When Even Good is Ugly

Years of retreading The Good, the Bad, the Ugly’s score and imagery take nothing from the film, but instead elevate it to masterful status. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly features less cinematography than it does iconography in every frame. A blistering fast near three-hour runtime unspools a quintessential western fantasy.

Set around (and through) the American Civil War, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly finds three characters in the fight only for themselves. It’s all over buried gold, cliché and derivative, yet crucial in developing an exemplary moral basis for the violence to come.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly maintains a grip on its audience

Troops march past this trio, headed to fight against the Confederacy, yet The Good, the Bad, the Ugly’s protagonists ignore it all, intertwined only as they must. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) watch as men storm a bridge to certain death, casually smoking and loading guns as the battle plays out. They take no side other than what pushes them closer to their goal.

Tuco is the first granted on-screen status – “the ugly.” He’s wanted for rape, murder, arson, theft, and other charges lost in the background. An awful human being, selfish and crass. Also, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly’s anti-hero, utterly likable for his brash, wimpy personality. Eastwood commands respect; his unblinking eyes are enough to raise caution to those near him. But Tuco is joyfully terrible, a faultless cinematic creation, embodying the western’s crudest traits.

There’s always doubt. Always tension. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly maintains a grip on its audience, repeatedly set in place through the opening act. A man is hanged, but not. Then the reverse, but not. An unsteady visit by Lee Van Cleef to a man’s home ends viciously. A grueling desert walk instill more doubt. What these men put one another through, utterly divested from empathy, fits so succinctly to revolting Southern values on the other side of a famed bridge. Yet they don’t care. War only impedes their progress toward wealth, and too many times that ends up being the most truthful American value.

Video

Notably without HDR, Kino’s release loses something because of that decision, but no one will know what until a later edition includes it. What’s here though is marvelous, firm in contrast under the desert sun. Glossy skin highlights and shines. Age takes nothing from this presentation. Even black levels reach a suitable density, just off from pure black, if still enough to establish depth.

Pronounced grain covers the imagery, suffering minor pixelization in intentionally hazy wide shots. Otherwise, Kino’s encode stays transparent to the film stock, convincingly film-esque. That’s furthered by enormous texture. Those famed close-ups pull out fidelity in gobs. Immense sharpness gives the desert a spectacular quality. Resolution is invincible, the 4K jump noticeable if not as pronounced as some others.

Gone – mercifully – is the garish color grading from past editions. Now the earth tones sing, still veering toward vintage sepia/orange, but naturally so. Bronzed flesh tones and dried out grass make up the palette, the occasional costume or bright umbrella breaking through the heat. Saturation expands later as troop uniforms enter the frame, and trains rush past, emblazoned with red.

Audio

Ennio Morricone’s iconic score found better days; whether it’s the DTS-HD 5.1 or stereo track doesn’t matter. Waning treble nearly disappears from age. Harshness overwhelms the highest chords. Roughened dialog doesn’t earn a pass either. Restoration does what it can.

Either mix presents a decent choice. A slight low-end push in the 5.1 track, barely perceptible, brings some weight to the audio. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly is by no means a powerhouse, and thankfully, it’s untouched in terms of added sound effects. There’s nothing in the rear channels either, the fronts stretching a little in terms of the score.

Extras

On the UHD, Kino includes deleted/extended scenes, fully restored in 4K. In total, they reach about 24-minutes. A minutes worth of alternate scene transitions follow. Also, Tim Lucas offers a commentary track.

Pop in the Blu-ray to access Lucas’ commentary again, and MGM’s 20-minute Leone’s West feature. Morricone earns a two-part feature on his work. Another look at Leone lasts for 23-minutes. A 14-minute look at the real Civil War inspiration comes next. A peak at the extended cut’s restoration reaches 11-minutes. Bunches of trailers and promo materials mark the finale.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

A genre masterpiece, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly doesn’t suffer after decades of reference, parody, and copycats.

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User Review
5 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 67 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: