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For a Few Dollars More Blu-ray Disc Review

For a Few Dollars More: 1967 U.S. movie poster For a Few Dollars More

US Theatrical Release: May 10, 1967 / Running Time: 132 Minutes / Rating: R (originally rated M in 1969)

Director: Sergio Leone / Writers: Sergio Leone (scenario & screenplay), Luciano Vincenzoni (screenplay & dialogue), Fulvio Morsella (scenario), Fernando Di Leo, Sergio Donati (uncredited)

Cast: Clint Eastwood (Manco), Lee Van Cleef (Colonel Douglas Mortimer), Gian Maria Volonté (El Indio), Mara Krup (Mary), Luigi Pistilli (Groggy), Klaus Kinski (Juan Wild), Josef Egger (Old Prophet), Panos Papadopulos (Sancho Perez), Benito Stefanelli (Luke "Hughie"), Roberto Camardiel (Tucumcari Station Clerk), Aldo Sambrell (Cuchillo), Luis Rodriguez (Manuel), Tomás Blanco (Tucumcari Sheriff), Lorenzo Robledo (Tomaso), Sergio Mendizábal (Tucumcari Bank Manager Mr. J Dawson), Dante Maggio (Carpenter), Diana Rabito (Calloway's Girl), Giovanni Tarallo (Santa Cruz Telegraphist), Mario Brega (Nino) / Uncredited: Rosemary Dexter (Mortimer's Sister), José Terrón (Guy Calloway), José Marco (Baby "Red" Cavanagh)

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The Man with No Name Trilogy Blu-rayThe Man with No Name Trilogy DVDThe Clint Eastwood DVD Collection

It took The Man with No Name to give Clint Eastwood a household one. Eastwood had nearly a decade of minor American film roles, some credited, most not, under his belt when he went to Italy to make three films for a young, not particularly experienced director named Sergio Leone. Eastwood, then several years into his eight-season supporting actor run on CBS' "Rawhide", would not only find success in Italy but around the globe. His three Leone movies cemented both director and star's association with the western genre.
Though not initially given much serious attention by critics (whose nickname for them -- "spaghetti westerns" -- has long lost its negative connotations), Eastwood and Leone's 1960s collaborations are today held up as cinematic landmarks by which all other westerns are measured.

In perfect contrast to the normal creative diminishment, the best known and best regarded of the trilogy, which is linked by style and themes but not narrative, is the final film, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo in its native country), which was a bona fide hit in the States upon its December 1967 release there. It currently ranks as the fifth highest-rated movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database, trailing only The Shawshank Redemption, the first two Godfather films, and Pulp Fiction. While that mostly just reflects the film tastes of young, tech-savvy men, it still counts for something. You wouldn't expect episodes of the original Star Wars trilogy and Lord of the Rings to trail much, let alone a 45-year-old western. The sentiment has been echoed by modern critics and academics who now find it easy to recognize the movie's great artistic value.

Leone and Eastwood's two earlier efforts, released to Italy in 1964 and 1965, made their way to American cinemas earlier in 1967, building an audience for this stylish, violent new form. They too presently rank among the IMDb's Top 250, with the first, A Fistful of Dollars (Per Un Pugno Di Dollari), hanging onto #220, and the second, For a Few Dollars More (Per Qualche Dollaro in Piů) claiming #113.

"For a Few Dollars More" stars Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as sharp-shooting bounty killers who join forces.

The bold title indicates it is that middle installment, For a Few Dollars More, that I am writing about today. It made its Blu-ray debut in MGM's The Man with No Name Trilogy in June of 2010 and then received its own identical standalone release, reviewed here, in August 2011.

The film stars Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef (another veteran whose career Leone jump-started and soon the Bad of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) as two skilled, laconic bounty killers in post-Civil War New Mexico. The opening scenes show each at work. Douglas Mortimer (Van Cleef), a colonel from the Carolinas, pulls an emergency brake on a commuter train to get off in Tucumcari and collect a $1,000 reward. In nearby White Rocks, Manco (Eastwood) pops into a saloon and calmly shoots down a poker-playing outlaw and anyone who takes his side. Such kills are small time jobs for the fearless Mortimer and Manco, who both set their sights on El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté), a notorious fugitive whose gang busts him out of prison.

