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. I felt very impressed by this high-quality transfer.
Sharpness faltered only in a few minor ways. Some shots displayed light softness, partially due to some mild edge enhancement. However, the vast majority of the flick demonstrated solid clarity and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws were minimal. I detected a handful of specks but nothing distracting.
The first nine minutes of Sundance appeared in sepiatone, and about 70 minutes into the film, another short segment roughly 70 utilized this tone. 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 takes place in the dusty Old West. In any case, colors appeared accurate and well-saturated. They didn't blast off the screen but they looked very nice.
Black levels were appropriately deep and firm, while most low-light shots demonstrated good definition. Only a few “day for night” elements came across as too dark, but that’s a problem with the technique, not the transfer. Ultimately, I found little to criticize in this terrific visual presentation.
In addition to the original monaural soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this DVD offered a new stereo remix. Very few segments differentiated the two. Some of the movie’s music demonstrated mild stereo imaging, but that was it. Since the flick featured so little music, the audio almost always played as a one-channel mix. I flipped between the two and found it very difficult to tell the difference between them.
In any case, I found the audio of Sundance to appear quite satisfying given its age. 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 parts evidenced very little sign of distortion. For audio attached to a nearly 40-year-old movie, this mix sounds quite good.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” compare with those of the original 2000 DVD? I thought both offered similar sound, but differences emerged when I compared the visuals. The 2000 disc provided a cleaner transfer that lacked the handful of source flaws, but it also looked a little softer and murkier. Black levels appeared a bit flat, and shadows were darker. It still seemed pretty good, but the 2006 transfer was the better of the two.
When we look at the extras on this “Ultimate Collector’s Edition”, we find everything from the 2000 DVD plus plenty of new materials. I’ll mark new components with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the element also appeared on the old disc.
On DVD One, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from 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.
For the second track, we hear from *screenwriter William Goldman. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Goldman gives us a strong discussion for the first act, but he slows down badly after that point. He doesn’t tell us much during the rest of the film, and dead air dominates. When he talks, he often relates little more than how much he likes some sequences.
Well, at least it’s a good track for half an hour or so. Goldman chats about inspirations for the script and where it shows reality and fiction. He gets into cast and crew, a deleted segment, music, the particulars of some scenes, and the movie’s reception.
Goldman’s at his best when he rants about the industry. He talks about parts of the movie business he doesn’t like and goes on about differences between the old days and today. He gets a serious burr up his butt and makes the conversation lively and interesting. Too bad he peters out before long. Listen to this one for its first half-hour or so but don’t expect much from the rest of the piece.
Disc One concludes with 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!)
As we shift to DVD Two, we open with a new program. *All Of What Follows Is True: The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fills 35 minutes and 27 seconds. It features the standard mix of movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We find notes from Goldman, Redford, Newman, former Fox president Richard Zanuck, filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan, former Fox VP Story Operations David Brown, associate producer Robert Crawford Jr., film critic Jack Mathews, author Andrew Horton, composer Burt Bacharach, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum curator Don Reeves, and actor Katharine Ross.
“True” follows the genesis of the project and its development. It also looks at the status of westerns in the late Sixties, casting, director Hill and his approach to the material, and the relationship between the two leads. “True” then gets into performances, problems with various scenes, different aspects of photography, locations and other production elements, the music, reactions to the film, and its impact on cinema.
Inevitably, after two commentaries and another documentary, some material found here repeats from the other sources. Nonetheless, a fair amount of fresh information pops up to keep things interesting. “True” provides a more than adequate overview of the production and entertains as it goes.
Another documentary follows. *The Wild Bunch: The True Tale of Butch and Sundance runs 25 minutes, 11 seconds. It offers notes from Newman, Reeves, Goldman, Redford, Ross, South American Explorer contributing editors Anne Meadows and Dan Buck, and Oklahoma Historical Society director of Education Whit Edwards.
As expected based on the title, “Bunch” looks at the facts behind the movie’s fiction. We get plenty of fine notes about what parts of the film seem to be accurate and what liberties it takes. Again, we’ve heard some of this elsewhere, but “Bunch” takes a more complete view and gives us a strong take on matters.
Next we head to *History Through the Lens: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Outlaws Out of Time lasts 90 minutes, 16 seconds, and presents remarks from Goldman, Zanuck, Newman, Redford, Hall, Buck, Ross, Meadows, historians Jim Dullenty, Ed Kirby, Butch Cassidy’s sister Lula Parker Betenson (in 1974), Sundance’s great nephew Paul Ernst, Cassidy acquaintances Pearl Baker and Edna Gibbons (in 1974), Sundance’s great niece Donna Ernst, and critic Richard Schickel.
“Outlaws” goes into the roots of the story and problems bringing it to the screen, cinematography and aspects of the production. “Outlaws” mostly provides more historical background about the lives of the real Butch and Sundance and the era in which they operated. To my surprise, it doesn’t repeat a ton of material from the prior historical effort. “Outlaws” looks at related but different issues, so while a bit of redundancy occurs, there’s not enough to cause problems. This is another lively and informative show.
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. The interviews look at topics like the story’s genesis, writing, and path to the screen. We also hear about casting, rehearsals, performances, music, anecdotes from the set, and the film’s success.
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 get a different look at Ross's "banishment" from the set that’s an alternate view of what we hear elsewhere. 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!
A *Deleted Scene lasts four minutes, six seconds. Called “Tent”, it shows Butch and Sundance as they watch the newsreel that shows their demise. This comes near the movie’s end and is interesting to see though not particularly special.
We can watch the clip with or without commentary from George Roy Hill. He provides a few details about the scene and why he cut it. The info works to help us understand the segment’s issues.
Some unusual Production Notes appear next. 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.
A collection of trailers appears under the banner *The Films of Paul Newman. Here we find ads for From the Terrace, Hombre, The Hustler, The Long, Hot Summer, Quintet, The Towering Inferno, The Verdict and What a Way to Go!.
An Alternate Credit Roll goes for two minutes and four seconds.
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. We also get three trailers for Sundance.
Finally, we find a booklet. This offers some photos and a few perfunctory production notes. We don’t learn anything not found elsewhere, but it’s a nice way to finish the set.
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 very strong image plus relatively good sound and some terrific supplements.
This “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” of Sundance acts as a solid upgrade from the 2000 DVD. Audio remains about the same, but both picture and extras are stronger here. Though those areas were good on the prior disc, they leap up on the 2006 version. That makes it the version to own for fans.