The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: Special Edition
(MGM, 1966) D: Sergio Leone w/ Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach. Rating: NNN
MGM is touting this special edition of Sergio Leone's Civil War epic as the restoration of the original theatrical release. Yes, but.... The special edition reintegrates footage that the American distributor, with Leone's approval, cut from the American release, bringing the running time down to 165 minutes. These scenes were available in their own section on the original MGM release.
The soundtrack has been refurbished, if you like the 5.1 digital, or tarted up if you don't. The mono track is the "original" Italian, but "original" is a matter of perspective on a film that was an Italian production shot in Spain with American stars. I do wish they'd allowed the option of the American theatrical release on this disc. The new scenes add little, and if you're accustomed to the way the film flows, the new additions are jarring.
It's a good transfer, though, and there's an unusually good Richard Schickel commentary, which, as he is Eastwood's biographer, functions at times as an Eastwood commentary by proxy. There's an excellent Roger Ebert booklet essay, some postcard-size versions of various theatrical posters for the film, and an assortment of watch-'em-once-and-forget-'em featurettes on Leone, composer Ennio Morricone and on taking Wallach and Eastwood back to the studio to loop dialogue for the "restored" scenes.
EXTRAS Critical commentary, theatrical trailers, production and historical featurettes, booklet. English and Italian versions, English, French, Cantonese and Mandarin subtitles.
Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Part 2
(Buena Vista, 1990) Rating: NNNN
Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume 1
(1934-1941) Rating: NNN
just as there are beatles people and Rolling Stones people, there are Warner's animation people and Disney animation people. Well, there are Hanna-Barbera people, but we don't talk about them. Disney's always been the canniest at managing its catalogue. It's been slowly re-issuing these tin-box sets from the old laserdisc catalogues, with Leonard Maltin introductions (Maltin's a serious cartoon geek, and turns up on Warner's recent Looney Toons compilation as well) and glowing transfers of the classic cartoon catalogue.
As a Warner's person, I don't really have any complaints about these Disney issues. I've never thought Donald Duck, the angriest Disney character, was ever a patch on Warner's paranoid bird, Daffy Duck - and he never had a tag line as memorable as Daffy's "You're dethpicable." Nor was there a cartoonist at Disney as wildly inventive as Chuck Jones.
As Maltin notes, the late colour Mickey Mouse cartoons aren't that character's best work - Pluto often takes over the comedy - but there are some very funny cartoons in this set, including the memorably wacky Symphony Hour and the modern Runaway Brain, with Kelsey Grammar voicing a mad scientist monkey.
EXTRAS Mickey - supplemental animation from Fantasia; Cartoon Physics: The Plausible Impossible; behind the scenes at Fantasia 2000; making-ofs; poster and memorabilia galleries. Donald - Maltin introduction, design and art galleries, Easter eggs.
The Tin Star
(Paramount, 1957) D: Anthony Mann, w/ Henry Fonda, Anthony Perkins. Rating: NNN
paramount has released a small flurry of bargain-priced westerns this week. I've been so looking forward to seeing Rustler's Rhapsody again. No, I haven't. But The Tin Star is a tough little movie about the relationship between a veteran bounty hunter (Henry Fonda) and an inexperienced sheriff (Anthony Perkins). It's always odd to see Perkins in his pre-Psycho films, where he was generally cast as a troubled or callow youth. But it's fun to see Fonda in a western. He's tremendously good here, just the right mix of laconic threat and philosophical ease. It's as if his Wyatt Earp from My Darling Clementine had wandered off the path of the law for a few years and achieved a Zen calm.
It's for western specialists more than general film fans, but also worth a look for the evocative black-and-white cinematography by Loyal Griggs, who also shot, in a rather different mood, Shane and The Ten Commandments.
(MGM, 1972) D: Sam Peckinpah, w/ Steve McQueen, Robert Preston. Rating: NNNN
junior bonner is the peckinpah film for people who hate Peckinpah, an elegiac look at an aging rodeo rider's difficult relationship with his family. Steve McQueen gives his best performance here, and he's supported by a stellar cast - Robert Preston as his father, Ida Lupino as his mother, Joe Don Baker as his brother, the family's "responsible" member. Filmed around Prescott, Arizona, it's not just a look at the end of a way of life for a man, but for a culture, and Baker's real estate developer is its harbinger.
MGM gets points for the commentary by the same panel of scholars - Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle - who recently did the commentary for Anchor Bay's Osterman Weekend issue. It loses points for not providing an anamorphic wide-screen transfer. The flat letterboxed transfer is very good, but this isn't the sort of film that gets multiple editions, so they should've done it right the first time.
EXTRAS Scholarly commentary. English, French and Spanish subtitles
Coming Tuesday, May 25
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
(New Line/Alliance) This is the theatrical version. Remember, the extended edition is a few months down the road.
Saving Private Ryan: D-Day 60th Anniversary Edition
(Universal, 1998) Two-disc SE with lots of extras. No Spielberg commentary, of course.
The Great Escape: Special Edition
(MGM) It's hard to construct a special edition when almost everyone involved in making the film is dead. OK, James Garner and Richard Attenborough are alive, but who else?
(Criterion/Morningstar) - The film where Kurosawa becomes Kurosawa, with Toshirô Mifune as a rookie cop who's lost his gun..
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb