Case Number 19127

THE MAN WITH NO NAME TRILOGY (BLU-RAY)

A Fistful Of Dollars
MGM // 1964 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
For A Few Dollars More
MGM // 1965 // 132 Minutes // Rated R
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
MGM // 1966 // 179 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 21st, 2010

The Charge

"You see, in this world, there are two kinds of people my friend -- those with loaded guns and those that dig. You dig."

Opening Statement

Sergio Leone's legendary trilogy finally hits Blu-ray. Lot of pressure here, MGM -- it's not like you're dealing with the high-def release of White Girls. Are these iconic Spaghetti Westerns served with the care, detail, and garlic bread they so richly deserve?

Facts of the Case

Clint Eastwood is The Man with No Name, a lethal, poncho-wearing bad-ass who makes his way through the untamed frontier of the American West, sniffing out any potential way to enrich his coffers. This lifestyle is, of course, dangerous, but it's totally worth it when the end of the day finds your mule laden with gold coins and your trailer packed full of dead bandits.

And while he's not quite the same exact character in each film, the affectations are there (the cigarette, the poncho, the line delivery, the deadly marksmanship) and each adventure is typically populated with corpses that had just previously received the business end of one of his bullets. Whatever. Eastwood is the man...and Leone is the genius.

The Evidence

Full disclosure. Though I am ashamed to admit it, I had not had not seen these films prior to the review. I know. I know. It is cosmically pathetic. I brought it up on Facebook and received the following feedback from friends:

"What the?!

"Oh my goodness, you haven't watched these? Please tell me you're throwing inOnce Upon A Time In The West with Henry Fonda in there too."

"Turn in your man badge and your secret decoder ring. You're sentenced to back to back viewings of Stepmom and Steel Magnolias."

Obviously I had breached a sacred trust among men (or at least the ass clowns who pretend to be men that visit my Facebook account) so it is with a great deal of pleasure I am able to rectify this gaping hole in my personal film-viewing account.

And really, after having indulged in the brilliance that is this trilogy, I can understand why a total stranger would want to punch me in the throat if I told him I had never seen Leone's works. A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are unbelievably good and on Blu-ray they can be straight-up stunning.

Each film manages to be a completely different experience, yet still retain the greatness of the preceding installment. Calling them sequels is problematic as the characters are different and there's no continuous narrative, but the trilogy is bound together by common themes and Clint Eastwood's transcendent protagonist. Look at A Fistful of Dollars, relatively brief experience featuring a simple plot. But it's action-rich, steeped in near-constant bad-assery and morally ambiguous. Basically, it's a ripping Western yarn that introduces an iconic figure. Leone expands the universe with A Few Dollars More, wisely adding another character, just as cunning and lethal as the Man with No Name, to generate conflict. The story is more complicated (the full reveal of purposes and motivations isn't unveiled until the very, very end), but the violence is still pronounced and our hero's morality is tenuous. Plus you get what amounts to be two Man with No Name characters, pitted against a steady stream of dirtbags and a memorably villain who hides a surprisingly complex back story. Finally, there's the crown jewel, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly a genuine Western epic that clocks in at 300 minutes and features character triangles, stopovers at expansive Civil War battles, jarring stunt work, gorgeous landscape photography, betrayals, alliances, plot twists and the greatest music-powered showdown ever captured on celluloid.

Why didn't I watch this before? Was I really watching Saved by the Bell reruns instead?

I like the Blu-ray treatments. If you take a look at some of the scuttlebutt online about the transfers, there seems to be some displeasure, but I found the resolution bump noticeable and, at some points (most notably during Leone's famous extreme close-ups), remarkable. When that camera pulls in, the high-def flexes its power, rendering every drop of sweat, strand of facial hair and crook and crease on Leone's rogues gallery. The wide shots aren't as stunning, with a few exceptions, notably the Civil War battle and the cemetery sequence in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. All three films sport 2.35:1 treatments and all three look good, easily the best versions available. If you're a fan, drink it in. Each disc also gets a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, mixes which tend to be front-loaded but kick in some nice discrete surround effects during active moments. And those gunshots ring out loud and clear.

The extras are problematic. Leone expert Christopher Frayling's featurettes appear on each disc are interesting and in high-definition. It's when you get into the other featurettes, imported from the DVD special editions that issues emerge. You'll get interviews with actors and crew members, location walkthroughs, spotlights on the awesome scores, a look at the ultra-rare and completely moronic network prologue that aired on American television to give the Man with No Name some "moral grounding." Content-wise, it's a nice offering, but when I forward scanned through these segments, the aspect ratio would suddenly go way out of whack and the picture would lodge in the top left corner of the screen, tiny. I thought it was my player at first, but this complaint popped up online, too. Beware.

Closing Statement

Movies: fantastic. Visuals: very good. Audio: also very good. Extras: glitchy. An uneven set saved by the epic content of its feature films.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. I can not withstand the Alpha maleness.

Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, A Fistful Of Dollars
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 75
Acting: 95
Story: 100
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, A Fistful Of Dollars
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, A Fistful Of Dollars
* Commentary
* Featurettes
* Interviews
* Radio Spots
* Trailers

Scales of Justice, For A Few Dollars More
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 75
Acting: 100
Story: 100
Judgment: 94

Perp Profile, For A Few Dollars More
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* Spanish

Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, For A Few Dollars More
* Commentary
* Featurettes
* Interviews
* Radio Spots
* Trailers

Scales of Justice, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 75
Acting: 100
Story: 100
Judgment: 96

Perp Profile, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* Spanish

Running Time: 179 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
* Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Interviews
* Trailers

Accomplices
* IMDb: A Fistful of Dollars
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0058461/combined

* IMDb: For a Few Dollars More
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0059578/combined

* IMDb: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060196/combined