Classic '60s Western is revived and restored

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

May 27, 2004|By Dave Kehr | Dave Kehr,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The most ambitious and enduringly popular of Sergio Leone's three Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has finally arrived on DVD in a definitive edition from MGM Home Entertainment. Leone's enigmatic moral tale is about the flawed, all-too-human bandit Tuco, played by Eli Wallach, and the two eerily distant, almost supernatural figures (the angelic Blondie, played by Eastwood, and the demonic Angel Eyes, played by Lee Van Cleef) who accompany him on a search for stolen gold along the rough western front of the Civil War.

Though much of what has been said about the film (including the fine commentary track here, presented by critic Richard Schickel) emphasizes its links to the American western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly also European in the picaresque tradition and the great school of Italian social comedy. (Mario Monicelli's 1959 World War I comedy La Grande Guerra, written by Leone's three screenwriting collaborators on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Luciano Vincenzoni and the team known as Age and Scarpelli - is one prime source for the film's structure and characterizations.)

The new disc follows the cut of the 1966 premiere in Rome, restoring 16 minutes of scenes (and helping to plug a couple of large plot holes in the process), while the image track has recovered a density of detail that the original prints, made in the now obsolete Techniscope process, could not display. Purists may object to the overly busy 5.1 remix that MGM has given the original monaural soundtrack, but the disc does offer the mono Italian-language track as an option (with English subtitles).

The handsome two-disc box set includes a fistful of extras, including historical background information, documentaries that include interviews with Eastwood and Wallach, and an account of the restoration. It's a home library essential. $29.98. 178 minutes. Not rated.

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