• For A Few Dollars More (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released on: March 26th, 2019.
    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Director: Sergio Leone
    Cast: Clint Eastwood, Klaus Kinski, Gian Maria Volonte, Lee Van Cleef
    Year: 1964
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    For A Few Dollars More – Movie Review:

    The unexpected and unprecedented box office success of A Fistful Of Dollars catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom and spurred into production, less than a year later, a sequel to capitalize on his new found fame. The result was a darker, funnier, and all around better film in the form of For A Few Dollars More, the second collaboration between Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood but this time with the undeniably fantastic screen presence of Lee Van Cleef (though Leone originally wanted Lee Marvin, and for good reason) to play off of as well.

    Monco (Eastwood) is a bounty hunter out to make a few quick bucks. He doesn’t care about anyone else, he’s completely self serving and to be honest, a bit of a bastard. He rides into El Paso on a mission to bring in a bandit named El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) so that he can take home the sizeable reward being offered for his capture. A second bounty hunter, a former army man named Colonel Mortimer (Van Cleef), has got the same idea and as such has his eyes on the very same prize as Monco.

    Indio, on the other hand, has got a good sized gang of bandits at his command, and they intend to take down a bank and make off with the contents. This very same gang will prove a little harder to deal with than both Monco and Mortimer originally anticipated, and they strike up a rather unusual relationship together in order to deal with the problems that a gang of homicidal bandits cane pose.

    Everything that Leone showed us he was capable of in A Fistful Of Dollars is let loose in this second film. The scope is more epic, the close ups more extreme, the comedy is darker, the dialogue is sharper, and the violence is harsher. Leone perfected his technique in this film and every shot is composed so carefully and with such technical precision that even if there were no audio track to provide dialogue effects or background music, the film would still be a masterpiece simply on the strength of the visuals alone. Thankfully, however, the audio mix is just as strong as the look of the film. Morricone had really hit his stride by this point in his career and his score strengthens every single frame of film that it’s used in.

    Everything about this second film is more confident than the first movie. Eastwood is sharper and more relaxed, literally oozing cool out of every pore of his body despite the fact that he’s stuck out under the hot desert sun for the bulk of the film. Lee Van Cleef gives one of his finest performances (considering his track record in westerns, that’s saying something, because he truly is ‘the man’) and is as sneaky in act and deed as he is in appearance. Leone uses his oddly rodent like features to great advantage, really playing up on his striking features to give his character a larger than life aura, something that he’d play with even more in the third film, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Gian Maria Volonte returns to the fold again, perfectly cast as the sinister El Indio, playing the part with a maniacal glee that becomes, at times, quite infectious. Aside from the three leads though, you can’t talk about the film without mentioning Klaus Kinski’s turn as the lunatic hunchback or Luigi Pistilli’s role as Groggy.

    Looking at the ‘behind the camera’ credits for the film reads more or less like a roll call for the finest contributors to Italian genre cinema. Fernando Di Leo (Milano Calibro 9) contributed to the script and acted as a second unit director alongside Tonino Valerii (Day Of Anger). Massimo Dallamano (What Have You Done To Solange?) handled the cinematography while Bruno Nicolai (All The Colors Of The Dark) aided Ennio Morricone with the musical score. In short, the excellent cast was in fine company.

    While, like its predecessor, it was shot fast and cheap (look for a few anachronisms and technical goofs throughout the film), For A Few Dollars More proves to be an exciting and ambitious film that succeeds not only on its gorgeous visuals but also on its stellar cast and fine crew. Leone would go on to bigger and better films with his next two films and prove himself as the king of the Italian west, but For A Few Dollars More stands as the film where he really and truly hit his stride. Maybe it was due to the fact that he was offered a better cut of the profits this time out, maybe he just wanted to make a better movie, maybe he was having more fun, or maybe it was all of the above but Leone really turned it up with this one and the result is one of the most enjoyable and, dare I say it, ‘fun’ films of the Spaghetti Western craze.

    For those concerned about edits, and we know you’re out there (and understandably respect your opinion on these things), the version of the movie presented on this Blu-ray is the trimmed version that has appeared on past editions from MGM. That means that the version of the movie included on this disc appears to mirror the version that first appeared on the DVD’s that MGM released in the late 90s. As such, there are still minor trims to the version of the movie included on this disc, the emphasis on minor being intentional.

    For A Few Dollars More – Blu-ray Review:

    Kino brings For A Few Dollars More to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k restoration. Presented on a 50GB disc, the 2:11:34 run time of the feature taking up just under 36GBs of space on said disc. It’s a pretty solid picture on this disc. Colors look really nice here, not too yellow or green too blue but genuinely natural, and there’s very good detail, depth and texture present throughout the picture. The image is devoid of any noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction and the picture is free of compression artifacts. Skin tones look good, and the picture is nice and clean, showing virtually no print damage at all while retaining the expected amount of natural looking film grain.

