• Bullet For The General, A



    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: May 22, 2012.
    Director: Damiano Damiani
    Cast: Gian Maria Volonte, Klaus Kinski, Martine Beswick, Lou Castel
    Year: 1966
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Damiano Damiani and written by Franco Solinas, 1966’s A Bullet For The General begins when an American mercenary named Bill Tate (Lou Castel) gets on a train which soon comes to an abrupt stop when it almost runs over a soldier tied to the tracks. Before you know it, the entire train is under attack from a bandit named El Chunco (Gian Maria Volonte) and his gang who rather efficiently laid waste to the train’s military passengers. Bill wisely poses as a fugitive so that the bandits won’t kill him and before you know it, he’s joined their ranks and helped them make off with as many weapons and as much loot as possible.

    As Bill, now going by Nino – the name given to him by his new revolutionary friends, makes his way further into their ranks he and Chuncho soon discover that they have a common lust for wealth but that their politics aren’t quite on the same wave length. Complicating matters further is the presence of the beautiful Adelita (Martine Beswick), the only female in El Chuncho’s gang, and El Chuncho’s brother, a strange man calling himself El Santo (Klaus Kinski) who dresses as a friar and prays loudly for his victims before tossing explosives at them. El Chuncho’s ultimate goal is to usurp power from a high ranking general that he intends to kill, but is Nino really in this for revolutionary reasons or is he just looking to get rich?

    While this is far from the only Spaghetti Western to deal with revolutionaries and while the film does tend to dabble in clichés of the genre, it is so well acted and enthusiastically performed by pretty much all involved that it can’t fail to impress. Volonte, always a charismatic and inspired actor, is at the top of his game here, playing El Chuncho with such manic intensity that you can’t forget him while supporting efforts from a bomb tossing prayer chanting Kinksi and an ultra sexy Beswick can’t hurt things in the least. While Lou Castel isn’t nearly as impressive as the others mentioned, he too holds his own, no easy task given the weight of Volonte’s work here – though his character is considerably more subdued and calculating versus El Chuncho’s fairly unhinged bandit king.

    Shot with plenty of style and owing more than a few tips of the hat to Sergio Leone’s preceding blockbusters, the film makes great use of a rather unlikely score from Django composer Luis Bacalov and is set against some appropriately dusty desert backdrops. Throughout all of the shoot outs and the action scenes there’s a fairly dark sense of humor that comes into play and is a big part of what makes the movie interesting. Far from the Spaghetti Western comedies that Terrance Hill would become known for, A Bullet For The General is a bit more seditious than the slapstick Trinity films that would come a few years later as the genre started to wear out. The film makes some interesting points as to how those in power see no harm in abusing their status, but also stops short of praising the revolutionary factions at work in its story.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    A Bullet For The General arrives on region free Blu-ray in a nice AVC encoded 1080p high definition 2.35.1 widescreen transfer that shows the same pros and cons as most of Blue Underground’s recent Blu-ray releases. Detail is considerably improved over the DVD release from years back as is color reproduction but that tendency for odd things to happen with grain is going to be obvious to those who have noticed it in the past – not as obvious as in some recent releases, but it’s there as is some mild noise reduction. There are no compression artifacts to note on the 50GB disc and the black levels are pretty solid. Overall things shape up well here and you’ll really appreciate the upgrade in color reproduction that this transfer offers over the previous DVD issues of the film.

    Audio options are provided in English and in Italian in DTS-HD Mono format for the International Version of the movie and English only for the U.S. Version of the movie, with optional subtitles provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. Again, the audio is improved over the DVD release, offering considerably cleaner and more natural sounding dialogue and allowing the score to punch a little more than it did on the standard definition release. The English track on the U.S. version is also noticeably different than the English track on the International version.

    So yeah, as you probably gathered, this disc contains two versions of the movie – the U.S. Version and the International Version, with the latter running three minutes longer than the former, the most obvious difference between the two being the longer opening scene in the International Version and the different opening credits. Both versions are on the one Blu-ray disc, which also carries over the extra from the DVD release, those beings a still gallery, a five minute interview with the director, and both U.S. and International trailers for the movie.

    New to this release is a second disc (a DVD, not a Blu-ray disc) containing a feature length documentary entitled Gian Maria Volonte: Un Attore Contro which, at just over one hundred and twelve minutes in length, is a very thorough and interesting biography piece which documents the life, work and politics of the leading man seen in A Bullet For The General. Presented in Italian with English subtitles, this one takes us all the way back to before he was an actor and starts off with some info about his childhood and family life before discussing how he became a star of first stage and then screen. There’s a lot of emphasis put on his politics and how his work reflected that and the interviews with those who knew and worked with him mixed alongside loads of archival clips and photographs make this quite a revealing piece.

    The Final Word:

    A legitimately great movie through and through, A Bullet For The General receives what is overall a very strong Blu-ray upgrade from Blue Underground. Much improved in both the audio and the video departments, this disc also throws in a very comprehensive documentary on the film’s leading man and comes highly recommended for Spaghetti Western enthusiasts.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!