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Old 12-24-2013, 12:14 PM   #77
Fitzcarraldo Fitzcarraldo is offline
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Apr 2011
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Copy received.

The good news first: as reported earlier, the underlying scans of the negative are of a high quality, without excessive grain management. Also, both the Italian and English audio is the correct version with the music cues in the right place and the English swearing intact. As anticipated, this is the original Italian edit with the final flashback at the end.

The edition however is not without its problems. As with all the recent Leone restorations bar A Fistful of Dollars, the colour timing is questionable. In this case, the gamma is off, meaning that shadows and highlight details are somewhat crushed. There's also so much red and so little blue that it almost looks like two-strip Technicolor. To draw comparisons, I would say that it's more problematic than Once Upon in the West but not as bad as the Italian restoration of Once Upon a Time in America. There's also a strange anomaly whereby a few frames of black have been inserted between the opening credits and the rest of the film, a mistake I presume.

And then there's the English track. Although this is the right version, quality is very poor. Unlike the Italian track, which has been very nicely restored, the English track sounds as if it has been ripped straight off of an old 35mm print with a dull, echoey tenor throughout. It is also out of sync, running 2-3 frames later than it should - this was the first of Leone's films to be shot with sync sound but you wouldn't know it here. To top things off, the film ends with a bonafide screw-up: Steiger's last line on the English track ("what about me?") is in Italian! Although not a flaw, English viewers should also be aware that the titles and the opening quote from Mao are also in Italian.

To conclude, although this is the best release to date of the Italian version of the film, and things could certainly be worse (eg. MGM's atrocious 5.1 remix from 2005), there is certainly room for improvement. The 2003 European DVD release still has the best colour, by far the best English audio track and, for me, the best edit of the film (not being particularly enamoured of the final flashback or the extra two lines of dialogue) - although of course it lacks HD resolution. On balance then, for English audiences, my advice would be to hold on to that version and wait and see what we get from MGM.

Last edited by Fitzcarraldo; 12-24-2013 at 12:18 PM.
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