    English language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1, DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with removable subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 mix sounds good for what it is but purists will understandably want something closer to the original mix and this is not it, even if it does sound pretty strong in spots with some effective channel separation. The 2.0 stereo track has some solid channel separation when it comes to the score and the effects and it sounds clean, clear and nicely balanced - but it also seems to be a down-convert of the 5.1 mix – but it is all in synch. It’s a shame the mono option is lossy but c’est la vie. It sounds fine for what it is even if it sounds flat and less robust than the two lossless options.

    Kino has supplied some interesting extra features that are exclusive to this Blu-ray reissue, starting with an audio commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas. Like every commentary Lucas has provided, this one is meticulously researched and insanely informative. He covers how this picture compares to the other ‘dollars’ movies, makes some interesting observations about the performances, talks up the score and locations and along the way provides plenty of well-informed insight about the film and its history.

    Also new to this disc is On location In Almeria And Granada With Filmmaker Alex Cox, a fourteen-minute piece in which the director of Sid And Nancy and Straight To Hell explores the locations used in the film as they are in the modern day.

    Also new to this Kino release is a Trailers From Hell entry where Earnest Dickerson offers his thoughts on the film as the trailer plays out over his voiceover work, still galleries containing poster and lobby card art and pictures taken on the set, and the eight-minute For A Few Pictures more

    The rest of the extras will be familiar to those who have owned past editions, starting with another fascinating Christopher Frayling commentary. This track is part film analysis, part Leone history and part trivia track. He’s not once at a loss for words and he makes some interesting comparisons here between this film and some of Leone’s later works within the western genre. Frayling gives plenty of detail on the rushed production history of the film, the producers wanted to turn it over as quickly as possible to cash in on the success of the first movie, as well as some of the strange details relating to Leone’s shooting structure, or lack thereof. Some of the more interesting bits of the commentary relate to the way that Leone cast many of the local gypsies as banditos in the film, to give it a more authentic look and feel and some of the problems that were inherent in Leone’s decision to do so.

    Frayling gets in front of the camera for another exclusive extra entitled The Christopher Frayling Archives: For A Few Dollars More. This nineteen minute piece is a chance for Frayling to show off his extensive collection of Leone memorabilia, with a focus on For A Few Dollars More, and it’s pretty impressive.

    Up next is a twenty minute documentary entitled A New Standard. This is a lengthy and informative discussion with Frayling on some of the themes and ideas that Leone pioneered in the film. He discusses the marijuana use in the film and how it worked or didn’t work within the context of the movie as well as a lot of the more subtle religious symbolism that’s there if you want to look for it. He puts the film into context against the time it was made and against Leone’s other movies and this makes for a very entertaining and informative segment that thankfully doesn’t crossover with the commentary track too much at all.

    Back For More is a seven-minute video interview with Clint Eastwood in which he talks about how Leone’s sense of humor put many of the cast members at ease on the set. He also goes into quite a bit of detail on how Leone influenced the films that he himself would later direct, and why. It’s nice to see Clint talk about Sergio as fondly as he does here, and it’s also quite interesting to hear his reasons for not making Once Upon A Time In The West (Charles Bronson ended up in the lead and I honestly can’t see how anyone could have played it any better than he did in that movie), a film which many consider to be the finest western ever made.

    The eleven-minute Tre Voci segment brings together Alberto Grimaldi, Mickey Knox, and Sergio Donati to discuss the film. The famous story of how Morricone’s score, which was completely finished before filming even started, was played on set to get performers in the mood at Leone’s request. They also talk about how the dialogue was written specifically to play to Eastwood and Van Cleef’s strengths not only as tough guys, but as comedic actors too. The humor is turned up a bit in this film compared to the first movie and the interplay between these two actors is a big reason why.

    Up next are five-minutes’ worth of alternate scenes that were chopped or excised from the final cut of the US version of the film for one reason or another. The scene where Eastwood’s character is named, the scene with Indio laughing hysterically, and the scene where Eastwood and Van Cleef are beaten were all presented differently and they’re shown here in their alternate forms. It would have been great to get these re-instated into the feature presentation, but that didn’t happen. The disc also includes a five-minute piece from 2004 called Restoration Italian Style that shows what went into cleaning up the picture.

    Rounding out the extra features are eight-minutes of radio promo spots, two excellent theatrical trailers, the double bill trailer, and a still gallery of roughly forty images.

    Kino also supplies bonus trailers for A Fistful Of Dollars, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, A Fistful Of Dynamite, Death Rides A Horse, Navajo Joe and The Mercenary. The reverse side of the cover sleeve art reproduces a very cool vintage poster for the film’s original theatrical run.

    For A Few Dollars More – The Final Word:

    For A Few Dollars More is simply one of the finest westerns ever made, spaghetti or otherwise, paling only to Leone’s later two entries in the genre. Kino gives the film a fine release with strong picture and sound quality and a nice array of extras. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized For A Few Dollars More Blu-ray screen caps!