For a Few Dollars More
When two rival bounty hunters (Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef) learn they're both after the same murderous bandit, they join forces in hopes of bringing him to justice. But all is not as it seems in the hard-hitting second installment of Sergio Leone's trilogy starring Eastwood as the famed "Man With No Name."
MGM/Fox presents Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc in a 1080p/24hz digital transfer.
I have a feeling this transfer is the same one that acted as a basis for the DVD special edition released years ago though can’t confirm that. Like A Fistful of Dollars the presentation here is problematic but for very different reasons. A Fistful of Dollars was filmed on a super-cheap budget with cheap equipment and film stock, which lead primarily, I feel at least, to the not entirely appealing image on that Blu-ray disc. For a Few Dollars More was made on a bigger budget following the success of the latter film and both equipment and film stock improved. In certain respects the image here is much better than the previous film’s Blu-ray presentation, with sharper details, cleaner colours including blacks, and more depth. Close-ups really look exceedingly crisp and I can’t recall a moment where the image goes all that soft.
Where the transfer falters is in its grain structure. I have no issue at all with grain and actually prefer it be left intact, but this transfer does not handle it well at all and compression noise becomes a huge problem. It’s always dancing around and gets very heavy. It’s easier to ignore the mess during daytime sequences but during darker moments it’s very apparent. I’m not saying the grain should be wiped out, which would lead to loss of detail, but I’ve seen grainy films on the format that do not look anything like this. It looks like heavy noise and it’s a mess.
And this is a shame because other than some moderate damage remaining in the print I feel this transfer could have looked great, and much, much better than the one we got for A Fistful of Dollars.
MGM/Fox yet again deliver a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track, reworking the film’s original mono track (also included here as a Dolby Digital mono track.) I actually didn’t mind similar touch ups on other MGM/Fox discs I’ve come across lately but this one really sounds unnatural and calls attention to itself in the wrong ways.
Again dialogue sticks primarily to the fronts and sounds very clean and intelligible. Morricone’s score makes use of all of the surround speakers and envelopes the viewer nicely while providing some spectacular range and depth. Where it falters is in some of action scenes involving gun shots and other forms of chaos. You can hear things whizzing around you but then certain items suddenly get cut off in the rears, making the remix all the more obvious.
The mono track sounds fine but obviously hasn’t received the same service as the surround track, which really, in the end, is of better quality; the mono track is flat and has an edge to it. In the end both disappoint so it will come down to the viewer.
Fox packs on a few supplements, most carried over from the DVD, starting with an audio commentary by Sir Christopher Frayling, who also hosts a few other supplements on the disc. Similar to his commentary for A Fistful of Dollars his “fanboyism” is rather infectious as he covers general notes about the film’s production, offers some fascinating little anecdotes, and goes over Leone’s distinct style. Fairly free and loose I found it entertaining enough and probably worthwhile for those interested in the behind-the-scenes of the film (as it gets into more depth than the other supplements put together) but don’t think it’s something that is really all that necessary.
Similar to A Fistful of Dollars’ Blu-ray we yet again get another video segment called The Christopher Frayling Archives, which is a 19-minute segment (and the only HD supplement here) featuring Frayling going over some of the collectibles relating to the film he’s acquired. This includes him showing off posters, press books, novelizations, soundtracks, scripts and so forth, even including possibly the coolest item one could possibly get their hands on, the original painted artwork for one of the posters. On Fistful’s Blu-ray I sort of wished we just got a gallery but I actually found this one a little more insightful and is far more useful than the show-offy nature of the previous one. Here he spends more time talking about the cultural differences and how that reflects in the artwork, and there are some interesting things here, like how Klaus Kinski’s name is pretty much second to Eastwood’s on the German posters, despite his more henchman-ish role. A rather fun feature ultimately.
Following this is an older feature called A New Standard: Frayling on For a Few Dollars More a 20-minute quasi-documentary-slash-interview on the making of the film. In general Frayling summarizes the commentary down to its most basic points, primarily the higher budget, Leone’s perfecting of his style, the use of marijuana, relationships between characters, with Eastwood’s and Van Cleef’s the focus, and then of course the setting of the film. He also again mentions Leone’s struggle trying to cast the secondary character that would be filled by Van Cleef (similarly to when he was trying to cast the hero in his last film, Leone again wanted Henry Fonda or Charles Bronson, and at one point almost had Lee Marvin.) The commentary is better but this is a decent summarization.
Back for More: Client Eastwood Remembers For a Few Dollars More is a 7-minute segment presenting a roughly 5-minute interview with the actor on his memories of shooting the film, part of a bigger interview where he covers his work with Leone. He recalls the rather laid back shooting style on the film and working with Lee Van Cleef, the only other American there, and talks a little about some reservations he had with Leone’s work, suggesting he found his films longer than he would have liked. He then explains his reasoning for not continuing to work with Leone after The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and turning down the lead in Once Upon a Time in the West (with the role going to Bronson who Leone originally wanted for Eastwood’s role A Fistful of Dollars.) Unfortunately short but engaging and to the point.
Tre voci (Three Voices) is an 11-minute segment featuring interviews with producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati, and actor/dubber Mickey Knox. Along with some general notes about the production they talk about the casting of Van Cleef and punching up of the script. The more interesting note is one about how Eastwood decided to have his character talk slower in this film after being inspired by the actor who dubbed over his voice for the Italian version of A Fistful of Dollars, who chose to slow down the dialogue a bit. Short, almost frivolous, but some good stuff is found in here.
The next supplement covers the original American release version which had some minor differences, specifically in the scene where Eastwood and Van Cleef’s characters take a severe beating. The original-original version from Italy, before United Artists cut it, though, also contained a slightly longer scene early on where we actually get to hear the Man-With-No-Name’s name (United Artists’ trimmed it so they could keep their successful marketing campaign.) Interesting featurette that runs about 5-minutes.
After this we get a 12-minute segment presenting past and present photos of some of the locations used in the film in Almeria, Spain (the recent photos were taken in 2004). I do usually get a kick out of these, though the ones here are disappointing as not too much has changed. Most of the landscapes are still barren though now overgrown with weeds.
The disc then closes with 12 radio spots and 2 theatrical trailers.
Overall a decent set of supplements that are entertaining enough but as a whole never gets beyond general trivia and behind-the-scenes material, though I did find the video about Frayling’s video about his collection fairly interesting.
Disappointingly average edition, with some okay supplements but with a somewhat abysmal audio and video presentation. It’s cheap and still better than the previous DVD editions, but it could be so much better and I hope maybe Fox might see fit to revisit this (and the other films in the trilogy) at some point.