Color, 1966, 178 mins. 55 secs. / 162 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Sergio Leone
Starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
Kino Lorber (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MGM (Blu-ray & DVD) (US/UK RA/RB/R1/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Easily The Good, the Bad and the Uglythe most famous spaghetti western of all time, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly The Good, the Bad and the Uglywrapped up Sergio Leone's epic "Dollars" trilogy in high style with Clint Eastwood returning for a final time as the Man with No Name. The jury may be out on whether this is Leone's best film (Once Upon a Time in the West is a hot contender), but there's no doubt that pop culture would be very different without this film and its iconic, whistle-laden score by Ennio Morricone.

A nameless stranger (Eastwood) - the "Good" - enters a twisted arrangement with the cranky Tucco (Wallach), the "Ugly," to earn money by turning Tucco in for crimes, collecting the reward, and rescuing him just before he gets hanged as just punishment. The two learn of a stash of hidden gold in the grave of a Civil War soldier and become instant rivals, only to find themselves in violent competition with a third party, the "Bad" Angel Eyes (Van Cleef, in a complete reversal on his role in For a Few Dollars More).

The Good, the Bad The Good, the Bad and the Uglyand the Ugly first appeared on DVD in 2000 from MGM featuring the U.S. theatrical The Good, the Bad and the Uglycut in a solid widescreen transfer that replicated the color palette of the theatrical prints seen at the time with an emphasis on natural flesh tones and earthy browns. Extras on that disc included the American trailer and a 12-minute reel of Italian scenes (with optional English subtitles) trimmed out for English-language export at the time. Though little really affects the plot one way or the other, the scenes reveal some great bits of character acting (the desert scene between Eastwood and Wallach in particular) and more elaboration on Cleef's shenanigans while Eastwood is held captive in the Civil War camp. In 2002 the film underwent an extensive restoration with Eastwood and Wallach brought in to provide English tracks for those several scenes omitted outside of Italy, creating a new, full-length version of English-speaking viewers. However, the new 5.1 mix of the film is crammed with new sound effects including very different gunshots throughout, creating a very jarring and anachronistic listening experience rivaled only by the restored theatrical version of Vertigo.

In 2004, a double-disc DVD set premiered this long version with a host of extras including two very solid audio commentaries by Sir Christopher Frayling (a Leone biographer who's filled with info about the director's career The Good, the Bad and the Uglyleading up to and including this film) and Richard Schickel (who tackles it more from a historical standpoint both within the western genre and as a major source of imitators for many years). On the video side you get "Leone's West" (19m55s) with Eastwood, Wallach, Schickel, English translator Mickey Knox, and producer Alberto Grimaldi, while "Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone & The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" is divided into two featurettes (7m48s and 12m27s) with Jon Burlingame dissecting the score inside and out as he explains why the sound for these films was so revolutionary and influential. (Note that the second featurette is just voiceover.) "The Leone Style" (23m48s) basically picks up The Good, the Bad and the Uglyon the "Leone's West" featurette with the same participants talking about the director's visual techniques in a more generic sense including his unique knack for casting faces and using cinematic space to build tension. "The Man Who Lost the Civil War" (14m23s) chronicles the real Sibley Campaign battle that's depicted with surprising fidelity in the film as a backdrop to the treasure hunt, while a restoration featurette (11m9s) goes into the painstaking process of restoring the original Techniscope negative and creating a complete English-language track for the full-length cut. You also get an alternate archival cut of the Tuco torture scene (7m14s) and a reconstruction of the unfinished Socorro sequence The Good, the Bad and the Ugly(3m1s), plus the original French trailer.

That same edition bowed on Blu-ray in 2009 first in the U.K. and then the U.S., looking quite watchable but sporting some very visible noise reduction that gave close ups a smoother, waxier look than necessary. It also has less image info on the sides than any other release, which wrecks more than a handful of shots. That release from MGM features the extended cut only with audio options include 5.1 English DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 mono (a lossy mixdown of the doctored 5.1 mix), German, Italian, Portuguese, French, or Spanish with optional English, French, or Thai subtitles. A remastered Blu-ray edition appeared in 2014 as part of a Man with No Name Blu-ray trilogy and as a standalone, featuring the same extras and sporting a remastered transfer (with only the latter having genuine mono except for mixdown added scenes). In keeping with many other restored Italian transfers involving L'Immagine Ritrovata, it's heavy on the yellow and turquoise, a bone of contention that still stirs up debate today despite multiple sources indicating this color scheme was Leone's preference. It also features more image info than before and looks generally impressive in motion with a lot less noise reduction.The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

That brings us to the 2017 double-disc 50th anniversary Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber, which aims to deliver the final word on the subject and correct some past video sins along the way. On the first disc you'll find the American cut which features the 5.1 mix and, thankfully, the original theatrical mono (both DTS-HD MA) as well as the Italian audio with optional The Good, the Bad and the UglyEnglish subtitles. Image quality is comparable to the extended version and likely pulled from the same scan (but it has the original late '60s United Artists logo back at the beginning!), and it's good to see it looking so improved here after many years of unavailability. (Frame grabs in the body of this review are from the U.S. version; comparison ones can be seen below.) The 4K-sourced transfer looks great, with plenty of detail visible without trying to wax away the film's natural dusty, gritty texture. Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas contributes a terrific new audio commentary that pays quite a bit of attention to the score, locations, and various artisans working behind the scenes, not to mention the bevy of European character actors popping up throughout the lengthy running time. There isn't a second of dead space here, and the effect is rather like coming across a fine reference audio book about the making of the film. Also included as a Trailers from Hell presentation with Ernest Dickerson and a trio of alternate/deleted scenes: "The Optical Flip" (52s),"Skeletons in the Desert" (1m3s), and an extended torture scene (1m3s), as well as separate production photo and promotional galleries and trailers for all three Dollars films, Once Upon a Time in the West, and A Fistful of Dynamite. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad and the UglyDisc two contains the extended cut of the film, also sourced from the 4K transfer and also featuring the color timing of the Italian restoration with zero noise reduction; audio options are the same, with the 5.1 remix, original theatrical mono (with mixdown audio just for the added scenes), and the Italian track with optional English subs (taken from the English track). The preexisting Sir Christopher Frayling and Richard Schickel tracks have been carried over, while other extras include the earlier MGM featurettes (albeit with some wacky frame rate strangeness going on) -- "Leone's West," "Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone & The Good, the Bad & the Ugly," "The Leone Style," "The Man Who Lost the Civil War," the restoration featurette, the alternate Tuco torture scene and Socorro reconstruction, and the French trailer. Also included are a few brief "vignette" outtakes -- "Uno Due Tre" (40s) with Wallace, "Italian Lunch" (43s) with Eastwood, "New York Accent' (10s) with Wallace, and "Gun in Holster" (59s) with Wallace. Needless to say, having a remastered transfer of the standard English cut, the beefiest presentation of the extended cut, and the much-needed option to hear the vastly superior original mono tracks for both should make a lot of people very happy.


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Reviewed on August 6, 2017.