Saturday, June 28, 2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Many of us were introduced to LVC through his work in Sergio Leone's For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. And while The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly is probably LVC's most iconic role in popular culture, I feel it is Eli Wallach's role of the bandit Tuco, that is the heart and soul of the film.
Wallach passed away today, and leaves behind an unbelievable Hollywood legacy, and over 6 decades of work!
In the mid-90's, during my college days I wrote Eli a fan letter telling him how much I enjoyed his performances as well as telling him a little bit about myself and my aspirations. He was nice enough to have sent me back a nice signed photo as Tuco inscribed "For Aaron, best wishes and good luck on your career, Eli Wallach". In the past 2 decades the photo has oxidized and turned a shade of gold... something I think Tuco would approve of!
Thanks for the memories, Eli!
Thanks for the memories, Eli!
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Friday, June 13, 2014
After much anticipation I have finally received my The Man With No Name Trilogy blu-ray set featuring the newly remastered The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
The first 2 discs (Fistful or Dollars, and For a Few Dollars More) are exactly the same as the previously released set (same masters, same extras, same disc artwork!), but of course the real reason I bought (actually rebought) the trilogy was for the remastered The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which is all this review is focused on
The previous version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly was visually a real mess. MGM went overboard on digital noise reduction (presumably to reduce film grain), giving the film an overall soft and waxy appearance. Around the same time in Italy, Mondo Home Video released their own print on blu-ray which was vastly superior in picture, however did not contain the English soundtrack (probably a rights issue). The differences between those two versions can be found here.
Now after years of waiting, the US (and many other regions) have finally received a new master from a 4k source, which should rival the previous MGM release in picture quality. Was it worth the wait? Did it meet my expectations?
Not. At. All.
As a point of reference, I do have a dedicated home theater with a properly calibrated HD projector. I'm not basing this review on internet screenshots (which you have probably seen plenty of), nor have I viewed the movie on a tiny computer screen. I am passionate about film as a medium and an art form.
The new transfer is indeed rich in detail. Gone are the waxy faces, and now every pore stands out. It is indeed like watching an actual film. The detail is fantastic, and is better than anything we have seen before. However that is where the good ends. Now it starts to get bad and ugly...
For whatever reason MGM has opted to change the color timing of the film, claiming this is the way Leone always wanted the film to be seen. While I have no doubt the previous color timing of the movie was off (it was blue), this new version skews the color scheme yellow. VERY YELLOW. I have seen this movie countless times, including on film in a theater, and it has never looked like this. This isn't just "warming" the picture up, this is a blanket of yellow. Had I watched the movie like this on film in a theater, I would have thought there is something wrong with the print.
The next problem (yes there is another!), is the contrast ratio has changed (basically blacks darker, whites brighter) to give it a more film-like presentation on video. If done in moderation this can be a good thing. In my opinion the Mondo version could have used better contrast as it looked a little flat and too video-like. However this new MGM version was pushed too far in places. Now the darker scenes are devoid of detail and the various shades of black are crushed. Adding the yellowing factor on top of it, the blacks often are not a true black and have a yellow to green tint.
blacks are rendered into a horrible yellow/green
"How's your digestion now?" - Lee is feeling a little green
Included is the 5.1 mix created for the 2004 rerelease. If you like it, great. If not the other choice would be to go with the mono track. The problem is, it's not the original mono track. It's a downmix of the 2004 5.1 track, not the original 1967 track.
Why is this an issue? The problem is in 2004 when MGM made the sound remix they replaced and enhanced many of the original sound effects. The iconic gunshots or cannon blasts that we grew up hearing in the film have been replaced or heavily modified. It takes the viewer out of the movie as the sound effects are not appropriate for a film of this era.
Extras are the same as the previous release. Nothing new here.
Am I being overly critical? Yes.
Will the average consumer care about any of the above? Probably not.
I love this movie. It is one of (if not THE) greatest movies ever made. It has a solid reputation in the film community and in pop culture. Yet how many more years are we going to have to wait to get this film released properly?
We need accurate color timing/grading. We need the original mono. We need the option of the original US theatrical cut (this is the international cut plus the Tuco chicken scene that Leone himself didn't want in the picture).
Get it together, MGM! Don't tell me this is how the film is supposed to look. I've seen plenty of spaghetti westerns as well as hundreds of films from this time period. None of them look like this. Not one. Shame on you. The Bad indeed.
*please note all screencaps have been reduced in size, but still provide an accurate representation of the color and contrast.
and one more rant...
Why the hell is Mortimer from For A Few Dollars More used in most of the LVC screenshots in the menu, instead of Angel Eyes? Hell, even dead Indio makes an appearance! Sloppy!
It does look like Angel Eyes' head makes it onto Mortimer's body in the first image below.