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For a Few Dollars More (4K UHD)
The unexpected and unprecedented box office success of A Fistful Of Dollars catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom and spurred into production, less than a year later, a sequel to capitalize on his new found fame. The result was a darker, funnier, and all around better film in the form of For A Few Dollars More, the second collaboration between Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood but this time with the undeniably fantastic screen presence of Lee Van Cleef (though Leone originally wanted Lee Marvin, and for good reason) to play off of as well.
Monco (Eastwood) is a bounty hunter out to make a few quick bucks. He doesn't care about anyone else, he's completely self-serving and to be honest, a bit of a bastard. He rides into El Paso on a mission to bring in a bandit named El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) so that he can take home the sizeable reward being offered for his capture. A second bounty hunter, a former army man named Colonel Mortimer (Van Cleef), has got the same idea and as such has his eyes on the very same prize as Monco.
Indio, on the other hand, has got a good sized gang of bandits at his command, and they intend to take down a bank and make off with the contents. This very same gang will prove a little harder to deal with than both Monco and Mortimer originally anticipated, and they strike up a rather unusual relationship together in order to deal with the problems that a gang of homicidal bandits cane pose.
Everything that Leone showed us he was capable of in A Fistful Of Dollars is let loose in this second film. The scope is more epic, the close ups more extreme, the comedy is darker, the dialogue is sharper, and the violence is harsher. Leone perfected his technique in this film and every shot is composed so carefully and with such technical precision that even if there were no audio track to provide dialogue effects or background music, the film would still be a masterpiece simply on the strength of the visuals alone. Thankfully, however, the audio mix is just as strong as the look of the film. Morricone had really hit his stride by this point in his career and his score strengthens every single frame of film that it's used in.
And everything about this second film is more confident than the first movie. Eastwood is sharper and more relaxed, literally oozing cool out of every pore of his body despite the fact that he's stuck out under the hot desert sun for the bulk of the film. Lee Van Cleef gives one of his finest performances (considering his track record in westerns, that's saying something, because he truly is 'the man') and is as sneaky in act and deed as he is in appearance. Leone uses his oddly rodent like features to great advantage, really playing up on his striking features to give his character a larger than life aura, something that he'd play with even more in the third film, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Gian Maria Volonte returns to the fold again, perfectly cast as the sinister El Indio, playing the part with a maniacal glee that becomes, at times, quite infectious. Aside from the three leads though, you can't talk about the film without mentioning Klaus Kinski's turn as the lunatic hunchback or Luigi Pistilli's role as Groggy.
Looking at the 'behind the camera' credits for the film reads more or less like a roll call for the finest contributors to Italian genre cinema. Fernando Di Leo (Milano Calibro 9) contributed to the script and acted as a second unit director alongside Tonino Valerii (Day Of Anger). Massimo Dallamano (What Have You Done To Solange?) handled the cinematography while Bruno Nicolai (All The Colors Of The Dark) aided Ennio Morricone with the musical score. In short, the excellent cast was in fine company.
While, like its predecessor, it was shot fast and cheap (look for a few anachronisms and technical goofs throughout the film), For A Few Dollars More proves to be an exciting and ambitious film that succeeds not only on its gorgeous visuals but also on its stellar cast and fine crew. Leone would go on to bigger and better films with his next two films and prove himself as the king of the Italian west, but For A Few Dollars More stands as the film where he really and truly hit his stride. Maybe it was due to the fact that he was offered a better cut of the profits this time out, maybe he just wanted to make a better movie, maybe he was having more fun, or maybe it was all of the above but Leone really turned it up with this one and the result is one of the most enjoyable and, dare I say it, 'fun' films of the Spaghetti Western craze.
Kino presents For A Few Dollars More in HEVC encoded 2160p framed in its proper 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio on a 100GB disc with a very high bit rate. There is no HDR or Dolby Vision enhancement included on this disc. That said, this is a pretty substantial improvement over Kino's earlier Blu-ray in both noticeable detail and color reproduction. Overall, the colors look a lot better here, much more natural and realistic looking, than they have on previous Blu-ray editions. Detail often times looks truly excellent, those trademark Leone close up shots really letting you admire every bead of sweat and every speck of dirt on the actors' faces. You'll notice considerably more texture in the clothing and the sets, and depth is also quite a bit stronger with this transfer. The disc is well-authored, showing no noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues. Grain is managed properly and naturally, the movie retaining all the natural grit that you'd want it to. Some shots do look a bit softer than others, but overall, this is a very nice upgrade.
