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Friday, June 13, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 4k Remaster

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.
In Conclusion
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.


  1. Thank you for the sincere commentary Aaron. I do see what you are talking about.
    But me being one that doesn't take too much of the visual asthetics into consideration when I watch a movie, yes, I am one of those people that really don't care too much about how the film looks but, I do HATE it when they mix up the images of Mortimer and Angel Eyes.
    GAWD!! The Colonel at Sad Hill, what a stupid assumption on the part of MGM to do this.
    I know they did it not only out of stupidity but also to play up the fact of the Trilogy films in this one set.
    BUT, this is the 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' disc NOT 'Fistful of Dollars' or 'For A Few Dollars More'. I'm surprised they didn't use an image of Travis from 'Barquero' somewhere in this.
    Hopefully, and I do use that term in a determined manner, the youth of today will somehow, down the road, have enough sense and love for older films that they will invent a new process that will give the world these gems and make it right.
    Please O please O please!!!!!!!!!

  2. I agree the color is not a good as the original nor is the soundtrack. But now that we who usually watch films in English can see GB&U with the scenes which were nixed by United Artists from the original Italian release (Rome: December 1966), I feel as if I'm being cheated if I can't watch the film as Leone intended it to be seen. Maybe they will someday get it completely right as Alanna has pleaded above. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is probably the greatest western ever made & one of the best movies in general.

    1. I agree on the international cut. I especial love the scene where LVC enters the fort. As Blu-ray (and DVD) is such a versatile format, it would be nice to have the choice of 1966 international or 1967 US theatrical.

  3. Yeah you're right. My latest DVD of "The Big Gundown" is Blu-ray & has several different versions (which means lengths too) of the film. They explain in the notes that with Big Gundown, Columbia re-edited the film for U. S. theatrical to make it pace faster & not get bogged down as it does in their opinion with the Italian original. And I can understand why, in this case, Sergio Sollima, got upset. They actually re-directed the film for English speaking audiences. Eli Wallach is quoted as saying "Sergio Leone was furious about all the cuts United Artists wanted for Good, Bad & Ugly." Good, Bad & Ugly was co-produced by United Artists so it officially was an Italian/U. S. co-production with a much larger budget than Fistfull & For a Few Dollars More which U. A. did not co-produce but only picked up the English market release rights. Wallach also said U. A. didn't hold Leone at the time in the same league as a David Lean or Robert Wise so they were put off by the film being so long. They wanted to start it over every 2 hours which was the usual deal then with your standard film. U. A. didn't like it being so long & did not find GB&U to be another Ben-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia so they wanted lots of cuts. But they were mistaken. GB&U as we all now know, deserved to be seen in it's long version because it is absolutely on the same level with those big budget long films made by directors such as David Lean.

  4. Your comments respresent 1:1 my opinion. I didn't even own the old Blu-ray. I waited for years for the 'final' release and now this color-mess arrives :). I worked for an hour with my Samsung TV to get a better image. I worked out OK (not great though), yet the fact I had to do that is a disgrace to a SECOND Blu-ray release of such a classic title. I saw 35mm prints as well and own some 35mm (a reel and two trailers). Too bad we can't do the job ourselves and have to depend on 'them'.

  5. I have a long experience with color and photo color manipulation and I do wonder why they re-released it with such an obviously wrong color palette. So many movies get butchered in this way... are they blind or something?