The Good, the Bad and the Ugly appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Most of the time the picture looked good for its age, but I saw a little too much bad and ugly to allow it to truly prosper.
Sharpness usually seemed fine. Due to some fairly prominent edge enhancement on occasion, wider shots came across as somewhat ill-defined. Otherwise, the movie looked reasonably crisp and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering. Print flaws created more definite concerns. Various examples of specks, marks, grit, streaks, and hairs cropped up throughout the movie. The defects never became heavy and they cleaned up somewhat as the movie progressed, but they created more distractions than I’d like.
Given the film’s setting, colors tended toward an arid, dry palette. The DVD reproduced them fairly well. They sometimes seemed a little murky, but usually the hues were acceptably accurate and clear. Black levels came across as pretty deep and firm, and low-light shots were also clean and neatly defined. Ultimately, Ugly seemed generally satisfying but too flawed to earn a grade above a “B-“.
Even more concerns popped up via the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The audio came from a monaural source; indeed, we find the original Italian mono track on this DVD as well. The soundfield of the 5.1 mix opened things up, but not always in a satisfactory manner.
One problem occurred because the elements demonstrated very “speaker-specific” orientation most of the time. When speech came from the sides, it came hard from the sides. The same also usually went for effects; when the track tried to pan, it did so awkwardly and abruptly. This meant the result didn’t seem very natural.
Music showed acceptable stereo imaging, and the surrounds contributed a little support. The rear speakers failed to play a strong role in the proceedings, though they occasionally added some unique elements. Those mainly occurred during the sequences with battle elements, as the sounds of war might appear in localized parts of the rear. Otherwise, the track maintained a heavy emphasis on the front speakers.
Audio quality seemed lackluster, and most of the concerns centered around the dialogue. Ugly offered a mish-mash of native languages; from character to character, it jumped from English to Italian, so whichever soundtrack you choose, you’ll find some looped lines. These tended to blend poorly and often seem very obvious. Heck, even when the original line came in English, it might not fit this track well. Especially from some of the restored footage, some pieces showed bad synchronization.
Even without the lip-synch problems, the dialogue didn’t come across very well. The lines often sounded brittle and edgy. I usually didn’t find it tough to understand the material, but the quality of the recording seemed uninspired. Effects followed suit, as they mostly seemed a bit thin and harsh. A little low-end added occasional oomph to the presentation, but the elements still came across as flawed. Ennio Morricone’s famous score didn’t fare any better, as it sounded fairly shrill and tinny much of the time. Much of the movie displayed something of a loose echo that gave it an unnatural sense of distance. Given the age of the material, I thought the audio still merited a “C”, mainly because of the extra spatial qualities of the remix. Nonetheless, it seemed like a generally flawed track.
For this two-DVD release of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, we get a mix of extras. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary from film critic Richard Schickel, who offers a running, screen-specific chat. Schickel’s done more than a few prior commentaries, but he tends to be pretty hit or miss. This one’s better than average for Schickel, as he offers a fairly useful look at the flick.
Schickel gets into a mix of subjects. He talks about Leone’s work in general and some specifics about Ugly. He relates notes about the collaboration between Leone and Eastwood and other bits connected to the cast. Schickel chats about interpretation of thematic elements plus production subjects and other pieces. The conversation sags at times, especially during the second half, and Schickel also makes some sloppy errors such as when he claims Angel Eyes is the “ugly” character. Nonetheless, Schickel mostly gives us an informative examination of the creation of Ugly and other related elements.
As we head to DVD Two, we begin with a documentary called Leone’s West. This 19-minute and 53-second program looks at the film’s creation via movie shots, archival materials, and interviews with Schickel, English language version translator Mickey Knox, producer Alberto Grimaldi, and actors Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach. They get into the origins of spaghetti westerns and Leone’s flicks, Eastwood’s attitude toward the projects and his costumes, Wallach’s casting and initial impressions, memories of the shoot itself and the locations, dealing with language issues, Leone’s techniques, the spontaneous nature of the shoot and dubbing the flick, the movie’s lack of dialogue, and the Blondie character. It seems somewhat scattershot as it flits from one area to another without much logic; it definitely doesn’t provide a tightly organized look at the movie. Still, it includes a fair amount of good information and keeps fluff to a minimum, so it deserves a look.
Next we find another documentary entitled The Leone Style. This 23-minute and 46-second piece uses the same format as the prior show; we get remarks from Eastwood, Knox, Schickel, Wallach, and Grimaldi. They go over the film’s languid pacing, Leone’s visual preferences and picture framing, the influence of art and other directors on Leone, Leone’s working style, casting, violence, the lack of safety precautions on the set, historical accuracy, and various notes from the shoot. Expect “Style” to resemble “West”, as it includes some nice material but doesn’t progress in a terribly logical manner. It moves through a good mix of issues and gets into useful topics, though, and it remains a lively piece.
In The Man Who Lost the Civil War, we find a 14-minute and 22-second discussion looks at the actual events that provide the background for Ugly. It examines the disastrous campaign led by General Henry Sibley. Narrated by Morgan Sheppard, we learn of the plan to march along the Texas/New Mexico border and take various Union stores and forts all the way up through Colorado and eventually make it to California. The program follows the effort in a brisk and concise manner, and it offers a solid documentation of the events.
For a featurette on the film’s audio, we turn to Reconstructing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In this 11-minute and seven-second piece, we learn about the restoration of the original cut of the film. We hear from Wallach, Grimaldi, Triage Labs owner Paul Rutan Jr., and MGM Director of Technical Services John Kirk as they discuss the challenges involved in the movie’s restoration. This includes a discussion of Techniscope concerns, new looping for the English dialogue, remixing and re-recording, and bringing back the excised footage. It’s a fairly decent examination of the actions taken to fix up Ugly.
Another featurette looks at the movie’s composer. Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly goes for seven minutes, 47 seconds as we get notes from film music historian Jon Burlingame. He talks about Morricone’s early career and specifics of the Ugly score, with an emphasis on a few particular cues. Burlingame provides a reasonably concise exploration of the topics and makes this a somewhat dry but generally useful discussion.
Connected to this we find an audio-only piece in which music scholar Jon Burlingame provides an analysis of Morricone’s score. It runs 12 minutes, 25 seconds, as Burlingame chats about the origins of the collaboration between Morricone and Leone as well as more details about the composer’s work on Ugly. Burlingame seems more engaging here than during the prior featurette, as he details the audio nicely.
A set of deleted scenes arrives next. This includes an “Extended Tuco Torture Scene” (seven minutes, 14 seconds), a reconstructed version of “The Socorro Sequence” (3:02), and the movie’s French trailer (3:30), which presents some alternate angles and cut footage. The second one seems the most interesting, as it offers the greatest amount of new material.
Inside the Poster Gallery, eight international ads appear. We also get the film’s trailer and a collection of ads entitled Other Great MGM Releases. This gives us promos for The Great Escape, Escape from New York and Windtalkers plus a general ad called “MGM Means Great Movies”.
A few paper materials finish the set. An eight-page booklet mainly consists of a recent essay from Roger Ebert. We also find five postcard-size international mini-posters. These offer the flick’s ads from the US, Germany, Italy, France and Japan.
One of the best westerns ever made, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly remains a terrific piece of work. The movie presents a vivid sense of style with memorable characterizations and flies by despite its long running time. The DVD gives us erratic but decent picture plus flawed audio and a pretty positive collection of supplements. Despite some problems with the visuals and sound, this seems like a nice release of an excellent film that definitely comes with my recommendation.