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DVD SAVANT

THE GOOD, THE BAD
AND THE RESTORED





A reappraisal of the new (1998) DVD of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: a detailed, new analysis included.



Sergio Leone's landmark Western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the most famous of the so-called 'spaghetti westerns' and the third in the Clint Eastwood 'Man With No Name' trilogy, has been reissued with some very special scenes added as an extra supplement.

The reason the scenes have been added as an extra feature and not re-interpolated into the film proper is simple: they only exist in the Italian language! They are subtitled in English for the less-cultured serape-and-cheroot fans, on the DVD only!

The material constitutes fourteen minutes cut from the original 1966 Rome release, the Italian - language - only version of the film that clocks in at a whopping three hours in length. Apparently this long version is the one Leone would consider his definitive cut. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been exhibited as short as 130 minutes in duration. For almost ten years, American video editions of the film have been the longest available, 161 minutes.

It seems the film was cut from 176 or so minutes to 161 before it was dubbed into its various international language versions. So even though Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood are clearly mouthing English words in the new scenes, there never was any final English dialog recorded for them.

Of what do the new scenes consist? I'm assuming every Eastwood/Leone fan will be as thrilled as was Savant to see them, so let it suffice to say that there is a little bit of everything - more humor, more lyrical Ennio Morricone music, a bit more gore. Those curious to know how Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) finds his way onto the path to the missing money will be given some answers. He actually comes off as a slightly more sympathetic character. And yes, there is a new bit of gunslinging action - a 1966 Clint Eastwood gundown, complete with sardonic quip, that American fans have never seen before.

The other revelation is hearing for the first time the way The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was dubbed in the Italian version. Once one gets over Clint's trademark whispery rasp being replaced by a voice more suited to Marcello Mastroianni, the next thing that stands out is just how good the dubbing job is. Forget about those terrible Joe Levine sync jobs you remember for sword 'n sandal epics. Most Italian films of the period were routinely filmed without attempting to record any useful audio on the set. Begun as an economic necessity in the Neorealist days, filming this way became the standard and eventually the art of looping every bit of dialog and sound effect reached a high level of quality. After a few minutes of the Roman audio track, hearing American soldiers and Mexican bandits alike speak in colloquial Italian becomes almost believable.

Well, almost as believable as all those Civil War battles being fought in the Southwestern deserts! (Correction: Apparently there were some serious battles fought in Texas and New Mexico during the Civil War, making the premise of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly completely appropriate. Savant has wrongly assumed that movies like GBU, Major Dundee and Two Flags West were wishful historical thinking, and I thank 'Matt' for straightening me out. 3/11/00)

The DVD release from MGM Home Entertainment is by far the most handsome presentation of a Leone Western ever on home video. Remastered with 16:9 formatting, the film looks far better than the subsequent DVD release of For a Few Dollars More, which, although a bit more complete than previous releases, has passages of slightly out-of-sync audio, and is not widescreen-enhanced.

One frustrating thing about the deleted scenes is simply finding them on the disc. It takes some menu surfing to reach them, almost as if they were a hidden feature. The English subtitles don't appear automatically, which means new DVD fans unfamiliar with subtitle options might not realize they are accessable. That's regrettable, but is far better than the Image laserdisc. Apparently by error or omission, it contains all the cut scenes without subtitles at all.

What was clearly needed was a way of interpolating the cut scenes into the movie. Savant suggested that some programming be done to allow a second viewing alternative, a menu option that would interrupt the movie when needed to skip down to the appropriate missing scene, play it in Italian with subtitles, and then skip back to pick up the movie where it left off. MGM never considered this option and I was told that it was not possible. At the time there was at least one DVD release that did this exact trick: Earthlight was a documentary of space-views of Earth that had several viewing options based on menu selection: sections of the show grouped by subject, with or without music or explanatory titles, etc.

As it turned out, Savant was able to get The Good, The Bad and The Ugly's DVD debut heralded by an L.A. Times article with a full-color, full-sized picture of the DVD box on the front page of the Calendar section. This amounted to $50,000 worth of free advertising and goodwill for MGM. (image top of page)


What follows is a description of the added scenes prepared for the purpose of promotion their inclusion on the DVD:


LOG Additional Italian Scenes THE GOOD THE BAD & THE UGLY
6/23/97 Glenn Erickson

1. Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) stops off at a Rebel outpost and learns from a sergeant that Bill Carson, who knows where the gold is hidden, has become a Union prisoner. The first half of this scene is slow and operatic as Angel Eyes explores the fort and is impressed by the sight of dozens of wounded and dying soldiers. Angel Eyes comes off as sympathetic here: not only is he genuinely concerned for the casualties, he also seems to be a good detective, tracking down the treasure in the middle of a war. Length 4:19 (image bottom of page)


2. Tuco Ramirez (Eli Wallach) taunts Blondie (Clint Eastwood) with a bucket of water in the desert trek scene. There's a good visual joke involving a boot that Leone fans will recognize as appearing again in another form in Once Upon a Time in the West. Eastwood looks his most gruesome and Wallach is very amusing with his fringed sun-parasol. When this scene was cut out the editors did a great job hiding the transition, which is seamless. Length 2:16

3. Transporting the sun-baked Blondie at night, Tuco stops at a Rebel checkpoint and is given directions by an elderly Confederate officer (played by the funny railroad ticket-seller in the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West). Here Tuco decides to go to the Catholic mission to secure Blondie's recovery; with the scene intact it no longer seems an unlikely coincidence that Tuco's priest brother should show up there. Length 1:35


4. Tuco and the newly-recovered Blondie, disguised as Rebs, talk about the treasure as they roll their wagon through the aftermath of a desert battle. Both this scene and the one before are reminders that the characters are operating in a war zone; without them the Civil War background gets lost at times. For an American audience, at least, the idea of the Civil War being fought in the Western desert seems "wrong" and these scenes help sell it. Length :46


5. On the trail Blondie awakes with "partner" Angel Eyes, whose gang arrives too quietly for Blondie. He shoots one, and Angel Eyes notes that now he and his gang are only six. Blondie makes a sly joke about six being his favorite number as he reloads his six-shooter. Besides being the only new scene with real action (a Clint Eastwood/Leone gundown, no less), it cements the cynical nature of Blondie's pact with Angel Eyes. Unlike the self-deceiving Tuco, Angel Eyes is obviously Blondie's equal. The various gunslinger bums who accompany them are expendable pawns, even to each other. Length 1:40

6. Before the battle scene, the fatalistic, drunk officer pauses in the WW1-like trench to drink and talk with Tuco and Blondie. In this trim, he asks them their names (getting no answer) and makes a comment about the futility of fighting for a meaningless bridge. Length :58


7. In this final clip, the officer is shown dying on the operating table; and Tuco and Blondie wade in the river stringing wires under the bridge. Length +/- :30


There were other trims too short to be reinstated for the DVD supplement, some of them just a few stray frames here and there. Van Cleef's victim in his first scene takes several more spoonfuls of soup; a split-second cutaway to a cannon firing is added to the moment when the floor collapses under Tuco as he tries to hang Blondie in a hotel room.

MGM's beautiful transfer of the Italian version lacked video for the scene where Tuco is mercilessly beaten by the sergeant played by Mario Brega, at Angel Eyes' bidding. An audio track existed that was over a minute longer. Without the video component, the new Italian version had to use the US version of this scene, which rearranged some shots as well. From the soundtrack, the missing minute sounds like 60 seconds' more of relentless walloping on poor luckless Tuco, in a scene considered too rough already. When last Savant checked, the original video for this scene may have been finally found, but too late for the present round of restorations.

Sergio Leone authority Ernest Farino has illuminated still more scenes that never made it into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in any form. One is shown in a still, a woman and Eastwood in bed together. Another is a clever scene (shown on an Italian RAI testimonial to Leone) that shows Tuco hiring three thugs to murder Blondie. This is the same trio that shows up at Blondie's hotel room as he assembles his gun, in a shot that seems to imitate Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley. In the missing scene, Tuco is in a cavern with a round opening to the sunlight. Knowing the three killers are above, he talks loudly to himself, wishing he could find three reliable gentlemen to do-in the Man With No Name. The three promptly drop through the skylight on ropes to volunteer for the assignment.

Check the shelves for Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo, oops, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. And let's hope the upcoming Fistful of Dollars is a quality disc like this one. (Note from 9/99: It turned out pretty good. Link to Savant's review of all three Leone/Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns.) While we're at it, let's hope Paramount brings out Once Upon a Time in the West with a good transfer and 16:9 enhancement as well.


LINK to a hot bulletin board about all things Sergio Leone, The Sergio Leone Web Board

LINK to a related website about Italian Westerns, Macaroni Westerns Website

LINK to a related website about director SERGIO LEONE .


Text © Copyright 1998, 1999 Glenn Erickson


DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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