Aware of Mortimer's presence and intentions, Manco tries to intimidate the old-timer out of town. Instead, the two ace gunslingers reluctantly decide to join forces and split El Indio's $10,000 bounty down the middle. Manco infiltrates El Indio's gang by springing one of his associates from jail. While the gang is plotting to rob the wealthy Bank of El Paso, Manco and Mortimer are planning to outwit them, one on the inside and one on the outside, to receive the big payout.

From a pulpit in an abandoned church, El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) preaches to his bandits about the El Paso bank they are to rob. Klaus Kinski plays hunchbacked bandit Juan Wild, seen here interrupting Mortimer's meal to settle a score.

It is a lot of fun to see Eastwood and Van Cleef, so memorable as adversaries in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, team up in this earlier film, their similar manners clashing amidst heavy skepticism and buried respect for one another.
For a Few Dollars More isn't as strongly plotted or iconically executed as the actors' next pairing, but it still delights in much the same way.

Leone's films are so richly textured. You get the bold, striking widescreen compositions. You get an always flavorful score by Ennio Morricone, this one driven by flutes, bells, and trumpets. Fused together, great intrigue emerges from something as simple as heavies like Eastwood and Van Cleef standing and squintily staring.

El Indio is a formidable villain requiring such sharpshooters to ally. He wields a musical pocket watch whose jingle he uses in duels to decide when the shooting begins. We are treated to recurring dreamlike views of a deadly home invasion by a younger Indio that provides some motivation to slowly be revealed.

The international cast also includes an appearance by German actor Klaus Kinski in the part of a wild-eyed hunchback infuriated by Mortimer. Kinski would soon come to be known for his leading roles in Werner Herzog films such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Nosferatu, the Vampyre, and Fitzcarraldo.

For a Few Dollars More Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish), Dolby Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 2, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $16.99 Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available as 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD ($19.98 SRP; June 5, 2007), on Amazon Instant Video, and in The Man with No Name Trilogy Blu-ray ($39.98 SRP; June 1, 2010), The Man with No Name Trilogy DVD ($29.98 SRP; October 5, 1999), and The Clint Eastwood DVD Collection ($24.98 SRP; November 3, 1999)
Previous releases: 1-Disc DVD (July 28, 1998) and Sergio Leone Anthology (June 5, 2007)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Blu-ray of course presents Techniscope production For a Few Dollars More in 2.35:1, the original widescreen aspect ratio in which it must be seen. The picture shows some wear. Small white and colored specks feature on a somewhat regular basis. But the clear and vibrant transfer is otherwise pretty good, giving us Leone's deep, savory visuals with great detail and sharpness, and a fittingly small amount of grain. The default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio remix includes some good surround effects, although there is no hiding the simplicity of the dated original recordings, specifically in the thin dialogue. A more faithful 2.0 Dolby Mono English soundtrack is also provided, along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish dub.

If you're not accustomed to spaghetti westerns, you might be surprised by the picture and sound frequently being off. In fact, only Van Cleef seems to have perfectly recreated his lines in post-production lip-synching. Everyone else, including the American actors replacing Italians and foreigners' phonetic pronunciations, suffers from some disconnect here and there. It takes a little getting used to, but the film clearly deserves the effort and, for fans of the genre, it adds to the charm.

Christopher Frayling shows off one of his many beloved "For a Few Dollars More" posters. A younger, unbespectacled Sir Christopher Frayling discusses the film in the standard-definition featurette "A New Standard."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The mostly standard definition extras begin with "The Christopher Frayling Archives" (19:02, HD), evidently a staple for Leone's trilogy on Blu-ray. Leone biographer and film historian Frayling shows off his collection of For a Few Dollars More posters and albums from around the world,
speaking passionately about both the film and its marketing designs.

