A Fistful of Dollars (Blu-ray)
Film InformationDirector: Sergio Leone // Kino Video // 99 minutes // Rating: R // 1964
Reviewed by: Matt Malouf | May 24th, 2018
Plot: What’s it about?
Clint Eastwood is no stranger to the western genre. He’s well known for his many roles, particularly as “The man with no name”. Two other films in this trilogy of spaghetti westerns followed. For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I had first seen Fistful many years ago when I was on something of a western kick, but it was great revisiting it for this review. This new Blu-Ray comes full of quality extras and a new transfer to boot. I’ve read some other differing comments regarding the transfer, but it looked mostly fine to me. We’ll get more on that later, but let’s discuss the film first.
We see a stranger arrive in town, but know little of his backstory or who he is. He’s played by Clint Eastwood and has a bit of grit to him. He wears a poncho, doesn’t talk much and sports a beard. His stillness is both intriguing and a bit frightening. Basically he looks like a man you don’t want to mess with. Unfortunately, some of the locals didn’t get the memo as within the first few moments of the film, they’re picking on him. They shoot at him and talk trash. Before long, the stranger learns that the trio of men who were harassing him work for the local sheriff, John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy). He is one of two rival houses involved in a feud destroying the town. The Rojo brothers are the second in this ongoing feud. With the feuding going on, the stranger plays both sides, offering his services to both groups, eventually pitting them against each other. Clearly he is a man with no moral code. He will simply go to the highest bidder. I found this element to Eastwood’s character the most interesting. At no point does the film try to make him the hero in the traditional sense. But in a way, the film has no heroes.
There isn’t the most complex plot here, but that doesn’t matter, because the film moves at a fast pace and has plenty to keep us occupied. I won’t say this is my favorite western, but it’s a solid one to be sure. I also realize that at this point the film has been so widely recognized that my review of it is hardly relevant. Still, with that being said, it’s well worth adding to your collection whether you’re an Eastwood fan or western fan. Or both. Either way, I’m glad to have it as I can see myself returning to it from time to time.
Video: How’s it look?
It’s been some time since I saw this on the old Blu-Ray disc, but this version has been cleaned up nicely. The image is AVC encoded with a 2.35:1 ratio, but also has a yellowish and teal tint that may be off-putting for some, but I didn’t mind it. Let it be said that while I enjoy this film, I don’t hold it as highly regarded as some might. I don’t mean that as a knock so much, but the tinkering with the image doesn’t irritate me as much as it might some of the diehard fans of this film. There’s still a clean, sharp aspect to it that shows effort was at least made in polishing this up. There is a bit of grain, but I’ve grown to expect that with films of this sort. So overall I’m pleased with the results, but just know what to expect going in.
Audio: How’s it sound?
We can choose between a 2.0 and 5.1 DTS HD track. I opted for the latter, and found it quite engaging. There are limited vocals for some stretches of the film, but the action and dialogue does have a clarity to it. I sampled the other track and feel pleased with both. Choose whichever you wish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – We can choose between two tracks. Both feature film historians. One has Tim Lucas and the other features Sir Christopher Frayling. Both have their share of insight, but fans may eventually want to listen to both.
- Interview (32:57) – Marianne Koch gives some lengthy notes about her casting in the film and working with Clint Eastwood among other things.
- The Christopher Frayling Archives (18:40) – This is a nice feature about Leone’s biographer and gathering information about the director. Lots of good info is found here, making this worth checking out.
- A New Kind of Hero (22:53) – Here we get a look at the development of the film and other interesting tidbits.
- A Few Weeks in Spain (8:32) – This one features an interview with Clint Eastwood discussing the film and shooting as well as dubbing and working with Leone.
- Tre Voci: Three Friends Remember Sergio Leone (11:13) – We hear from three men about working with the director.
- Not Ready for Primetime (6:18) – This discusses the opening prologue for the film in which a double was used for Eastwood.
- The Network Prologue (7:03) – This is the actual prologue that was discussed in the previous feature. It’s fun to see, but feels a bit odd.
- Location Comparisons (5:21) – I always enjoy checking these out that compare the then and now.
- Trailers from Hell (3:58) – This shows the trailer with commentary from director John Badham.
- Original Outtakes (2:41) – Pretty straightforward here, just some random outtakes.
- A Fistful in Pictures (14:51) – We get an animated image gallery.
- Promoting A Fistful of Dollars (15:47) – This offers a look at the posters and other marketing materials for the film.
- Radio Spots
The Bottom Line
A film of this sort really sells itself at this point. I will say that I loved revisiting it and we’re treated to some quality extras that will keep you occupied for a while. How you feel about the image might vary, but I didn’t mind it. Diehard fans might want to think about it before purchasing, however.