Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Clint Eastwood as BLONDIE
    Lee Van Cleef as ANGEL EYES
    Eli Wallach as TUCO
    Mario Brega as CAPTAIN WALLACE

    Rated R
    Studio: MGM

    Directed by: Sergio Leone

    Back to DVD Review Home


Hailed as one of the best westerns to grace the silver screen, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is the third installment of Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy.” Made on a much larger budget than his previous two spaghetti westerns, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was a major studio release. The story follows the Man with No Name, aka Blondie (Clint Eastwood), as he tries to sever ties with his partner in crime, the devious Tuco (Eli Wallach). Together, they discover the location of a massive shipment of Confederate gold, and they both keep part of the secret from each other to find the gold together.

Meanwhile, the evil gunslinger Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) is also searching for the gold, and he will let no man stand in his way. Set against the backdrop on the days after the Civil War, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” redefined the modern western.

I’ve never been a big fan of the western genre, considering that I was raised on space operas and horror movies as a child. Such is the life of being a child of the 80s.

My introduction to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was from many pop culture references in film and television long before I watched any part of the film. In fact, it wasn’t until I had a chance to watch this Blu-ray disc that I saw the film in its entirety. Still, I saw plenty of the movie’s influence – from its groundbreaking soundtrack to its stark production value – in many other pieces.

Sergio Leone’s dramatic directing style is powerful and well delivered, even by today’s standards. Putting this movie up against the American westerns of the day, you can definitely see how Leone helped redefine the genre into a grittier, wilder west.

The key to this film is the acting and the characters. The plot was decent, although it was nothing new, especially to the western genre. But the trifecta of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallace is what brought the film above a minor genre piece to a cinematic classic. All three men embraced their character with subtle dignity. (Yes, even the slovenly character of Tuco had a certain level of dignity to him.)

So much about this film is fantastic – from the sweeping and powerful cinematography to the understated yet realistic production design. Although the movie was originally criticized for its harsh depiction of frontier violence, this is not that shocking by today’s standards, but it still retains its dramatic effect.

And no discussion of this film would be complete without a spotlight on Ennio Morricone’s brilliant score, which was daring and different at the time but a defining moment in western movie history in retrospect.

Not being a western fan, I’m not attached to this film the way that some people are. Coming at it with a modern eye, I still find it executed with excellent precision, but it is not without its flaws. The biggest problem I had with the movie was its near three-hour running time, which has been restored from the original Italian version. While Leone’s style lent itself to breathing, the movie takes too much time in many scenes. I like the style a lot, but I have a feeling I’ll be better able to digest the shorter “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More.”

Strangely, what could have been a flaw was the language barrier, which resulted in much of the dialogue dubbed or looped. However, the sound design is done well enough that it’s not distracting or often even noticeable.

If you already own the 2-disc collector’s edition DVD, which was released two years ago, you already have the same slate of special features. However, unlike some run-of-the-mill Blu-ray releases, this film screams to be shown in high definition. The remastered version of this movie with hi-def picture and sound is quite simply beautiful.

Previously released bonus material includes two commentaries, one with film historian Richard Schickel and the other with cultural historian Christopher Frayling. There’s also a slate of deleted scenes (some of which are reconstructed with stills and narration), the original theatrical trailer an the French trailer.

Several featurettes look into the background and the making of this film. “Leone’s West: Making-of Documentary” offers a relatively comprehensive look at this film’s production and the history of the spaghetti westerns. “The Leone Style: On Sergio Leone” spotlights the director himself.

“The Man Who Lost the Civil War” is a half-hour documentary about the Civil War itself and how the events depicted in the backdrop of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” were true and actually may have turned the tide of the war.

“Reconstructing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” shows how the film was restored from the original Italian cut, and “Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” spotlights the groundbreaking score. This also includes an analysis of the score in an audio-only section.

Fans of spaghetti westerns and Clint Eastwood.

Click here to read more DVD reviews!

Click here to read more movie reviews!

Click here to watch films by 7M Pictures!