Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite a few minor issues, I thought this was a good transfer.
Sharpness occasionally faltered, though not badly. Some shots appeared a bit soft and tentative, partially due to the presence of mild edge enhancement. Nonetheless, most of the movie offered solid delineation, and I noticed no concerns with jagged edges or shimmering. Source flaws were remarkably absent, as I never detected any signs of defects.
The first nine minutes of Sundance appeared in sepiatone, and another short segment roughly 70 minutes into the film also utilized this tint. Although the rest of the movie was in color, the picture largely maintained the earthiness and neutral hues seen in the sepiatone. It's not exactly a Technicolor extravaganza, which was appropriate since most for the movie took place in the dusty Old West. In any case, colors appeared accurate and well-saturated. They didn't leap off the screen but they looked nice.
Black levels were a little iffy but largely seemed dark and deep, with only a slight amount of muddiness ever interfering. Shadow detail appeared a bit thick as well, partially due to the occasional use of "day for night" photography. This wasn’t a slam-dunk transfer, but it usually satisfied.
The film's monaural soundtrack seemed positive given its age and lack of ambition. Dialogue seemed nicely warm and natural, and I never found any difficulties in regard to intelligibility or edginess. The music appeared smooth and clean, with reasonably good range. Effects were relatively clear and realistic, and even the louder segments evidenced very little sign of distortion. For audio attached to a nearly 40-year-old movie, this mix sounds quite good.
Sundance is essentially a port of Fox's 1994 laserdisc release. I never owned that set, so I can't personally comment on what it may discard, but from what I've read, it appears that the DVD duplicates virtually everything from that LD set.
First comes an audio commentary with director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David, documentary director Robert Crawford Jr., and cinematographer Conrad Hall. All were recorded separately for this edited track. David's contribution is nearly nonexistent, as he only pops up when "Raindrops..." plays and offers a few comments about it. The remainder of the commentary seems split pretty evenly between the other three gentlemen, though I got a bit confused at times. Crawford's voice is fairly high, so I distinguished it easily, but both Hall and Hill sound somewhat similar, and though I could usually figure out which was which, it could be difficult at times.
In any case, this track provides a decent discussion of a variety of issues that relate to the film. We learn about cast, characters, and performances, locations and cinematography, stunts, and various issues during the shoot.
The speakers are at their best when they stick to entertaining anecdotes from the production. For instance, Crawford relates a great one about a bet between Hill and Redford. The conversation can seem a bit dry at times, however. A surprising amount of dead air occurs, and this makes matters plod. It's a worthwhile commentary but rarely anything better than pretty good.
Next comes a 1994 documentary called The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Made concurrent with the film’s production, this 42-minute and nine-second piece creates an unconventional look at the film's genesis because all of the narration comes from cast and crew. Every piece of explanation we hear is from director Hill, actors Paul Newman and Robert Redford, or writer William Goldman. However, it should be noted that Hill dominates the track; I'd estimate his narration comprises at least 75 percent of the piece.
The program seems unusual not just because it's the film's creators who narrate it through interview segments; it also features virtually no on-screen interviews or action that we watch without narration other than some clips from the movie itself. The narration clearly corresponds to the on-screen events, but it takes a little while to get used to the format since there's no "true" narrator to guide us through things.
“Making” looks at a mix of issues. We get notes about casting, characters, and performances, story notes, the relationship among the actors, locations and production pressures, cinematography, stunts and effects, the flick’s use of music, and a variety of problems along the way.
The piece works tremendously well. That's partly because the video footage is revealing and interesting to watch, but it’s mainly due to the frank and fascinating comments. Hill especially seems very honest and up-front with his statements as he relates problems on the set and things he dislikes about the film. This would be surprising enough had the track been recorded recently, but seems even more surprising since it happened before the movie even hit theaters! Such honesty is rare in these kinds of programs, and it's tremendously refreshing to here it from all the participants. I genuinely enjoyed "Making" and found it to be one of the better documentaries I've seen in a while. (By the way, be sure to stay until the end - Hill's statement about how he'll react if the film bombs is hilarious!)
A collection of *1994 Interviews fill a total of 49 minutes and 42 seconds. We hear from Paul Newman (10 minutes, 17 seconds), Robert Redford (11:12), Katharine Ross (9:03), William Goldman (14:02), and Burt Bacharach (2:43). In addition, there are two other sections called "Maybe Some of What Follows Is True" (1:45) and "All Of What Follows Is True" (0:45. We get some hilariously contradictory statements in the first piece, while the second provides a general "wrap-up" from the five previous interviewees.
All in all, most of the content’s pretty good. Some of the material we hear is vaguely redundant, but even when a subject about which we've already learned is broached, it's usually from a different perspective. For instance, we learn a different look at Ross's "banishment" from the set). The interviews are frequently fascinating - especially since Redford and Newman aren't exactly talk show regulars - and they definitely warrant attention.
One note: do not watch these interviews until you've listened to the audio commentary. Some of the statements will make little to no sense if you screen these segments first. The way they're presented literally assumes you already know the commentary. You've been forewarned!
Another note, and a complimentary one: kudos to Fox for adding English subtitles to the supplemental materials (the interviews and the documentary). Far too few DVD extras bother to do so, and I'm always pleased to see it when it occurs.
This package provides some unique Production Notes. These aren't the usual text summaries of various issues; instead we find copies of a number of different memos passed back and forth among the principal filmmakers, most notably Goldman, as they apparently came from his collection. These can be rather difficult to read at times - the resolution just isn't that great - but they're worth the effort, as they offer a blunt look at some of the quibbling that occurs during the making of a film.
The DVD finishes with three theatrical trailers plus an alternate credit roll. What's the point of the latter? Damned if I know - there's no context provided for it, so we don't learn why there's a second version. Finally, we find some brief biographies of the three leads and of Hill.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid isn't a great movie, but I found it to offer a fair amount of fun and entertainment, mainly sparked by the strong chemistry of its stars. The DVD itself features good image, sound and supplements. All in all, Sundance makes for a solid DVD that merits your money.
To rate this film visit the Ultimate Collector's Edition review of BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID