Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A Fistful of Dollars – Kino Lorber (4k UHD/Blu-ray Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy/Spain/West Germany, 1964
Director: Sergio Leone
Writers: Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone, Fernando Di Leo, Ryûzô Kikushima, Duccio Tessari, Tonino Valerii
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volontè, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Mario Brega 

Release Date: May 31st, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 99 Minutes 47 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC SDR (4K UHD), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Blu-ray)
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free (UHD)/Region A (Blu-Ray)
Retail Price: $39.95

"A lean, cold-eyed, cobra-quick gunfighter (Eastwood) arrives in a grim and dusty border town where two rival bands of smugglers terrorize the impoverished citizens. Though he receives lucrative offers of employment from each gang, his loyalty cannot be bought. He accepts both jobs...and sets in motion a deadly plan to destroy the criminals, pitting one against the other in a series of brilliantly orchestrated setups, showdowns and deadly confrontations." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (4K UHD), 4.25/5 (Blu-ray)

Over the years, Sergio Leone's films have been treated poorly on home video. Nowhere is this clearer then how inconsistent the audio and video has been since the first time his films got released on home video. Another shortcoming of Sergio Leone’s films on home video is that most of these releases represent versions that alter his original vision. Fortunately in recent years there has been a raised awareness to finally restore his films the way they he intended them to be seen.

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Over 24 hours of extensive shot-by-shot color grading of the logarithmic restored 4K files provided by L’Immagine Ritrovata.”

A Fistful of Dollars comes on a 100 GB triple layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 65.3 GB

Feature: 63.7 GB

Though Kino Lorber released A Fistful of Dollars on Blu-ray in 2018, I have not seen that release. The only A Fistful of Dollars Blu-ray release that I have seen is MGM’s 2011 Blu-ray. That said, for this release, Kino Lorber has done additional work to the source, and the transfer for the Blu-ray included as part of this combo comes from the new transfer that’s being used for the 4K UHD disc.

This new transfer from Kino Lorber will come as a revelation for those most familiar with A Fistful of Dollars. Image clarity is solid, black levels are consistently strong, there are no complaints when it comes to color saturation, and the image retains an organic look that is free of any digital tinkering.

A Fistful of Dollars comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.8 GB

Feature: 30.7 GB

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. I only listened to the DTS-HD mono mix for this review. The DTS-HD mono mix in English is in great shape; dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, ambient sounds are well-represented, and Ennio Morricone’s score sounds appropriately robust. The 5.1 track is the same track that Kino Lorber used on their earlier Blu-ray release. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release are spread over two discs.

Extras on the 4K UHD disc include an audio commentary with novelist and film critic Tim Lucas and an audio commentary with noted film historian Sir Christopher Frayling.

Extras on the Blu-ray disc include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 32 seconds, DTS-HD mono English, no subtitles), A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More - Burning at Both Ends double feature trailer (2 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More - Burning at Both Ends double feature radio spot (1 minute 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), image galleries: A Fistful of Dollars On the Set, Promoting A Fistful of Dollars, and A Fistful in Pictures, A Fistful of Dollars original outtakes (2 minutes 41 seconds, DTS-HD stereo/no dialog/music from the film playing in the background), Trailers from Hell with John Badham (3 minutes 58 seconds, DTS-HD stereo English, no subtitles), an archival featurette titled Locations Comparisons: Then and Now (5 minutes 21 seconds, DTS-HD stereo/music from the film playing in the background), The Network Prologue with Harry Dean Stanton (7 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with filmmaker Monte Hellman who discusses A Fistful of Dollars the television broadcast (6 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival featurette titled Tre Voci: Three Friends Remember Sergio Leone (11 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Clint Eastwood titled A Few Weeks in Spain (8 minutes 32 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Sir Christopher Frayling titled A New Kind of Hero (22 minutes 53 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Sir Christopher Frayling titled The Frayling Archives: A Fistful of Dollars (18 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Marianne Koch titled Marisol: Sergio Leone’s Madonna of the West (32 minutes 57 seconds, DTS-HD stereo German with non-removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Tim Lucas and an audio commentary with Sir Christopher Frayling.

Other extras on the Blu-ray disc include trailers for For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and A Fistful of Dynamite (Duck, You Sucker!).

Other extras include a limited-edition slipcover.

Summary:

When Sergio Leone directed A Fistful of Dollars, he had only directed The Colossus of Rhodes, a by-the-numbers Sword and Sandal film. And yet, by the time he unleashed A Fistful of Dollars, his growth as a filmmaker was substantial. And though the cinematic flourishes in Colossus of Rhodes foreshadow where Sergio Leone was going as a filmmaker, it is a film that stands out like a sore thumb in his filmography.

When discussing A Fistful of Dollars, it is always best to address the elephant in the room. It is widely acknowledged that A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, a film which is an uncredited adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest.

A Fistful of Dollars is overshadowed by the four spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone that followed it. The result is a truly remarkable cinematic experience that influenced hundreds of films and put the spaghetti western genre on the map.

One thing that you can count on when it comes to spaghetti westerns is that most of them have opening sequences that give their protagonist a grand entrance. And in A Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood’s character gets a spectacular entrance.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, though he was not Sergio Leone’s original choice, It would be hard to imagine any other actor doing what Clint Eastwood did. He portrays a character who’s a man of few words and who lets his gun do most of the talking.

Another performance of note is Gian Maria Volontè (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) in the role of Ramón Rojo, the ringleader of one of the gangs that Clint Eastwood’s character pits against each other. He delivers another operatic performance that walks a fine line that comes close, but never goes over the top.

From a production standpoint, A Fistful of Dollars is a film that maximizes its resources and milks them for all their worth. Though the premise covers familiar ground, in Sergio Leone’s hands, it feels fresh. The well-executed narrative has an ample amount of action and double and triple crosses. With an exemplary finale shootout that provides a perfect climax. Another strength is Ennio Morrione’s remarkable score. Ultimately, A Fistful of Dollars is not only one of the best spaghetti westerns, it is one of the best westerns ever made.

A Fistful of Dollars makes its way to 4K UHD via an excellent release from Kino Lorber that has never looked or sounded better, and it comes with a wealth of informative extras, highly recommended.

                                                             4K UHD screenshots.












Written by Michael Den Boer

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