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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2010

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"The Man With No Name Trilogy - A Fistful of Dollars" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

The Man With No Name (Eastwood) rides in to a Mexican border town.  As he stops to drink from a well, he sees a little boy sneak into a building only to be sent away by the men inside.  This begins our outlaw’s adventure.  He discovers the town is completely lawless and is home to two rival gangs.  He manages to win favor with the stronger of the two by killing four men from the weaker clan.  When he witnesses a massacre of Mexican soldiers, he decides to set things right.  By manipulating the two bands of criminals, he is able to reunite the boy with his family and destroy all the bad guys in the process.  Peace is restored and the Man With No Name rides off still a mystery to those who know him.

 

Specifications

  • Metro Goldwyn Mayer
  • 1964, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  lint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volonté, Wolfgang Lukschy
  • Directed by Sergio Leone
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is the ultimate expression of the classic Western film.  Shot on location in Spain for a budget of $200,000, A Fistful of Dollars was the first movie to be dubbed a “spaghetti western.”  Director Sergio Leone spoke no English and Clint Eastwood spoke no Italian.  Nevertheless, they came together to create a product that is artistic in many ways and defined the genre.  At times it almost takes on a “film noir” feel with rapid scene changes and tight closeup shots of faces, dusty boots or firing pistols.  Clint Eastwood manages to do more acting with his facial expressions than with dialog.  The bad guys are over-the-top bad killing at will and enjoying every terrible thing they do.  Action tells most of the tale here which is a good thing since the script is hardly poetic.  The violence is fairly extreme with literally dozens of men dying in gun battles.  Though I wasn’t captivated throughout there are moments of intensity where I found I was holding my breath.  This film is a directorial masterpiece if not possessed of the most wonderful screenplay.  Considering the low production value and miniscule budget, Leone did quite a fine job with few resources.  For fans of the genre, this is a must add to your collection.

Technical

Film grain is very evident throughout but I thought it added to the gritty feel appropriately.  Color is natural and perhaps a bit muted but again it fits the subject matter.  The original print was painstakingly restored and I doubt it has ever looked better.  There was almost no evidence of dirt or scratches.  Edge enhancement did pop up here and there but it wasn’t intrusive.  Contrast was excellent with deep blacks and good shadow detail.

The DTS Master Audio track was also about as good as it could be.  The sound for this film is pretty bad overall but that’s not the fault of the transfer.  All the dialog was overdubbed on a soundstage in post-production.  Because of this it has a very one-dimensional sound with no depth or environmental cues.  Another issue is the complete lack of proper lip-sync.  Only Clint Eastwood was able to match his lines with the image.  Every other actor lags noticeably.  The gunshot effects are obviously the same two or three sounds used over and over.  Dynamic range is almost non-existent.  There are a few explosions late in the movie that barely register.  Again, none of this is the fault of the transfer.  At least the engineers were able to add some convincing pans to the front soundstage.  The surrounds and sub are not used in any perceptible way.  Ennio Morricone’s groundbreaking music was the best feature of this disc’s soundtrack.  A radical departure from previous westerns, it features high-pitched instruments like the piccolo along with whistles and shouts.  It further adds to the gritty reality of the film.

Extras

There are quite a few bonus features included in this release.  Two of them utilize film historian Christopher Frayling, one is a commentary track and the other is an HD featurette where he shows off his large memorabilia collection from the film.  Also included are an interview with Clint Eastwood from 2003 and another interview with Frayling this time covering the aspects of the plot and screenplay development.  There is a featurette about how the movie’s extreme violence was censored for TV broadcast and how an entire prologue (which is also on the disc) was filmed to provide “moral justification” for all the murders committed by the Eastwood character.  Finally, there are radio ads and two theatrical trailers.