Audio options are provided in the same DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix we've heard before but also in the original 2.0 Mono mixes in English only (the Italian language options included on Kino's last Blu-ray release are not included here) optional English subtitles provided. The 5.1 sounds thin more often than not, making the English Mono option the way to go. As to the quality of the Mono track, it sounds fine. It's properly balanced, it sounds clean and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to note. It suits the film much more accurately than the 5.1 track does.
Extra features, all of which are archival and carried over from the previous special edition Blu-ray release that Kino put out in 2018, are spread across the two discs in this set as follows:
Extras on the UHD start with starting with an audio commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas. Like every commentary Lucas has provided, this one is meticulously researched and insanely informative. He covers how this picture compares to the other 'dollars' movies, makes some interesting observations about the performances, talks up the score and locations and along the way provides plenty of well-informed insight about the film and its history.
Also included is the archival Christopher Frayling commentary. This track is part film analysis, part Leone history and part trivia track. He's not once at a loss for words and he makes some interesting comparisons here between this film and some of Leone's later works within the western genre. Frayling gives plenty of detail on the rushed production history of the film, the producers wanted to turn it over as quickly as possible to cash in on the success of the first movie, as well as some of the strange details relating to Leone's shooting structure, or lack thereof. Some of the more interesting bits of the commentary relate to the way that Leone cast many of the local gypsies as banditos in the film, to give it a more authentic look and feel and some of the problems that were inherent in Leone's decision to do so.
Those same commentary tracks appear on the included Blu-ray disc along with a bunch of other supplemental material. On location In Almeria And Granada With Filmmaker Alex Cox is a fourteen-minute piece in which the director of Sid And Nancy and Straight To Hell explores the locations used in the film as they are in the modern day.
Frayling gets in front of the camera for another extra entitled The Christopher Frayling Archives: For A Few Dollars More. This nineteen minute piece is a chance for Frayling to show off his extensive collection of Leone memorabilia, with a focus on For A Few Dollars More, and it's pretty impressive.
Up next is a twenty minute documentary entitled A New Standard. This is a lengthy and informative discussion with Frayling on some of the themes and ideas that Leone pioneered in the film. He discusses the marijuana use in the film and how it worked or didn't work within the context of the movie as well as a lot of the more subtle religious symbolism that's there if you want to look for it. He puts the film into context against the time it was made and against Leone's other movies and this makes for a very entertaining and informative segment that thankfully doesn't crossover with the commentary track too much at all.
Back For More is a seven-minute video interview with Clint Eastwood in which he talks about how Leone's sense of humor put many of the cast members at ease on the set. He also goes into quite a bit of detail on how Leone influenced the films that he himself would later direct, and why. It's nice to see Clint talk about Sergio as fondly as he does here, and it's also quite interesting to hear his reasons for not making Once Upon A Time In The West (Charles Bronson ended up in the lead and I honestly can't see how anyone could have played it any better than he did in that movie), a film which many consider to be the finest western ever made.
The eleven-minute Tre Voci segment brings together Alberto Grimaldi, Mickey Knox, and Sergio Donati to discuss the film. The famous story of how Morricone's score, which was completely finished before filming even started, was played on set to get performers in the mood at Leone's request. They also talk about how the dialogue was written specifically to play to Eastwood and Van Cleef's strengths not only as tough guys, but as comedic actors too. The humor is turned up a bit in this film compared to the first movie and the interplay between these two actors is a big reason why.
Location Comparisons: Then And Now is pretty much what it sounds like, a featurette that compares the shooting locations as they appear in the film to how they appear in the modern day, and it runs twelve minutes.
Also included is a Trailers From Hell entry where Earnest Dickerson offers his thoughts on the film as the trailer plays out over his voiceover work, still galleries containing poster and lobby card art and pictures taken on the set, and the eight-minute For A Few Pictures more.
Rounding out the extra features are eight-minutes of radio promo spots, two excellent theatrical trailers, the double bill trailer, and a still gallery of roughly forty images.
Kino also supplies bonus trailers for A Fistful Of Dollars, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, A Fistful Of Dynamite and Death Rides A Horse. Kino has also included a slipcover for this release, but not the reversible cover art that was included on their earlier Blu-ray only edition.
For A Few Dollars More is simply one of the finest westerns ever made, spaghetti or otherwise, paling only to Leone's later two entries in the genre. Kino doesn't add anything new to the film's already impressive array of supplements but carries over all of the important extras from past editions and gives the film a very nice 4k upgrade. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.