THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) on KL Studio Classics Blu-ray

After two flawed MGM releases, Kino’s turn serves up the best offering of the film but fumbles on extras.

When I was in college, Best Buy ran a “3 for $20” DVD special and I casually blind-bought all three Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood westerns (aka “The Man With No Name” or “Dollars” Trilogy) based on their reputation, little realizing they were about to become some of my favorite movies, and introduce me to the world of spaghetti westerns and more generally to Italian and European genre filmmaking of the 60s.

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve already seen and appreciate The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the most popular — and many would argue greatest — of all spaghetti westerns. The story of three men competing to find a buried treasure against the backdrop of the American Civil War is a study of greed that needs little introduction, celebrated for its morally deficient characters, sweaty close-ups, widescreen splendor, incredible opening titles, and of course the celebrated score by Ennio Morricone, itself a masterpiece of soaring emotion, thematic instrumentation, and even playfulness.

Anyway, don’t misinterpret my brushing quickly past the movie itself — I assume you know it’s a masterpiece and want to hear about the Blu-ray.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly has had a couple prior Blu-ray releases in 2009 and 2014, both of which received a mixed response from consumers who contested various issues, which collectively included poor picture quality, botched color timing, and the exclusion of a mono soundtrack and theatrical cut in favor of the remixed 5.1 audio and extended cut.

In defense of these changes, the “extended” cut wasn’t a random marketing scheme, but a restoration of Leone’s originally preferred vision. Unfortunately the newly recorded audio for these scenes is pretty jarring, but even so I can appreciate the decision to have Eastwood and Wallach return, even if their voices sounded very different so many years later. As for the 5.1 soundtrack, it sounds pretty great. The problem with these treatments wasn’t so much the inclusion of the “new” elements, but the exclusion of the old. After all, we’d been watching this movie a certain way for 50 years.

The Package

With this new 2-disc release, Kino has definitely tried to put out the most comprehensive and fan-focused Blu-ray release. While it is succeeds at being the best, it unfortunately falls short of being definitive, and for one the lamest reasons imaginable. We’ll get to that.

In terms of packaging, the disc comes in a standard case but includes a reversible cover, both sides of which feature classic poster artwork. It also comes with a KL Studio Classics release catalog.

The Good

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is a damn near perfect movie, and my favorite Western, period. In terms of simply appreciating the film, this is the best way to own it. Both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film are included on separate discs with beautiful restorations that address most of the issues that people have complained about with the other releases. Additionally, the 5.1, mono, and Italian tracks are all available, moreover on both versions of the movie. Plus three audio commentaries (combined total across both cuts) and tons of extras, including some new stuff.

The Bad

On an aesthetic level, Kino’s super-basic approach isn’t nearly as sexy as MGM’s prior releases with their embossed slipboxes, animated menus, etc. Perhaps most importantly, many collectors already own or prefer this film in a trilogy or anthology box set; obviously this standalone release won’t act as a replacement for the other sets. Thankfully most of this is of peripheral concern, and secondary to simply enjoying the film.

The Ugly

Here’s where things get really unfortunate. On paper, this release has all the special features that have come before. The reality, though, is that most of the ported extra featurettes and interviews have been badly botched — the picture quality is extremely pixelated, jaggy and jittery. Motion is not fluid, looking as if the framerate has been reduced. I have confirmed this is true by direct comparison. My guess is that they tried to deinterlace the combing from the prior releases but did a poor job of it. The combing is technically gone, but the result is much worse, especially in motion. It really would’ve been better if they had simply ported over the prior discs’ content without any changes. TVs or video software often have the means to address interlacing, but can’t correct this mess.

These problems do not affect the main feature — only the ported extras on the Extended disc. Additionally, most of the trailers (on both discs) exhibit some similarly stuttery motion, though not the accompanying low-rez jaggies.

It’s possible that I might have a defective copy, but I’ve now confirmed that other reviewers have also noted these issues, so it’s not an isolated problem.

Theatrical Disc

  • 4K Restoration, with restored 1967 UA Logo
  • New Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
  • Trailers From Hell with Ernest Dickerson (3:24)
  • Alternate Scene: The Optical Flip (0:52)
  • Deleted Scene 1: Skeletons in the Desert (1:03)
  • Deleted Scene 2: Extended Torture Scene (1:03)
  • Photo Gallery: TGTB&TU On The Set (8:12)
  • Photo Gallery: Promoting TGTB&TU (9:05)
  • Sergio Leone Trailers
    – A Fistful of Dollars (2:26)
    – For A Few Dollars More (2:29)
    – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (3:22)
    – Once Upon a Time In The West (2:52)
    – Duck, You Sucker (3:35)
  • Audio Options:
    – Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    – Newly Restored English 2.0 Mono Audio
    – English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Audio

Extended Disc

  • 4K Restoration
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Richard Schickel
  • Audio Commentary By Cultural Historian Sir Christopher Frayling
  • Leone’s West: Making Of Documentary (19:55)
  • Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and TGTB&TU Featurette Part 1 (7:48)
  • Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and TGTB&TU Featurette Part 2 (12:27)
  • The Leone Style: On Sergio Leone Featurette (23:48)
  • The Man Who Lost The Civil War: Civil War Documentary (14:23)
  • Reconstructing TGTB&TU (11:09)
  • Extended Tuco Torture scene (7:14)
  • The Socorro Sequence — A Reconstruction (3:01)
  • Vignettes
    – Vignette 1: Uno, Due, Tre (0:40)
    – Vignette 2: Italian Lunch (0:43)
    – Vignette 3: New York Accent (0:09)
    – Vignette 4: Gun in Holster (0:59)
  • Original French Theatrical Trailer (3:30)
  • Audio Options:
    – Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    – Newly Restored English 2.0 Mono Audio
    – English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Audio

Parting Thoughts:

Strictly on a movie level, this is the definite one to own, with both cuts and all three audio options. The extras package introduces some great new stuff, but fumbles hard on porting over the old stuff.

In a Mexican standoff of all three Blu-ray editions, this one’s the disc left standing — but got shot up in the battle.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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