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The 2003 Film Restoration of
THE Good, THE Bad AND THE Ugly

Hollywood, March 5, 2003
With a NOTE below, 1/27/04 about the upcoming DVD Special Edition.

This article is sort of an extended announcement, about a film restoration first proposed in 1997, that has finally come to pass.

The January 1998 MGM DVD of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had an important extra on board, approximately 16 minutes of scenes new to the United States, that had been part of the 180-minute Rome premiere cut of the film from 1966. Savant wrote about them in an early article.

Since then, Sergio Leone fans have been talking about the missing scenes, asking why they couldn't be reinstated in the film. Only the earlier 162 minute cut was ever dubbed into English. The plan to re-record Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach's new dialogue was approved in theory almost from the beginning - but the project had never been able to attract the needed restoration budget.

AMC, the American Movie Channel, stepped in this year with the several hundred thousand dollars needed to do the job. Archivist John Kirk of MGM Technical Services oversaw the restoration. It was more complicated than just remixing the film with a few new looped lines of dialogue.

The Cineteca Nazionale in Italy did the bulk of the restoration by providing a good negative of the longest Italian cut, which is still a couple of minutes short of the original 3 hours. It was the source for the Italian-language-only scenes on the previous DVD.

In two separate sessions, John Kirk recorded the missing dialogue lines with Eastwood and Wallach. Several lines were also needed for the late Lee Van Cleef. A voiceover artist named Simon Prescott provided the growling voice for Angel Eyes (or Setenza, if you will).

The surprise for fans will be yet more footage, which the Italians located separately and was reportedly part of the original Rome premiere version. John Kirk has re-integrated the legendary Grotto scene into this new restoration. About halfway through the movie, three outlaws attempt to shoot Joe (the Eastwood character), with a predictable lack of success. The Grotto scene explains where the desperados came from. It's a very humorous passage for Eli Wallach's Tuco, showing a little more depth to his character as he bilks the three would-be hit men.

In the interest of clarity, there are two items that couldn't be included in this restoration. When Angel Eyes has Tuco beaten in the prison, about a minute's worth of Eli Wallach being pummelled, intercut with shots of the prisoner's chorus singing outside, were cut from the film soon after its first release. No good picture materials have been found for it. John recorded the necessary dialogue, and would have liked to restore the scene, as the American re-cut mangles the Ennio Morricone 'Ballad of a Soldier' song. But, not this time.

Real Leone detail-types still ask about two more scenes that show up in stills. In one, Tuco raises money by pretending to collect for charity from the citizens of a small town. A couple of stills exist showing Wallach standing on a wooden platform and making a speech. The scene was probably shot, but wasn't finished or mixed in any version of the film.

The second mystery is in the original still keyset, which shows Eastwood kissing a woman in a bed, a setup that does not appear in the film at all. It may have been a posed publicity still, but more likely than not there was such a scene shot, that also no longer exists.  1

Neither of these scenes are part of this restoration, of course.

John Kirk has made new 35mm prints, remixed in stereo 5.1 by Intersound. Triage, a top restoration house, handled the final film work, replacing the Italian titles with the American version, etc. The final running time of this new extended English version is 180 minutes and three seconds.

So, Where's this going to be Shown?

Before its repremiere on AMC, the restoration will be screened twice in New York. The Tribeca Film Festival will have it on May 8, and then it will play at the Film Forum on May 30. It will probably only play in major cities - in Los Angeles the Nuart will have it for a week starting June 20.

AMC will premiere the restoration uncut and without commercials (the first broadcast only) on May 10, which will be the big opportunity for most of us to see it. The only reason it's being given special treatment is because of an AMC film restoration promotion; it will show again several times, but with the cable channel's usual station breaks.

Now what about a DVD?

No DVD of the new restoration is in the works as yet. A special edition was planned in 2001 but cancelled. Savant would guess that if one came out, it would be 2004 at the earliest. NOTE, 1.27.04: The MGM DVD Special edition will be released on May 18, 2004 ... In addition to the remixed English 5.1 audio track, it will have the original Sergio Leone supervised and approved original Italian audio track.

So, it's been a long time waiting to make this announcement. I'm curious to hear the new mix, and to see the Grotto scene, which I've only viewed pan-scanned on a fuzzy vhs tape. I'm also curious to hear how Clint and Eli sound, as nobody's voice stays the same for 36 years ... I'm told that they work out quite well. I hope this news will make Sergio Leone fans happy.

Glenn Erickson - March 5, 2003

April 10 - Update: Savant had a great time today: he played hooky from cutting to see the final result of the film restoration of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and it looked great. Much of the print, which was a mix of new Italian and old American source elements, was just beautiful. The new grotto sequence was a bit down on the quality scale (it was made from a print) but will probably be indistinguishable after the video transfer. All of the other missing scenes were there too. The voice replacement was done very well - with a script translated by John Kirk, and read by Eli Wallach, Clint Eastwood and Simon Prescott impersonating Lee Van Cleef. All in all, the post dubbing was excellent, with only Clint sounding a bit reedy with his aged voice. When this shows in selected theaters and on AMC in May, it's going to get a lot of positive attention for MGM.

Some authoritative information from Ulrich Angersbach, 3/6/03:

Hello Glenn, With surprise I read your article concerning the GBU 2003 restoration. Great news. Please allow some corrections from my side.

The 2 scenes you mentioned (Tuco standing on a wooden platform & Eastwood in bed with a woman) belong to one scenario - the SOCORRO sequence.

The actress in bed with Eastwood is Silvana Bacci, now 56 years old and living in Rome. A friend of mine visited her recently for an interview. She confirmed that filming with Sergio Leone took place at Elios Studios, Rome and in the vicinity of Almeria, Spain.

The scene was completely filmed and edited - but it was decided not to include it in the movie - eventually because the film was too long. I got in contact with Alberto Grimaldi about the remains of it; he sent me a letter pointing out that the scene was lost - most likely stolen.

The last thing I would like to say is that the premiere version of the film (December 1966 in Rome) had a length of 177 minutes and 43 seconds. Hence the now rereleased print is approx. the same as the one shown in Rome 36 years ago.

Maybe you can agree modifying your Savant statement concerning the a.m. items. Enclosed as well an unknown shot given from Silvana Bacci.

Best regards from Frankfurt - Ulrich Angersbach 3/6/03

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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