din” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. Nevertheless Leone is able to set a serious tone by his motif of decay – and present the most impressive composed show-down in any Western.

Henrik Sylow

 


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

We compared the French Blu-ray edition HERE to all DVDs, which like this US one - IS Region FREE (as verified by my Momitsu player) but while it is minutely different (feature and disc size are very marginally higher - as is the bitrate) I honestly can't find any visible or audible difference. The main menus are obviously in English. This is still the 'international' version with plenty of subtitle and some DUB options. Finally, the disc takes up over 48 Gig of the available, dual-layered, 50. Where I believe the technical differences may lie is that the French Blu-ray  has an optional French and Japanese DTS track - where this US has a German one (both offer multiple other, non-HD, DUBs). Our comments about the visuals still hold true:

"How does it look? Well the 'Extended' DVD was quite strong, but, of course, this high-definition transfer exceeds it in most visual categories. Detail is only marginally better but where I noticed the greatest improvement is the absence of prominent artifacts that exist in the SD-DVDs. The color scheme seems to support both the 'Extended' and the PAL 'SD' but is somewhat warmer without green/yellow infiltration. Black levels are deeper with contrast better defined and there is a marginally more information in the frame. The captures may not indicate the advancement that many fans were hoping, but in motion this looks quite good. I should state that any improvement that exists here will be solely dependant on the system that you view it - the larger - the more advanced the superiority over the DVD. In the end it's a 43 year-old film and even with the strong cleaning and restoration - the image is at the mercy of original production. Mostly this looks as expected - no gloss, a dusty, grittier, and sometimes an even duller, look but the frequent absence of grain makes one think momentarily of DNR (Digital Noise Reduction). While I suspect it in some scenes it is absent throughout most and if it was applied - wasn't blanketed. It represents a 'flatter' look than A Fistful of Dollars on Blu-ray - a film made only 2 years earlier."

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Comparison Sample

 

1) MGM (Special Edition) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) MGM Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) MGM Home Entertainment (Extended Version Collector's Set) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Fox/MGM - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2887 kbps seems to show more depth than its DVD counterpart but the mix won't blow the windows out. Ennio Morricone's iconic score is as haunting as ever an the available Italian track is 2.0 channel - not mono as on the DVD.

 

 

 

Extras :

Stacked with one new commentary, but no Blu-ray bells and whistles - they repeat the MGM extended with Schickel's commentary as well as the new one by Christopher Frayling. Included from the previous package are deleted scenes and the interesting documentaries. The trailers are unrestored and in HD!

 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
People who have developed less realistic 'expectations' after watching modern film transfers to Blu-ray will, no doubt have some disappointment that this is not as 3-D and glossy as they may have seen in the past BUT those familiar with older film rendered to high-definition will see some of the value here. My complaint would be that grain structure is not as prominent as I would have liked but The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has certainly never looked this good for home theater. Let's also give the audio track it's fair due - it sounds wonderful! Extras? - more than ever before and accessible on the one lone disc. I question whether things could be significantly better? It amounts to an essential purchase.  

 

Gary Tooze

May 2nd, 2009

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze

 

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