The biggest news/contention regards the new release and remaster for Sergio Leone’s magnificent epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a matter of colour timing. Like many HD releases of catalogue titles, the remastering process seems to have invited a shift in the ‘look’ of the film. In this particular case there’s been a concious decision with a bias towards the yellow, giving the image a rather golden tint throughout. Very often colour-timings tend to move towards the blue, perhaps indicative of current fashion/sensibilities in cinematography- the move towards the yellow in this case is perhaps to give the film something of a sepia tone in line with its period Western setting, but who knows? One of the annoying things about these changes is that they are done without any announcement, let alone any explanation- the films are simply released as if ignorant of the inevitable outcry from purists. I do wonder who authorises these changes, particularly in cases such as this where the director has died and cannot voice an opinion.
To be honest, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is such a great, great film – likely my favourite Western- that any colour issues are almost immaterial. It was a great film on my family’s black and white CRT back when I saw it on a tv-broadcast pan and scan version decades ago. It was still a great film on fuzzy VHS and later widescreen DVD. On this Blu-ray it remains an absolutely fantastic film – it just looks somewhat different. I even think, on the whole, it looks fine- the warmer palette really suits some sequences, and any negatives are roundly balanced by the simply astonishing level of detail in the image brought out by the remaster.
But of course, clearly some purists won’t be happy. Its a pity the original theatrical cut wasn’t included, perhaps boasting the original colour timing (this release is of the now-standard extended edition). I guess this is an example of how lucky we Blade Runner fans were with the multidisc Blu-ray we got a few years ago with all the cuts included. To many it may have looked like overkill- redundant that some of the earlier versions may seem (the Final Cut is really pretty definitive, fixing continuity errors that have bothered fans for years), its only the original theatrical and directors cuts of Blade Runner that really look like the film we saw all those years ago. There’s still things that look a little strange to me when watching the Final Cut.
So I guess I can understand why some fans of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are so aghast at what has been done to their beloved film. Its a funny thing these days; so many different versions/cuts of films, now different colour-timings are added to the mix, as well as new foley effects etc. Is there ever a truly definitive version of any film anymore? In anycase, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is such a monumental film, with such a classic cast and score… its certainly one for the Ages, and I still maintain it looks gorgeous on this Blu-ray.