Top

La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review)

September 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

earrings-a

“La Cage aux Folles” is a classic French comedy that people who discover it, fall in love with the film because of its humor and magnificent performances from Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.  Simply delightful and highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671

YEAR OF FILM: 1978

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, Monaural in French, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: United Artists/MGM/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2013

Directed by Edouard Molinaro

Based on a play “La Cage Aux Folles” by Jean Poiret

Screenplay by Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon, Jean Poiret

Producer: Marcello Danon

Co-Producer: Jean Nachbaur

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Monique Isnardon, Robert Isnardon

Production Design by Mario Garbuglia

Set Decoration by Carlo Gervasi

Costume Design by Ambra Danon

Starring:

Ugo Tognazzi as Renato Baldi

Michel Serrault as Albin Mougeotte dit Zaza Napoli

Claire Maurier as Simone Dabelon

Remi Laurent as Laurent Baldi

Carmen Scarpitta as Louise Charrier

Benny Luke as Jacob

Luisa Maneri as Andrea Charrier

Venantino Venantini as Le Chauffer de Charrier

Carlo Reali as Le videur

Guido Cerniglia as Le medecin

Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and Albin (Michel Serrault)—a middle-aged gay couple who are the manager and star performer at a glitzy drag club in Saint-Tropez—agree to hide their sexual identities, along with their flamboyant personalities and home decor, when the ultraconservative parents of Renato’s son’s fiancée come for a visit. This elegant comic scenario kicks off a wild and warmhearted French farce about the importance of nonconformity and being true to oneself. A breakout art-house smash in America, Edouard Molinaro’s La Cage aux Folles inspired a major Broadway musical and the blockbuster remake The Birdcage. But with its hilarious performances and ahead-of-its-time social message, there’s nothing like the audacious, dazzling original movie.

earrings-b

From the director Edouard Molinaro (“Oscar”, “Beaumarchais the Scoundrel”, “The Birdcage”) and actor/writer Jean Poiret (“The Birdcage”, “The Last Metro”, “Poulet au vinaigre”) comes the 1978 film “La Cage Aux Folles”.  A film which was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Director” and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” and a film that was the #1 foreign film in the US for many years.

A beloved comedy for over three decades, “La Cage Aux Folles” has now received the Blu-ray treatment courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“La Cage Aux Folles” introduces us to Renato Baldi (portrayed by Ugo Tognazzi), the manager of the drag nightclub “La Cage aux Folles” and his main star is Zaza Napoli, a flamboyant and neurotic man who is often complaining about the treatment he gets, but Zaza or his real name Albin Mougeotte (portrayed by Michel Serrault) is a man that wants nothing but reassurance that Renato loves him and is not messing around with another man.

And as Renato is busy with business and maintaining his relationship with Albin, his son Laurent (portrayed by Remi Laurent) has come by to pay a visit and to deliver a surprise to his father and that surprise is he is getting married to Simone (portrayed by Claire Maurier), the daughter of a ultra-conservative diplomat Simon Charrier (portrayed by Michel Galabru) and his wife Louise (portrayed by Carmen Scarpitta).

But Simon has his problems as the president of his conservative party died in the arms of a young, Black prostitute and Simon fears that his career as a conservative leader will be jeopardize by his former president’s indiscretions and must make sure that he and his party maintains a clean conservative image.

As Simone gives her parents the surprise announcement that she is to wed Laurent, both Laurent and Simone want their parents to meet, but because her parents are conservative, Laurent convinces his father that for one day, can he pretend to be a man from a conservative home.

So, that means removing anything that looks flamboyant or showcases his father and Albin’s gay lifestyle around the house.  Of course, Albin has a problem of seeing the house losing its charm and thinks he is being kicked out of the house but Renato tries to calm him and tell him that he is not being kicked out but he’s trying to do this for Laurent.

Albin says he can be Laurent’s uncle but the problem is that Albin is not masculine and as Renato tells him to be have like John Wayne, instead he behaves more like Miss John Wayne.

Will Renato and Albin be ready for the face-to-face meeting with Simone’s parents?

earrings-c

VIDEO:

“La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio) in black and white. Compared to the original MGM DVD release, there are quite a few differences one will notice with this 2013 release. For one, how much clearer the video is, without any blurring. Also, noticeable is the contrast and better colors.   black levels are nice and deep. But the most important change would be fact that the film no longer has any signs of dirt, scratches or any marks.  The Criterion Collection has done a magnificent job with clean up.  And this Blu-ray release is the best looking version of this film yet.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K film scanner from a 35 mm interpositive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.

AUDIO/SUBTITLES:

“La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0 and features subtitles in English SDH.  Dialogue and musical score by Ennio Morricone is clean and clear.  I did not notice any hissing or pops during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671” comes with the following special features:

  • Edouard Molinaro – (18:33) Featuring a 2013 interview with director Edouard Molinaro.
  • Archival Footage – Archival footage featuring actor Michel Serrault and Jean Poiret, writer and star of the original stage production of “La Cage aux Folles”Featuring “Les antiquaires” (7:02), “Le monsieur qui veut vendre sa viture” (6:16) and “La Cage aux Folles” (10:24).
  • Laurence Senelick - (22:47) Interview with Laurence Senelick, author of “The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre“.
  • Trailers - (4:05) Featuring the original English and French trailers for “La Cage aux Folles”.

EXTRAS:

“La Cage Aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671″ comes with a 16-page booklet featuring the essay “Folles Family Values” by David Ehrenstein and a March 29, 1942 New York Times article “Lubitsch Answers his Critics”.

earrings-d

A delightful comedy from director Edouard Molinaro and featuring a masterful performance from Michel Serrault.

“La Cage aux Folles” is a French film like no other.  A comedy that has stood the test of time and continues to be a cult film that holds up over 30-years later and despite an American remake known as “The Birdcage”, it’s the original film that remains a French comedy classic.

The film still remains fresh for me after all these years, from the music of Ennio Morricone, Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi playing the role of the manager, Renato Baldi, of the drag club “La Cage aux Folles” and trying to keep the business running but he knows that his boyfriend and the star of the show, Zaza/Albin is important to him.

But as these two have been together all these years and have grown old together, Albin is somewhat of a person who panics and thinks of the negative.  He is not getting the compliments and tends to throw a tantrum nightly before his performance, wondering if Renato loves him.  And as much as Ugo tries to keep their relationship together and deal with Albin’s pessimism, things are heightened when Renato’s son Laurent comes to visit and has big news.

Laurent is getting married to a woman and she happens to be the daughter an ultra-conservative diplomat and that her parents want to meet his family.  But there are things that need to be done in order to make it happen, his father would need to make his flamboyant home to be cleaned up of anything that may give away that his father is gay, to see if his father can have his mother (who he had not seen for years) there and most importantly, to make sure Albin is not there, because he can ruin the special occasion.

Of course, this does not set well with Albin who automatically thinks he’s being kicked out of Renato’s home and worse, trying to hook up with the woman he got pregnant.   But if anything, Albin feels he should be there because he practically help raise Laurent since he was born and his mother was not even there for him.

The performance and emotional swings courtesy of actor Michel Serrault as Albin is hilarious as he wants to be himself, but for Laurent’s sake, tries to be like a man, which is not easy as he has his own way of walking, his own way of sipping tea and sitting on a chair.

So, it’s how this longtime gay couple, have to hide their homosexuality for Laurent’s girlfriend’s parents and to make them think they live a normal life.  And the results are just hilarious.

There are small things that you can’t help but laugh because of the comedy.  From the gay black maid/butler named Jacob (portrayed by Benny Luke), who must do all he can to pretend he is a masculine Black man and when he tries, he tends to overdo it.    But hilarity always ensues when he shows up on screen.

But the whole experience of trying to have a perfect evening is tested when unexpected situations keep happening.

For those who are familiar with “The Bird Cage”, it’s best not to compare the two films despite the American version is based on this film.  The results are different and the performance of the original film is greater, more delightful than its American remake.

Molinaro’s film is able to showcase a film that is progressive and a lifestyle of a gay couple who had raised a straight son, engaged to the daughter of an ultra-conservative diplomat.  I really enjoyed the film for how its able to capture humor but also showing two men who care greatly for each other without forcing anything political to the audience.  There is no agenda with this film, it’s an enjoyable comedy!

As for the Blu-ray release, The Criterion Collection has done a great job with the remastering of this film.  As details and colors are much better, also the overall look is cleaner and visually an improvement over the older MGM DVD.  Also, the dialogue and Ennio Moriccone musical score sound clear and the soundtrack features no audible hiss or any audio problems.  Also, there are archival features plus a 2013 interview with director Edouard Molinaro and more!

If anything, I can only hope that The Criterion Collection releases “La Cage Aux Folles 2″, as the sequel is also hilarious and enjoyable as well!

Overall, “La Cage aux Folles” is a classic French comedy that people who discover it, fall in love with the film because of its humor and magnificent performances from Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.  Simply delightful and highly recommended!

L’Automobile (The Automobile) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the final films featuring one of the greatest actresses of cinema, Anna Magnani.  “L’Automobile” (The Automobile) showcases the actresses in another amazing performance, but it’s also a ’70s film that makes a statement to Italian society of its dependence on the automobile.  A televised film that was a sign of the times, but still a film demonstrating Magnani’s brilliance as an actress.

Images courtesy of ©RAROVIDEO 2011. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: L’Automobile (The Automobile)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1971

DURATION: 93 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Italian with English Subtitles, Monaural

COMPANY: RaroVideo

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2012

Directed by Alfredo Gianetti

Written by Alfredo Gianetti

Produced by Giovanni Bertolucci

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Renato Cinquini

Production Design by Francesco Bronzi

Set Decoration by Osvaldo Desideri

Costume Design by Maria Baroni

Starring:

Anna Magnani as Anna

Vittorio Caprioli as Giggetto

Christian Hay as Lou

Donato Castellaneta as Guidino

Renato Malavasi as Matteo

Pupo De Luca as Istruttore di guida

Ettore Geri as Un tedesco

From the 1962 Oscar winner writer of Divorce – Italian Style and available for the first time on DVD, The Automobile, an episode from the TV mini series The “Three Women”, featuring Italian movie icon Anna Magnani with music composed by the genius Ennio Morricone, comes this classic 70s Italian story of Anna, an experienced prostitute who has become an institution in the Roman nightlife. In reality she is lonely and aimless, and decides to buy a car in order to satisfy her need to feel like a normal woman. On an outing to the beach to celebrate her new sense of freedom she meets two men who convince her to let them drive her new car, and things deteriorate from there.

In 1971, a three film mini-series (“L’Automobile, “1943: Un incontro” and “La Sciantosa”) which aired on Italian television and would feature the work of filmmaker/writer Alfredo Giannetti (“Divorce Italian Style”, “Il ferroviere”, “A Man of Straw”), the music of Ennio Morricone (“The Untouchables”, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”) and most notably the final year of acting for renown actress Anna Magnani.

For many cineaste and those who have watched many Italian Neo-Realism films, Anna Magnani is an actress who was important to cinema as she was known for her roles such as Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” (1945), Luchino Visconti’s “Bellissima” (1951), Daniel Mann’s “The Rose Tattoo” (1955),  Sidney Lumet’s “The Fugitive Kind” (1959) and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Mamma Roma” (1962) to name a few.

So, for many cinema fans, 1971 was the final year to watch Anna Magnani and suffice to say, many fans tuned in.

“L’Automobile” (The Automobile) is a film that features a role that Anna Magnani has played before, a prostitute in post-war Italy, a sign of the time.  But in the case of this film, Anna Magnani is Anna, the prostitute who has been in the business for far too long.

And while observing the younger prostitutes having fun as part of the Roman nightlife, she also notices that the days of women and men meeting indoors have changed to women now leaning in cars waiting for a man.

For Anna, she doesn’t own a car, she rides a bus to the Pines Hotel where she lives and is best known by many men as “The Countess”.

But now Anna wants to experience something different in her life and possibly get out of the career as a prostitute.  What about buying a car?  She has saved up all her hard-earned money, why not buying something she can love, take care of and travel anywhere she wants to go.

Problem is, she doesn’t know how to drive.  So, Anna calls her good friend Giggetto (played by Vittorio Caprioli, “Il Generale della Rovere”, “Tout va bien”, “Le magnifique”), who happens to own a vehicle, that tends to not run all that well.  But hopes he will teach her the basics for riding a car and so it will prepare her for taking a test to obtain her driver’s license.

Eventually, Anna passes her test and buys her dream car, a yellow convertible Fiat.  And for Anna, it’s the first major purchase she has made with her life.  She uses all her savings as a down payment, she purchases the best car insurance possible and she worries about her car as if it was like a child.

But when Anna decides to venture outside of the city with her new automobile, life for Anna will change forever.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“L’Automobile” is presented in 1:33:1, color and and monaural Italian with English subtitles.

Picture quality for a 1971 film is actually very good, as the film doesn’t look like an early ’70s film in the fact that it’s not that aged.  In fact, the film looks a lot better than some ’90s films that I have watched on video, so the overall picture quality is pretty good for its age, considering the film is 40-years-old and is a TV film.

Audio is monaural, Italian dialogue was clear as with Ennio Morricone’s score.  English subtitles are white and easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L’Automobile” comes with the following special features:

  • Original Trailer - (1:44) The original theatrical trailer for “L’Automobile”.
  • Video Introduction – (16:34) Featuring a video introduction by Mario Sesti (film critic and curator of the International Rome Film Festival).
  • PDF Booklet – Featuring a wonderful 12-page booklet which includes a film analysis by Bruno Di Marino, “Cinema according to Anna Magnani” from “Arianna” (1963) and “L’Europe” (1973) and “Two or Three Things about ‘Nannarella’” by Patrizia Pistagnesi, “Hommage a Anna” (1989).

Anna Magnani has had a long career of impressive films and working with the best directors and writers in the business.  Beloved in Italy, adored by cineaste and even winning an Oscar for “Best Actress” for the 1955 film “The Rose Tattoo”.  She was an amazing actress who was compared to Greta Garbo because of her acting and came to the United States and won various awards.

But by the early ’70s, Magnani health would be at a decline and 1971 would be the final year of the actress who would die of pancreatic cancer in 1973.

While those who have never watched a Magnani film would probably look at “L’Automobile” as standard ’70s cinema and a slice-of-life tale about an older woman buying her first automobile and venturing outside of the city with it.

But Anna Magnani as an actress who had worked in post-war Italian neorealism films, she comes from the old Italy who saw how her beloved city has changed.  From the automobile was a sign of economic prosperity of the ’60s and by the ’70s, everyone has one and the city has become nothing but a 24/7 traffic jam.

And in 1971, French filmmaker Jacques Tati also depicted this in his 1971 film “Trafic” featuring his character Monsieur Hulot who came from the old country of France and had to get used to the modernizing of society and its dependence on the automobile.

But watching the film, actress Magnani is able to capture this disenchantment of life and society through her career with remarkable efficacy and perhaps this film of an older Magnani was evident that the actress still has it.  She demonstrates genuine emotions and expressions that make you believe in the character.

Sure, “L’Automobile” is a televised movie and part of a trilogy.  It is comedy but also statement to Italian society from a generation who saw the city of Rome transformed into a near immobile parking lot.  And while there are more impressive Anna Magnani films out there, her 1971 films including “L’Automobile” would show that no matter if she was succumbing to pancreatic cancer, no matter if it was an older Anna on film, because it was on television, a large audience would get to experience Anna Magnani, actress extraordinaire that was able to play a character and become it.

As for the DVD from RaroVideo, the picture quality is in very good shape considering it’s a ’70s film and has no signs of the usual aging film.  As mentioned, I have seen ’90s films that look its age and for “L’Automobile”, aside from clothing and the music played by a live band at the beginning of the film, the film doesn’t look terrible as you would expect from a ’70s TV film.  So, this new digitally restored “L’Automobile” looks very good on DVD.

And as far as special features go, you get a verbose video introduction from film critic Mario Sesti and a PDF booklet of Bruno Di Mariono’s critical analysis of the film and more.

With that being said, I enjoyed “L’Automobile” and felt that Anna Magnani gave an amazing performance.  There are magnificent films that she starred in from the past which overshadows this 1973 film and while her performance was great, including her interaction with actor Vittorio Caprioli, the scenes leading up to the finale felt a bit rushed and made me wonder if that was because they had to create TV films in a set amount of time.

Nevertheless, because it is a televised film, I’m grateful to RaroVideo for bringing it out on DVD.  But I do hope that the the other two films in the trilogy “1943: Un incontro” and “La Sciantosa” will be released on DVD in the near future.

Overall, “L’Automobile” is still a must purchase for cineaste who adore actress Anna Magnani.  It’s one thing to watch the films from her past, especially films that she was best known for but to have the opportunity watch her later, final work for me, for a cineaste who have watched many films that she has starred in, having the opportunity to watch Anna Magnani in “L’Automobile” as one of her final films, on DVD in the U.S., I am grateful to RaroVideo for making it possible.

One of the final films featuring one of the greatest actresses of cinema, Anna Magnani.  “L’Automobile” (The Automobile) showcases the actresses in another amazing performance, but it’s also a ’70s film that makes a statement to Italian society of its dependence on the automobile.  A televised film that was a sign of the times, but still a film demonstrating Magnani’s brilliance as an actress.


For a Few Dollars More (a J!-ent Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood are back in the sequel to “A Fistful of Dollars”.  Featuring Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef together in an exciting action-packed sequel worth watching and a Blu-ray release worth owning!

"Buy From BN.com" button 90x28 " #3


Best Buy - Computers Page

Images courtesy of © 1965 Alberto Grinaldi Productions S.A. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: For A Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1965

DURATION: 132 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Mono, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

RATED: R

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2011

Directed by Sergio Leone

Scenario by Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella

Screenplay by Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone

Produced by Arturo Gonzalez, Alberto Grimaldi

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Massimo Dallamano

Edited by Eugenio Alabiso, Giorgio Serrallonga

Starring:

Clint Eastwood as Monco (Stranger, The Man with No Name)

Lee Van Cleef as Col. Douglas Mortimer

Gian Maria Volonte as El Indo

Mara Krupp as Mary – The Innkeeper

Luigi Pistilli as Groggy, Member of Indio’s Gang

Klaus Kinski as Wild

Panos Papadopulos as Sancho Perez

Benito Stefanelli as Luke

Aldo Sambrell as Cuccillo

When two rival bounty hunters (Oscar winner Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef) learn they’re both after the same murderous bandit, they join forces in hopes of bringing him to justice.  But all is not as it seems in the hard-hitting second installment of Sergio Leone’s trilogy starring Eastwood as the famed “Man with No Name”.

The sequel to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western classic “A Fistful of Dollars”, “For a Few Dollars More” brings back Clint Eastwood along with Lee Van Cleef in a wonderful action-packed, violent western that will entertain Leone fans!

The 1960′s, a time when Westerns was no longer a popular genre for young Americans and were films looked at as movies for your father or grandfather.

While America had a few Westerns that were doing well, internationally the appeal of the genre was also starting to wane.  That is until an Italian director named Sergio Leone put his spin and stylized the Western genre which would become known as the Spaghetti Western (films typically made with a low-budget, shot in Europe where the locations resembled America, dialogue added later and directed by Italian director).

“A Fistful of Dollars” would introduce the world to Leone’s cool visual style (incorporating a John Ford and Akira Kurosawa style), a character that would kill without any explanation and a look and style that would be catchy with a younger generation and feature cool music courtesy of composer Ennio Morricone.  And like “A Fistful of Dollars”, “For A Few Dollars More” would feature Morricone’ music created before production of the film and Leone would shoot the film to Morricone’s music.

“For A Few Dollars” like the original film would do well in the box office, in the United States…bringing in over $5 million and would lead to one more film for the trilogy titled “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” (1966).

While “The Good, The Bad and “The Ugly” was released on Blu-ray in 1999, the trilogy was released in Blu-ray in 2010.  But for those who owned the third film, many have been waiting for the single Blu-ray releases of “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”. So, MGM/Twentieth Century Fox are now releasing these two Blu-rays in August 2011.

“For a Few Dollars More” would introduce us to Colonel Douglas Mortimer (played by Lee Van Cleef) who is a bounty hunter and we see how he is experienced in firearms and is known to catch the land’s most wanted criminals.  But he is not the only one… there is also the Man with No Name, the stranger (played by Clint Eastwood) who is also a bounty hunter known for catching the criminals.  He is also referenced by the Mexicans as “Manco” (which translates to “one-armed” in Spanish).

Both men are now in pursuit of one of the deadliest killers in the land.  His name is “El Indio” (played by Gian Maria Volonte), a fugitive and a ruthless, intelligent man who carries around a musical pocketwatch which he uses in duels.  We learn that the stopwatch belonged to a man who Indio killed and that man’s girlfriend, he raped and while raping her, she killed herself with his gun and now he is haunted by her.

Needless to say, both men are very much into their jobs but are very similar to each other.  They want money and so both eventually butt heads with each other, but eventually decide to take down Indio and his gang, who are expected to rob the heavily guarded Bank of El Paso.  Moretimer convinces Manco that he should try to infiltrate Indio’s gang and join them, so that would give him a chance to get at Indio.  So, Manco saves Indio’s friend from prison and eventually becomes a member of the gang.  And Moretimer eventually follows and both become a member of Indio’s gang.

That is until Indio gets a sense that the two may be bounty hunters and he has plans to have them killed.

Will the stranger and Mortimer survive this encounter with one of the most dangerous fugitives and his gang?

VIDEO:

“For a Few Dollars More” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1).  Once again, the detail and clarity is much better than its DVD counterpart and the picture quality of “For a Few Dollars More” is much better than “A Fistful of Dollars”.  There is less softness, grain is present but you will notice quite a bit of white speckles from time-to-time.

But still, compared to the original DVD release, there is much more clarity when it comes to the closeups of the characters, the guns and much more detail.  Black levels are nice and deep, close-ups look very good and for the most part, the film looks very good on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“For a Few Dollars More” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Mono and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  And one thing that I noticed compared to “A Fistful of Dollars” was how the lossless soundtrack sounds great from the surround channels.  From the opening scene of Mortimer in the train, you can hear the train screech and bump through the surround channels, also there is a better use of the action sequences and ambiance through the surround channels with this film compared to “A Fistful of Dollars”.

Also, Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack sounds fantastic via lossless.  So, for the most part…”For a Few Dollars More” is an action film does benefit from its lossless soundtrack and much better than its DVD counterpart.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“For a Few Dollars More” includes the following special features:

  • The Christopher Frayley Archives: For a Few Dollars More – (19:00) Sir Christopher Frayling showcases his collection of art, posters, documents and scripts acquired of “For a Few Dollars More”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a wonderful, in-depth commentary by noted film historian Sir Christopher Frayling.
  • A New Standard – Frayling on “For a Few Dollars More” – (20:14) Presented in standard definition, Sir Christopher Frayling talks about the increased budget for the film but also the casting and more.
  • Back for More – (7:08) on August 2003, Clint Eastwood was in Spain where he was interviewed about “For a Few Dollars More”.
  • Tre Voci: For a Few Dollars More – (11:05) Interview with producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati and actor Micky Knox and a look at alternate scenes and releases.
  • For a Few Dollars More – Original American Release Version – (5:18) The US Release had a minor trimmed version compared to what was show in Europe.  Featured are the three cuts that were made in the American version.
  • Location Comparisons: Then to Now – (12:16) Featuring how things looked for the location of “For a Few Dollars More” back in 1965 and how the locations look in 2004.
  • 12 Radio spots – (7:36) Featuring 12 radio spots for “For a Few Dollars More”.
  • For a Few Dollars More Trailers – Two theatrical trails for “For a Few Dollars More”.

The sequel to “A Fistful of Dollars” features a Sergio Leone film with a slightly bigger budget and immediately, Leone wanted to make a sequel.

At first Eastwood was reluctant, but after seeing the response by the Italians towards the film, he agreed to appear in the sequel for $50,000 and Lee Van Cleef for $17,000.  With a higher budget and now a feature film rather than a low-budget independent, once again, Leone’s Spaghetti Western won over audiences with its visual style, its characters, its humor, action and violence.

In the sequel, Gian Maria Volonte, the evil antagonist of the first film is back playing the character of El Indio (The Indian) and this villain is more vile than ever.  A psychopath, a drug user, a rapist, a killer of men, women and children.  And this time, the odds of the Man with No Name not succeeding is much higher, so this time round, he is paired with Col. Douglas Moretimer (played by Lee Van Cleef), another weapons expert.

While I did enjoy the sequel, I felt of the three films, it would be my least favorite of the three and that is because it was more of a duo film rather than focusing on Clint Eastwood’s character.  That is what I loved about “A Fistful of Dollars”, it was the underdog sense of one man against impossible odds and yet, he managed to win.  It’s somewhat of the same situation but now you have two men taking on a psychopath and his gang but it diverts the attention away from the Man with No Name.   I was wanting to see more Clint Eastwood than Lee Van Cleef but I understand why Van Cleef’s Moretimer plays a significant role in the film (which I can’t mention because it would spoil the film).

But still, with “For a Few Dollars More” being my least favorite of the trilogy, doesn’t mean it’s bad at all. It’s a very entertaining action Western with a lot of gunfights, action and one cool standoff at the end of the film.  Considering the amount of violence featured in the film during that time, I can imagine how audiences may have been surprised by it in 1965.

As for the Blu-ray release, similar to the first film, it’s jammed with special features and that is a major plus!  Picture quality is better than “A Fistful of Dollars” and with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, there is more use of the surround channels.

Overall, you really can’t go wrong with this film.  If you bought “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”, then you just need the first two films.  Otherwise, if are interested in this Blu-ray and also the other two films, then definitely go for the trilogy box set on Blu-ray.

“For a Few Dollars More” is recommended!

"Buy From BN.com" button 90x28 " #3


Best Buy - Computers Page

A Fistful of Dollars (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Fantastic!  Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western not only introduced the world to Clint Eastwood, the film also energized a slowly failing genre through its visual style, a cool anti-hero and heavy violence for its time.  I highly recommend purchasing the trilogy but if you want to give a Sergio Leone or a Spaghetti Western a try, then I highly recommend “A Fistful of Dollars”!

"Buy From BN.com" button 90x28 " #3


Best Buy - Computers Page

Images courtesy of © 1964 Unidis, S.A.R.I. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Fistful of Dollars (Per Un Pugno di dollari)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1964

DURATION: 99 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MAster Audio, English Mono, Spanish 2.0 Mono, French 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

RATED: R (Violence)

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2011

Directed by Sergio Leone

Based on Akira Kirosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima’s “Yojimbo”

Story by A. Bonzzoni, Victor Andres Catena, Sergio Leone

Screenplay by Victor Andres Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone

Dialogue by Mark Lowell

Produced by Arrigo Colmbo, Giorgio Papi

Assistant Producer: Piero Santini

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya

Edited by Roberto Cinquini, Alfonso Santacana

Art Direction by Carlo Simi

Set Decoration by Sigfrido Burmann, Francisco Rodriguez Asensio, Carlo Simi

Starring:

Clint Eastwood as Joe

Marianne Koch as Marisol

Gian Maria Volonte as Ramon Rojo

Wolfgang Lukschy as John Baxter

Sieghardt Rupp as Esteban Rojo

Joseph Egger as Piripero

Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Benito Rojo

Jose Calvo as Silvanito

Margarito Lonzano as Consuelo Baxter

Daniel Martin as Julian

Benito Stefanelli as Rubio

Mario Brega as Chico

Bruno Carotenuto as Antonio Baxter

Oscar Winner Clint Eastwood blends a quiet steadiness with a palpable ferocity as the iconic gunslinger “The Man With No Name” in Sergio Leone’s gritty spaghetti Western.  When a steely blue eyed mercenary arrives in a dusty border town where two rival bands of smugglers terrorize the impoverished citizens, he pits the gangs against each other in one of the most exhilarating frontier adventure films in cinema history.

The 1960′s, a time when Westerns was no longer a popular genre for young Americans and were films looked at as movies for your father or grandfather.

While America had a few Westerns that were doing well, internationally the appeal of the genre was also starting to wane.  That is until an Italian director named Sergio Leone put his spin and stylized the Western genre which would become known as the Spaghetti Western (films typically made with a low-budget, shot in Europe where the locations resembled America, dialogue added later and directed by Italian director).

But with a low budget, Sergio Leone was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” and along with his writing friends, would craft a new film loosely -based on the film and would hire an American unknown named Clint Eastwood for the role of a character which would billed as “Man with no Name”.

“A Fistful of Dollars” would feature cool visual style (incorporating a John Ford and Akira Kurosawa style), a character that would kill without any explanation and a look and style that would be catchy with a younger generation and feature cool music courtesy of composer Ennio Morricone.  It’s also important to note that unlike other Westerns or films, the music would be created before production and Leone would shoot the film to Morricone’s music.

While shot in Spain, the film would be a success in Italy (breaking box office records in Italy)  as well as Europe and the film would popularize the work of Sergio Leone, the Spaghetti Western genre but also would be the beginning of the charismatic anti-hero which would make Clint Eastwood a well-known actor worldwide.

And with the popularity of the film, a trilogy was created which would include “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” (1966).

While “The Good, The Bad and “The Ugly” was released on Blu-ray in 2009, the trilogy was released in Blu-ray in 2010.  But for those who owned the third film, many have been waiting for the single Blu-ray releases of “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”. So, MGM/Twentieth Century Fox are now releasing these two Blu-rays in August 2011.

“A Fistful of Dollars” is a film that takes place in the Mexican border town of San Miguel where a stranger has just arrived.  The innkeeper named Silvanito explains to the stranger with no name that there are two families in town that are in a bitter feud and each are trying to gain control.  The Rojo Brothers featuring Don Miguel, Esteban and Ramon rule one side, while the town sheriff, led by John Baxter has control of the other.

For the stranger, he looks at the feud as a financial opportunity.  So, the stranger figures that perhaps he can play both sides and have them fight against each other.

While with Silvanito, he sees how the Rojo brothers who are masquerading as Union soldiers, guns down Mexican soldiers who are delivery gold through the town.  The gold is being sent to American soldiers for exchange of weapons and both the stranger and Silvanito witness the Rojo brothers massacring all Mexican soldiers.

The stranger comes up with an idea by taking two of the dead Mexican soldiers and plans then at a nearby cemetery and sells information to both sides that two Mexican soldiers have survived the massacre.  The Baxters want the survivors to testify against the Rojos, while the Rojo’s want to kill the soldiers to make sure that they don’t tip off what they did.

The two sides eventually get into a gunfight and the Rojo’s end up kidnapping John Baxter’s son Antonio.  While they are involved in a gunfight, the stranger searches the Rojo headquarters for gold and accidentally hits Ramon’s prisoner named Marisol.

The stranger ends up taking Marisol to the Baxters and the Baxter’s issue a trade with the Rojo’s…Antonio for Marisol.

When wondering why the Rojo’s want Marisol so badly, he learns from Silvanito that the Rojo’s took her from her family.   The Rojo’s blamed Marisol’s husband for cheating in card game and took Marisol as a hostage and threatened if they tried to get her back, they will kill their little son.

This leads the stranger to want to help Marisol escape from the Rojo’s and return her back to the family, so they can escape.

But with the stranger helping Marisol, this will pit him against the Rojo family which will lead to major repercussions against him but also the Baxter family.  Can anyone stand up to this evil family?

VIDEO:

“A Fistful of Dollars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1).  It’s important to remind people that this film was created with a very low budget.  With that being said, while the image does look soft at times, I do feel that this is the best looking version of the film to date.  The colors standout more, there is a good amount of grain, there is more detail especially in the closeups of the characters and for the most part, the clarity is a major upgrade compared to the DVD release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“A Fistful of Dollars” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Mono, Spanish 2.0 Mono and French 5.1 DTS.  While “For a Few Dollars More” seems to take advantage of the surround channels a lot more, “A Fistful of Dollars” does take advantage of more ambiance.  From gunfire to explosions (which this film does have), it’s not as strong as the second film but I will say that Ennio Morricone’s score sounds awesome.

It is well known with Spaghetti Westerns that audio is added via post-production and you can tell that the voices for mostly everyone outside of Clint Eastwood was added later by English speaking actors.  But outside of that, the lossless soundtrack is still much better than the DVD release and fans of the film will definitely enjoy the audio clarity from this Blu-ray release.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Fistful of Dollars” comes with the following special features:

  • The Christopher Frayley Archives: Fistful of Dollars – (18:40) Sir Christopher Frayling showcases his collection of art, posters, documents and scripts acquired of “A Fisful of Dollars”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a wonderful, in-depth commentary by noted film historian Sir Christopher Frrayling.
  • A New Kind of Hero – (22:54) Presented in standard definition, Sir Christopher Frayling talks about how this film energized the Western genre, how it was loosely adapted from Yojimbo, the style of the film and more.
  • A Few Weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood on the Experience of the Making of the Film – (8:33) on August 2003, Clint Eastwood was interviewed about “A Fistful of Dollars”.
  • Tre Voci: Fistful of Dollars – (11:12) Interview with producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati and actor Micky Knox.
  • Not Ready for Primetime – Filmmaker Monte Hellman discusses the television broadcast of “A Fistful of Dollars” and how they had to create a prologue to explain why the stranger would kill (to fix the moral problem the network had with the film) back in 1977.
  • The Network Prologue with Harry Dean Stanton – (7:44) Howard Friedkin talks about how he has a rare betamax copy of the original 1977 television airing of “A Fistful of Dollars” and talk about the prologue.  Also featuring the prologue used for the television airing of the film.
  • Location Comparisons: Then to Now – (5:22) Featuring how things looked for the location of “A Fistful of Dollars” back in 1964 and how the locations look in 2004.
  • 10 Radio spots – (6:00) Featuring the radio spots for “A Fistful of Dollars”.
  • Double Bill Trailer – (2:03)
  • A Fistful of Dollars Trailer – (2:28)  The original theatrical trailer.

Stylish, cool and a wonderful Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western showcasing a fine performance by Clint Eastwood.

There is no doubt that “A Fistful of Dollars” reignited the interest in Westerns, albeit a different kind of Western showcasing a gritty anti-hero.  One that rarely talked, one that kills without hesitation and sure enough, a film that looked stylish visually but with Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack, “A Fistful of Dollars” is a memorable Western classic!

Clint Eastwood will be well known for his Western films but could you imagine during the ’60s, where John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and a few others were known for their Western films and then here comes an unknown American that would be known for a new type of Western film.

Watching the interview of Eastwood talking about the film, he had nothing to lose.  For Eastwood, he was not picky, nor was he in the position to be picky.  If anything, it was a free trip to Italy and Spain and if it did well, then fantastic…if not, at least he got a trip to Europe from the experience.

But considering the success of “A Fistful of Dollars”, this is the film that made Clint Eastwood popular and Sergio Leone a well-known filmmaker for Spaghetti Westerns worldwide.  And I have to agree with film historian Sir Christopher Frayling who said that Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis style of hero was born from Eastwood’s “Man with no Name” from “A Fistful of Dollars”.  Stoic, charismatic and not giving a damn, while we see this quite a bit today, back then, it wasn’t.

And one of the things that wasn’t common back then was the violence.  Spaghetti Westerns showed us that villains are not the only ones that can be violent, the protagonist can be as well.

From the opening of the film, we watch as the stranger easily guns down four men.  Why?  Because they scared his mule.  We even see him punching out a woman, sure it was by accident.  And probably one of the most interesting things to see in this film are the massacres.  The Rojo family using a gattling gun to kill many Mexican soldiers and then to see them again, shooting innocent men one by one as they come out of a building.

Needless to say, I preferred this adaptation of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” versus “The Magnificent Seven” which was an adaptation of Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” done a few years earlier.  Mainly because you feel and see how violent the enemies are.  In American westerns of that era, there was only so much Hollywood can do because of the censors but since this film was shot in Spain and was a co-production between Italy, Spain and Germany, anything goes.

It made for a more exciting, thrilling action film and for me, the stranger with no name is one of the coolest anti-hero’s to ever appeal in a film.  Calm, collected and literally kick-ass!

Overall, “A Fistful of Dollars” is a fantastic film and the DVD release is packed with special features!  And while it may not have the clearest PQ nor the best AQ (considering the film was shot with a very low budget), still…it’s a film worth having in your collection.

I highly recommend getting the trilogy box set as all three films are excellent but if you want to give a Spaghetti Western or a Sergio Leone film a try, “A Fistful of Dollars” is a must-buy!

"Buy From BN.com" button 90x28 " #3


Best Buy - Computers Page

Bottom