There are two kinds of men…

Monday, 15 September 2003 — 10:31pm | Film, Full reviews

Those with loaded guns, and those who dig – dig a certain movie, that is.

Yes, I know. I’m behind on my movie reviews. I usually don’t move ahead until I’m all caught up but tonight’s cinematic experience cannot go that long without comment. Here’s my capsule attempt to catch up on what I’ve seen in theatres lately: Seabiscuit is very much worth your time; Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is not worth your time at all, but at least it’s a real movie, unlike its eyesore of a predecessor; Whale Rider was a refreshing break from multiplex fare; and American Splendor, albeit imperfect, is in many ways a shining example of what a comic book movie should be.

Good. Now let’s move on.

One of Edmonton’s redeeming qualities – in fact, one so redeeming that it can be said to be clearly to the city’s credit – is a little place called the Metro Cinema down at the Citadel. After missing the screenings earlier this weekend for various reasons, I finally straightened out my priorities and decided that no degree of homework or studying could justify missing a theatrical absorption of Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo – better known as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

I see little need to speak of the film itself. It is the best Western of all time, period. Some will point to The Searchers, the first two films in the Man With No Name trilogy or Unforgiven, and those claims are not without merit; but it was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that served as the pinnacle of the genre, the one Western that became a historical epic. Certainly it lacks Unforgiven‘s emotional depth, but one should consider that Eastwood’s tribute to the genre that made him was directly spawned from his earlier work in the spaghettis. Leone’s film is the genre’s seminal exploration of immorality and greed, and if you haven’t seen it, drop what you are doing and see it right now. In the meantime, I will elaborate on tonight’s screening itself.

For the most part, the transfer was almost as pristine as the DVD, full of that high-contrast Technicolor look and all the vibrance it brings. The print quality was not always consistent, and degradation was noticeable in some shots, but aside from that minor complaint the experience was immersive. There really is nothing like seeing Clint Eastwood’s trademark Man With No Name trudge through the desert, a broken man on the edge of death, sunburnt and blistered to all hell, in the context of a big screen and an audience full of fellow film lovers such as myself who knew every shot in the piece, but never quite so intimately. The scene where Blondie and Tuco take on Angel Eyes’ goons amidst the shelling of an abandoned town is a magnified thrill. In a darkened theatre, the final shootout has an aura of suspense much greater than how it looks on a television set. As it cuts from eyes to holster to holster to eyes, it holds the audience captive. There are no distractions from Leone’s patient strokes, so effective in the face of the paradigm of rapidity that envelops today’s action flicks.

But there’s more.

When I went to the cinema tonight, what I didn’t know was that they were showing the three-hour Extended English Edition that I had only heard about in rumours about a reissued DVD.

As the first of the re-inserted scenes appeared – Tuco talking to a dead chicken before he rounds up the gang with which he takes on Blondie in the inn – the audience was in shock. There are some other transitional sequences, including a critical one that shows how Angel Eyes found out about the prison camp on his search for Bill Carson. This, and some of the other scenes, are present on the current DVD but only with the Italian dialogue track. There are others that are not – not just entire scenes, but little nuances here and there that were never in the original. The best one is a lengthier sequence that shows how the One-Armed Man identified Tuco and stalked him, as the latter readied a bath – a welcome prelude to the classic “Shoot, don’t talk” scene.

However, the Extended cut in its current state is a far cry from being a permanent and definitive replacement for the theatrical version to which we are all used, unlike similar extended incarnations of films such as Almost Famous, Blade Runner and The Fellowship of the Ring. The reason is that the re-inserted scenes lack a certain polish. It is most evident in the ADR work; simply put, a good number of the English dubs are poorly done and make the scenes look out of place with the rest of the movie.

The most intrusive of the lot is Tuco, who has most of the lines in the added sequences. Eli Wallach re-dubbed his lines himself, but his voice has aged considerably, and is significantly croakier than how Tuco sounds in the rest of the movie. A more rigorous sound editing process might have ironed it out, and I hope that is done before this cut sees a Region 1 DVD release. Eastwood fares a little better; he has few new lines, but only a handful of them have the gruffer sound of the Eastwood of today. As for the other voice actors who dubbed over the Italian, there are some major synchronization issues that were never present in the original film despite its having Italian extras dubbed over as well.

Despite the fact that some of the restored sequences do not fit into the movie as well as they could, watching this film in a cinema setting was something to be glad about. Unfortunately, today was its last day at the Metro; however, if it ever pops up anywhere accessible, do not miss it by any means.

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