Wednesday, September 12, 2007

THE SERGIO LEONE ANTHOLOGY

Probably the most famous and influential Euro-Westerns ever made are the "Dollars Trilogy," starred Clint Eastwood and were directed by Sergio Leone. All three of these classic films, as well as the James Coburn-starrer, DUCK YOU SUCKER!, are now available in brand-new editions as part of MGM’s recent box set, THE SERGIO LEONE ANTHOLOGY.

Previously released a few years ago in England and Europe, but delayed here, in part, by the various changes in management and distribution suffered by MGM Home Video over the last few years, these newly-restored and remastered editions are a film buff’s dream come true.

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI, 1964) introduced Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone to filmgoers with a gritty, dark remake of the Akira Kurosawa samurai epic YOJIMBO. It also kicked off the Spaghetti Western genre in high style, with its stylish direction and amoral protagonist.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (PER QUALCHE DOLLARO IN PIÙ, 1965) added American character actor Lee Van Cleef to the recipe, along with a bigger budget and a more character-driven story.

Then came THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (IL BUONO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO, 1966), a sprawling, utterly involving tale of greed and betrayal set against the backdrop of the American Civil War. This allowed Leone to add some epic battle scenes to the formula, and he pulls them off magnificently.

For this DVD release, the TGTB&TU has had several scenes restored that were included in the International versions but never shown in the U.S., and thus, never dubbed into English. For these scenes, Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach returned to the recording studio and dubbed their new lines (another actor filled in for Lee Van Cleef). The audio was also fully redone in 5.1 Surround, with some sound effects added and some sweetened or completely changed.

DUCK, YOU SUCKER! (GIÙ LA TESTA a/k/a A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE, 1971) stars James Coburn and Rod Stieger in an overtly political story set in Revolutionary Mexico. MGM has restored the film with around 20 minutes of footage never seen in the U.S.

Each film is presented in newly restored, damn-near pristine anamorphic 2.40:1 widescreen transfers, with cleaned up, juiced up sound, and commentaries by film historian and Leone authority, Christopher Frayling. Each film is also given a second disc containing various bonus features, including trailers, outtakes, interviews with Eastwood, and rarities, like the only-seen-once network TV prologue to FISTFUL, featuring Harry Dean Stanton.

No self-respecting film fan can afford to pass this box set up. Highly recommended.

BUY: The Sergio Leone Anthology (A Fistful Of Dollars / For A Few Dollars More / The Good, The Bad And The Ugly / Duck, You Sucker)