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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - September, 2011

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"A Fistful of Dollars" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-september-2011-fistful

Synopsis

Clint Eastwood plays a lone drifter who wanders into a small border town called San Miguel.  He soon learns that the town has "Two Masters" because there are two separate crime families that run the town.  One family, the Rojos, are liquor smugglers while the other family, the Baxters, smuggle guns.  Eastwood, the "Man with No Name", sees weaknesses in the situation and winds up devising numerous scenarios to foil and confuse each gang while bringing them into conflict against each other.  He is out for a fistful of dollars.  This "Spaghetti Western" was actually a multi-national effort involving production companies from Italy, Spain and Germany. It remains an enduring classic from the heyday of feature-length westerns.

Specifications

  • MGM Home Entertainment
  • 1964, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, John Wels, W. Lukschy, S. Rupp and Joe Edger
  • Directed by Sergio Leone
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is the film where Clint Eastwood really burst on to the scene as a blockbuster-type leading man.  After viewing this movie, I can clearly see why something like that would have happened.  In "Fistful", Eastwood showcases the even-handed tough guy persona that has been the sustaining image for him as an actor and later as a director and producer.  He brings a special brand of youthful exuberance to the lead role as well.

The story is set in the Mexican border town called San Miguel.  In the film, this mythical town is a desolate and bleak place.  The landscapes are sparse and the buildings remarkably barren and in disrepair.  That vibe sets the tone for much of the movie.  The classic and beloved musical score by Ennio Morricone is the perfect companion to all the on-screen action.  The closing scene that has Eastwood taking on Ramon Rojo in a duel is one of the best crafted western shoot-outs ever captured on film.  Bravo!

Technical

This movie was originally shot in Technicolor at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and that is how it is presented on this Blu-Ray.  The image quality is generally quite nice in most scenes.  Some of the daytime scenes are a little blown-out and the film stock has some signs of wear.  Due to the slower ASA/DIN films of the day, night scenes do not look very convincing at all.

The audio shows its age a little as well: There is not much bass to speak of while the music and special effects tend toward the hard and bright side of things.  I wound up turning on THX Re-EQ to take the edge off a little bit. The geometric perspective of the sound was reasonably natural for this disc.  (See my review of "For a Few Dollars More" for the rest of the story on this.)

Extras

This disc contains a substantial collection high quality extras:  The Christopher Frayling Archives - "A Fistful of Dollars"; Commentary by Film Historian Christopher Frayling; A New Kind of Hero; A Few Weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood on the Experience of Making the Film; Tre Voci - "A Fistful of Dollars"; Not Ready for Primetime -  Renowned Filmmaker Monte Hellman discusses the Television Broadcast of "A Fistful of Dollars";  The Network Prologue with Actor Harry Dean Stanton; Location Comparisons - Then to Now; 10 Radio Spots; Double Bill Trailer and the Theatrical Trailer.