A Fistful of Dollars Special Edition DVD Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database

Fistfulqaramount.jpg
  • Published in Germany by Paramount (2 DVDs, PAL, Region 2, English and German audio, subtitles, menus and extras)
  • (Artikel auf Deutsch lesen)

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The Film

A mysterious stranger (Eastwood) appears in a little border town, where two rivaling gangster families, the Baxters and the Rojos, are fighting for power. He senses business and begins to play the two sides against each other. With the help of the barkeeper Silvanito he starts to changingly hire for the one side and then the other or providing the gangs with false information to make them mad at each other. Many corpses later, and after he kidnapped the wife of Ramón Rojo (Volontè) in order to help her to escape with her real husband and son, the Rojos raise suspicion and they beat up the stranger badly. But with the help of the local gravedigger (Egger) he manages to escape, recover and prepare for the final confrontation with Ramón....

click here for the film article page

Opinion

Sergio Leone's western permiere about the sole stranger that plays two gangs against each other just like in Kurosawa's Yojimbo, is known as the birth hour of the "new" Spaghetti Western (there were Italian westerns before!). With his Dollars movies he set the bar and changed the genre. While the script/plot of the film is flawed, it is excellently made. Leone's brandmarks are already well visible and Morricone's score gives a glimpse of what there was to come. A Fistful of Dollars is a wonderfully entertaining Spaghetti Western, an absolute must-see for every fan and a milestone in cinema history. To mention a bad word about the film would be blasphemy, but I personally prefer For a Few Dollars more to this one and my neck hair gets erected by the script of this one, but the basic plot comes from Kurosawa and works great there. So great, that Walter Hill picked it up to make Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis in the 90s (and I like that one).

Audio & Video

The film has English and German subtitles for the film and extras.

Sound

  • German Dolby Digital 1.0 mono (original theatrical dub; completely restored)
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono (completely restored)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Upmix (taken over from MGM's release)

The German track is very well restored. Although the track sounds minimally unbalanced and mono is of course a bit old fashioned, especially on modern equipment, the film is greatly presented with it. The track features the original theatrical dub, which is not as "funny" as the 70s re-dub by Rainer Brandt, the famous german dubbing revolutioner. I think this serves the film well, although this dub is still not as true to the script as the English version. According to TLEFilms the 70s dub wasn't as complete as this one. Both tracks (English and German mono) have been completely remastered, restoring and resynching all sounds and dialogue to match the footage - sounds that weren't even audible anymore on many versions. Great work!

The English mono track sounds similar to the German one. But the English dub is just not as good, although it scores with Eastwood's real voice. The English dub also shows that the German dub is still a bit more off the script. The English 5.1 Upmix was taken over 1:1 from MGM and doesn't sound as good as you'd expect it after the Once Upon A time in the West DVD or the Good Bad and Ugly DVD, but a bit more unrealistic and hollow, because it isn't as exhaustively restored, gunshots have been renewed and due to the upmix it is is all too hollow. So it is a matter of taste which one you choose, because the music for one, sounds better on the upmix.

Picture

The restored transfer looks a good tad better than the MGM one, which hat too much blue to it and didn't look as colorful. Here, they cleaned up the footage even more and the result can really show. There is some flickering here and there and visible edge halos on some occasion, but the transfer is sharp and clean. First class, just not perfect. To enthusiasts it is a bit disappointing that there's only the English version of the credits.

Format: 2.35:1 widescreen (16x9 enhanced), PAL

Extras

  • Audio commentary by Christopher Frayling (resynched to match the film better): The Leone expert leads you through the film and isn't shy with his knowledge. And that's a lot of knowledge. An absolutely great commentary. I don't know (yet) how it compares to his other commentary work.
  • Trailers: A sinister American trailer and a double-bill trailer with the other Dollar Film. The first in good, the latter in bad quality.
  • The US Version comparison: "Not ready for prime time" explains, how Monte Hellman had to shoot a prologue for the film in the 1970s that was shown before the credits, to please the cable TV guys who considered the films morale not fitting. Of course they did not get Clint Eastwood for this. It shows a little story establishing Eastwood's character as prisoner released on condition that he kills all gangsters in a border town that's an itch on the government's agenda. "The Nework Prologue" - starring Harry Dean Stanton as an army officer - shows the prologue itself and a little interview with the guy who provided the footage.
  • About the transfer: A long text (from TLEFilms) informing you about the restauration process
  • Documentaries: In "A new kind of hero" Sir Christopher Frayling analyses and explaisn the Film and Leone's influence on the Genre (22 mins). Another interesting clip is the 2003 interview with Eastwood titled "A Few weeks in Spain" where he talks about his experiences with the film and reveals some funny facts (8 mins). "Tre Voci" (Three Voices) is an interview with Sergio Donati, the screenwriter, Alberto Grimaldi, the famous producer, and Mickey Knox, the American dubbing specialist (11 mins). "Restoration Italian Style" is the MGM documentary on the restoration process, which basically - considering this release - only fits on what happened before Paramount picked up the work on it for this release (5 mins). The "Location comparison" shows 5 minutes of film footage in comparison to pictures of the locations today.
  • Radio spots: 10 quite sinister American radio spots exploiting the "Man with no Name" myth.
  • DVD Promo Trailers: 2 Paramounttrailers promoting the Nobody and Dollars DVDs

Verdict

Leone's masterpiece finally in a flawless version on the German DVD market. And the worldwide best version on top of that. Paramount and TLE have done an outstanding job on this. The film looks great (albeit visibly from bad conditioned material) and the audio was restored with great effort. The 5.1 track is a nice extra but not the choice for purists. The extras are very informative and well chosen. All in all this DVD is an absolute must buy for cineasts and of course for Spaghetti buffs. Owners of the MGM Editions might even consider switching over, mainly because of the well restored audio tracks.

Bottom line: Film 4.5/5 - Audio 4.5/5 - Video 4/5 - Extras 5/5


--Sebastian 15:39, 3 Oct 2005 (CEST)

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