The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, 1966.
Directed by Sergio Leone.
Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly was restored in 4K a few years ago, and now Kino Lorber has issued it on 4K UltraHD Blu-ray, with an accompanying 2K Blu-ray disc. You’ll only find the theatrical version here, although there’s a new commentary track along with a big batch of bonus features that have been ported over from past editions. Not all the previously-issued extras are included here, though.
Kino Lorber has been on a Sergio Leone kick the last few years, releasing individual Blu-rays of the director’s famous “man with no name” trilogy starring Clint Eastwood as well as a five-Blu-ray set with those movies and Once Upon a Time in the West and A Fistful of Dynamite (aka Duck, You Sucker). Now they’ve taken what’s arguably the most famous of his films, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, and issued it on 4K UltraHD Blu-ray.
The film was actually restored in 4K for the 50th Anniversary Edition released by Kino on Blu-ray and reviewed by me in 2017, and a Blu-ray of the film plus bonus features is included here too – I assume it’s the same one 2K disc previously issued. While that previous edition had the theatrical and extended cuts, this new 4K release only has the theatrical version, so you may want to hold onto that previous set.
Leone fans tend to debate whether the theatrical or extended version of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly is better, and Kino actually put the matter to a vote on Facebook before deciding which version to include here. I’m the kind of film viewer who generally tends to prefer extended cuts of movies, especially classics like this one, so I was on the losing side of that vote. There’s about a 17-minute difference between the two versions, and while a western that pushes the three-hour mark may seem like a bit much, I don’t think you can go wrong with a little more Leone.
Feel free to visit my review of the previous edition to get my thoughts on the film itself. Regarding this new 4K disc, the movie looks exquisite, with an image that’s just about as close to the way it appeared when it unspooled in theaters in 1966. Sure, you can freeze frame it and nitpick little details, and you can find some reviewers online who have done just that, but at this point in the history of home video, folks are doing a lot of navel gazing when they travel down that road.
Most people aren’t going to have the kind of setup, nor the kind of technical understanding, to pick up on little details like the patterns on clothes or the nuances of black shadows (both of which, by the way, look great here). If you don’t pay attention to such things, the film will look great. If you do, you may find a few little irritants here and there, but you’ll likely still be satisfied with what Kino has done here. Physical media sales have been steadily declining, so it’s great that companies like Kino, Arrow, Criterion, Shout!, and others are continuing to carry the torch for those of us who still like looking at shelves full of discs.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly has probably been issued on just about every home video format in existence, so the amount of bonus features created over the decades is something that only the most ardent Leone fans can keep track of. Since I’m not in that camp, I can’t promise that everything found on previous releases has been ported over here between the 4K and Blu-ray platters in this set.
I believe the commentary track found on both discs, and the only one included here, is new. (It’s not in the 50th Anniversary Edition.) It’s by film historian Tim Lucas, who sounds like he’s reading from a script as the film unspools. I appreciate these kinds of “film school in a box” kind of tracks, and there’s plenty of good information found here, but Lucas is a bit flat and sometimes sounds a bit rushed, even though there are some gaps of silence as he waits for the next major moment to unfold. It’s still worth a listen, though.
Approximately 7.5 minutes worth of deleted scenes are the only other bonus feature found on both discs. They were restored in 4K too, and I believe they’re all part of the missing 17 minutes found in the extended cut, which makes me wonder why Kino didn’t just include that version here too, if the whole thing was updated.
The rest of the bonus features are found on the Blu-ray disc:
- Leone’s West (20 minutes): A look back at the director’s westerns, with a particular emphasis on the Dollars trilogy. Schickel, Eastwood, Wallach, producer Alberto Grimaldi, and English translator Mickey Knox all weigh in.
- The Leone Style (24 minutes): Schickel, Eastwood, Wallach, Grimaldi, and Knox all return to talk about how Leone drew inspiration from various sources, including opera, to create his distinctive visual style.
- The Man Who Lost the Civil War (14 minutes): The film’s depiction of the Civil War is largely fictional, but it was based on some real events, and this bonus feature explains the history found there.
- Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone & ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Parts 1 and 2 (20 minutes): A discussion of composer Ennio Morricone’s work with historian John Burlingame. Part 2 is audio-only.
- Reconstruction of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (11 minutes): Restoring the film required not only cleaning up the film but also bringing in Eastwood and Wallach many years later to redub their lines in the newly added scenes. That process happened in 2002.
- The Optical Flip (1 minute): This demonstrates a flip transition that was used in some versions of the movie as a comedic effect.
- Trailers From Hell with Ernest Dickerson (3.5 minutes): The director voices over the film’s trailer and gives his thoughts on the movie.
- Four vignettes with Wallach and Eastwood that run just a few minutes total. Not sure why they weren’t just included somewhere else.
- Two image galleries, one of on-set images and the other of promotional materials.
A big batch of trailers for this movie and the others in the so-called “dollars trilogy” round out the platter.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★