DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Paul Newman as BUTCH CASSIDY
    Robert Redford as THE SUNDANCE KID
    Katharine Ross as ETTA PLACE
    Strother Martin as PERCY GARRIS
    Henry Jones as BIKE SALESMAN

    Rated PG
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Directed by: George Roy Hill
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I was never much of a western fan. When a really good western hits the theatres (and that happens every couple years), I tend to enjoy it. I liked “Silverado,” and I thought “Open Range” was a pleasant surprise. But I never got into the classic westerns of the past.

I grew up a “Star Wars” baby, so all the westerns I watched were ones that took place in space. I was the classic example of a child who much preferred Buzz Lightyear to his vintage Woody doll.

I rented “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” several months ago on a whim. I watched about the first half hour, but never finished it. Now with the release of the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” on DVD from 20th Century Fox, I had my chance to taste the classic, groundbreaking western.

Looking at the film with a totally modern set of eyes, completely detached from the hype of Newman and Redford in the late 60s, I didn’t find a connection to the movie. I can appreciate the film, and I understand how much of an impact it had on filmmaking of that day. However, this movie failed to touch me. Like other films of the 60s, I think it’s the fault of the generation gap.

The movie itself is an icon as much as the story is. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) are two outlaws that put their crime spree on hold when they are tracked relentlessly by a bank owner. They flee to Bolivia to start a new life of crime. However, things start to go sour when the Bolivian officials start to lean on them as well.

The film is well made for the time with beautiful cinematography and solid acting. Newman approaches the role with his tongue firmly in cheek, making Cassidy one of the most likable outlaws of the west. The classic superposse chase scene in the middle of the film is the best, full of suspense and a sense of peril. However, knowing how the film ends from its fame in the popular culture took away some of that suspense.

Overall, I can see that this redefined westerns from the John Wayne rugged seriousness. However, restrictions of the studio and the day (including the New York photo montage, which was forced by 20th Century Fox because they didn’t want to reveal the “Hello Dolly” NYC sets before its release) is just too clunky by today’s standards.

For fans of this film, this new double-disc set is a great find. The film comes restored on DVD with two commentary tracks – one with screenwriter William Goldman, and the other with director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David, documentary director Robert Crawford Jr. and cinematographer Conrad Hall.

Considering that half of the folks in the commentary are dead, it’s obvious that this is not a new recording. Many of these features come from the 1994 laserdisc release of the film, including an extended making-of featurette on the first disc.

Ultimately, many facets of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are explored in the second disc. There’s plenty of interview footage and other featurettes from the 1994 release as well as new interviews with the cast, crew, historians and other notable figures.

Finally, we are treated to a deleted scene in which the opening silent film from the credits is presented in the movie itself, as Butch and Sundance see their on-screen counterparts in Bolivia. Other extras include production notes, the original trailer and previews of other notable Paul Newman films.

Specifications: Stereo and Mono Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1). French and Spanish language track. Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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