Sir Frayling also provides an audio commentary on the film. He speaks consistently and usually pertaining to what's onscreen, but only occasionally narrating. He has loads of information on the film's Hollywood influences, dubbing process (Gian Maria Volonté spoke no English), shooting locations, the cast (Lee Van Cleef often rode circus horses), the music, the tone, and the target audience. It's an enlightening listen.

"A New Standard: Sir Christopher Frayling on For a Few Dollars More" (20:14, SD) gathers more thoughts and context from the Englishman, with his remarks set to clips and stills. He talks about casting, marijuana depiction, Leone's direction and his influential brand of gun violence.

In this 2003 interview, Clint Eastwood recalls coming "Back for More." El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) lets out one of his signature laughs in the longer, more violent version of scene. The Almeria, Spain church where El Indio's gang congregated has been restored and is back in use as this Location Comparisons photo illustrates.

From 2003, "Back for More: Clint Eastwood Remembers For a Few Dollars More" (7:08, SD) has the legendary actor/director reflect on his experiences with Leone and discussing, somewhat critically, the fruits of their labors.

"Tre Volci (Three Voices) Remember For a Few Dollars More" (11:05, SD) collects the reflections of producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati, and American actor Micky Knox (involved in Leone's English dubs). A few insider stories about Van Cleef, Leone, Morricone, and Eastwood emerge.

"The Original American Release Version" (5:18, SD) is not an extremely short alternate cut of the film, but a piece that shows us and explains three alterations performed for the U.S. theatrical release. The trims are compared to the feature presentation, which restores most of the snippets.

"Location Comparisons" (12:16, SD) photographically revisits the filming sites in Almeria, Spain. While the bits shot on town sets constructed and destroyed have boring present-day counterparts, the clips shot on locations still civilized yield some value.

The film's three leads get tinted red in the longer of the film's two original theatrical trailers. Lee Van Cleef is artistically rendered in the Blu-ray's stylish three-dimensional menu loop.

Twelve Radio Spots (7:36) promote the film to American audiences with gunshots, repeated taglines ("it's the second motion picture of its kind... it won't be the last") and confusing hyperbole (advertising a double feature with A Fistful of Dollars: "both are rated M and each is better than the other") over a looped slideshow of some HD black & white publicity stills.

Finally, we get two For a Few Dollars More theatrical trailers in high definition. One (2:29) lets disarranged scenes from the movie speak for themselves, while the other (3:44) prefaces them with excited talk about the reunion of Eastwood with Gian Maria Volonte ("John Wells") and Sergio Leone ("better known as Bob Robertson").

While catalog MGM Blu-rays don't always get menus, this one's box set origins ensure it does. It's a cool one too, moving around the desert through cut-out character stills as some of Morricone's fine score plays. The disc also resumes playback and supports bookmarks on the film. No slipcover or inserts are provided around or within the eco-friendly keepcase.

In one of the most iconic roles of his long career, Clint Eastwood plays The Man with No Name, who is pretty clearly named Manco here.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sergio Leone perfected the spaghetti western with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West,
two of the greatest films ever made. For a Few Dollars More isn't quite in the same league, but it's a solid step in that direction and one certainly to see if you are fond of the genre or simply wanting to brush up on it.

This Blu-ray appears to be the film's strongest release yet, but unless you consider one of the three installments unworthy of owning, The Man with No Name Trilogy would be the better value, even with its present comparably mild discounting and unfortunate lack of Good's original theatrical cut.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Sergio Leone: Once Upon a Time in the West (Blu-ray) | Starring Lee Van Cleef: The Grand DuelEscape from New York
Fernando Di Leo Crime CollectionLone Wolf McQuadeThe Last Hard Men & Sky Riders
Westerns: True Grit (2010)HondoRangoDead ManBilly Two HatsThe Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin
1960s: BarbarellaPlanet of the ApesDoctor ZhivagoA Thousand Clowns

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Reviewed September 11, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1967 United Artists, 2011 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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