Ernest Borgnine Versus George Hilton

Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine and spaghetti western icon George Hilton square off in the gritty and often tragic spaghetti western A Bullet For Sandoval. A desperate tale of revenge, a man loses his Mexican fiancee and their infant son, becoming an embittered outlaw bent on destroying his fiancee’s powerful father who wronged him. The Spanish-Italian co-production from Spanish director Julio Buchs hums with an emotional intensity from its anti-hero protagonist played by George Hilton, facing a much hammier and probably over-the-hill Ernest Borgnine.

John Warner (George Hilton) deserts the Confederate Army when he learns his Mexican lover is in labor, hoping to marry her before their child is born. Crossing the border on the run, Warner arrives at her father Don Pedro Sandoval’s home to learn she has died in childbirth.

A Bullet For Sandoval is a first-rate spaghetti western backed by a strong international cast

Blaming this gringo interloper for his daughter’s death, a furious Sandoval (Ernest Borgnine) disowns the child and hands him off to his father, kicking them out for good. Struggling and alone, the situation turns grim very quickly as Warner attempts to save his dying baby. Fearing the spread of deadly contagion, locals offer him no help.

On the run from the Army and now with a sick baby in tow, a series of escalating tragedies turn Warner from a decent man into the leader of a notorious outlaw gang. Assembling a motley crew of criminals and reprobates, Warner’s bandits begin terrorizing Mexico and Sandoval’s empire.

The grim story culminates in an epic climax, including someone getting gored in a bullring. Violent and often seedy for what is technically a PG-rated film, A Bullet For Sandoval is a first-rate spaghetti western backed by a strong international cast. There are no good guys, merely a desperate and broken man on the warpath with revenge on his mind.

A stylishly directed adventure considering its gritty nature, Borgnine takes a back seat to George Hilton’s quietly searing performance. A darker and more unhinged take on Eastwood’s Man With No Name, Hilton proves his meddle once again in the genre which made him a minor star during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Video

Let’s clear one thing up that has confused interested parties: There is exactly one version of the movie included by VCI on this BD-50. What they’ve employed for the main feature is the longer and uncut international Spanish version which runs 101 minutes, different than the incomplete 90-minute version originally made for English markets. If you’re looking for the original English film, it’s not on this disc in that exact form.

VCI says the transfer has been restored in 4K resolution from the original uncut film negative, crediting the job to Blair & Associates. The film elements are in fairly solid condition. Adequate grain reproduction, if texture and detail are a tad soft for a new 4K scan. Clarity is often nice with a bit of debris peppering the 2.35:1 presentation. The contrast is steady with sufficient black levels, though could be deeper and richer. Color saturation is a bit washed out and dusty, a new color correction would do wonders.

The AVC encode is serviceable, though a few minor issues pop up in grittier scenes. Another issue is noticeable judder in a couple bad frames, as if the movie has been poorly authored in 1080p. This is not a new problem for VCI and they should look into their authoring issues on Blu-ray.

A Bullet For Sandoval makes the leap to Blu-ray in decent quality despite a few minor issues. It’s not an impeccable presentation with gorgeous depth and fine detail, but gives new life to the final showdown in all its blood-splattered glory.

Audio

Two audio options are included by VCI, the original Spanish in 2.0 PCM mono and a newly expanded English 2.0 PCM mono, really a frankenstein creation of the original English dub and adding in a few new scenes matching the longer international version. One of the spaghetti western’s main highlights is a rousing score from Gianni Ferrio, doing his best Morricone impersonation.

VCI took the original 90-minute English dub’s audio and inserted new English dialogue sequences supervised by sound designer Dan Wool to match the shorter English cut up with the uncut Spanish version. The English dub has a couple of modern voice-overs flown in for the extra scenes, adding lines which were never present in the shorter English version.

It’s a seamless effort that works better than it should in theory. Not perfectly matched, but clearly acceptable unless one is an absolute purist. The English dub offers higher fidelity with fewer sonic deficiencies than the Spanish-language soundtrack. Even with the newly inserted English audio for a handful of awkward transitions, I’d suggest going with the English dub.

Modest hiss and limited dynamic range reflect mono film recordings made for low-budget adventure yarns.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font outside the widescreen presentation. These are dubtitles taken from the English audio, not a straight translation of the Spanish audio.

Extras

Definitely a huge step up from VCI’s earlier DVD releases, A Bullet For Sandoval makes its worldwide Blu-ray debut with a new commentary. The disc is coded for all regions.

Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox – The director behind such flicks as Repo Man styles himself an expert on Spaghetti Westerns and gives an impassioned discussion of the film’s strengths. The chat is patchy and uneven, though occasionally offers fascinating insight when Cox is engaged. It’s apparent Cox doesn’t go into his commentaries with much preparation and I think a moderator or co-host who could nudge him along in the dry spots would improve things immensely.

Original U.S. Theatrical Trailer (03:18 in SD)

Original Spanish Opening Credits (02:28 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

A Bullet for Sandoval
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A tragic Spaghetti Western told with vigor starring a stoic George Hilton and an angry Ernest Borgnine

Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 56 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *