Sadly, ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ comes to American Region A locked Blu-ray with a very disappointing looking 1080p MPEG-2 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. As I watched the movie on a 50 inch plasma screen, I felt that my eyes were straining as the image just didn’t have the sharpness to be viewed at that size. It would have been much worse had I projected it on the 7 foot screen. There’s no doubt that there are many soft focus shots in the movie, but they are hard to enjoy when the basic image does not have the bite of a High Def transfer. Colours have a muted and faded look. By that I don’t mean colour fading due to unstable dyes in the master print (which leaves you with a magenta tint), I mean they just look weak. Having said that, in some brightly lit shots the greens appeared somewhat oversaturated. The print itself had some damage that could have been better cleaned up and a variation in exposure towards the edge of frame. In darker scenes, the blacks tended towards grey and contrast was variable to say the least. Grain was also quite pronounced on some scenes (even on daylight shots). The opening sepia tone sequence looked as if it was crawling with ants too. I just don’t remember it this way. The image is flat with no dimensionality and I’m sure cinematographer Conrad Hall will be doing handsprings in his grave at the way his work is represented here. There’s no excuse for such a poor release. This movie needs a full restoration in order to treat it with the respect that it is due.
The audio on ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ has been remixed into a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track which doesn’t really have a lot going for it. Gunshots seem to have taken on greater depth and the surrounds occasionally spring to life to give us the sound of bullets ricocheting off rocks, but most of the time they’re silent. One thing I did notice during the scene where Butch and Sundance are being swept down river was that I could actually hear what they were shouting above the rushing sound of the white water. Dialogue was generally clear throughout, so we got to hear William Goldman’s great lines but there was nothing here to really warrant a surround mix. There is a mono mix on the disc and it’s probably best to stick with the original audio.
The American Region A locked Blu-ray comes in a nicely presented 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Digibook which fans will like as it contains features on the two stars as well as director George Roy Hill. All of the bonus material on the disc has seen the light of day before, but much of it has been upscaled to 1080i using the MPEG-2 codec.
Audio Commentaries - We get not one but two commentary tracks here. The first features director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David, associate producer Robert Crawford and the late cinematographer Conrad Hall. It’s edited together from different recordings so nobody crashes the others vocals and they give us some nice background anecdotes about the production. It’s quite nostalgic but I wouldn’t call it particularly lively.
The second comm.track has screenwriter William Goldman flying solo and, for a man who’s written some witty scripts (‘The Princess Bride’ etc) he’s surprisingly dull. He criticizes his own work constantly but also gives us some detail on how the movie ‘romanticized’ true life events from history. Listening to him is hard work but writers can learn from his insights into the production.
All Of The Following Is True: The Making Of 'Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid' (HD, 36 mins) – This ‘making of’ doco hails from 2005 and trawls the archives of material used on previous releases to give us quite a good overview of the production. We have input from stars Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katherine Ross together with director George Roy Hill, writer William Goldman and composer Burt Bacharach, among others. They discuss the whole beginning of the project, give us their views on some scenes like the ‘Raindrops ...’ bicycle sequence and wax lyrical about the movie’s legacy.
The Wild Bunch: The Fact vs. Fiction of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (HD, 25 mins) – Here we have the history lesson that first appeared on a DVD release. We hear about the real Butch and Sundance from some Academics and then compare them to the on screen characters thanks to many movie clips. Interesting all the same.
Deleted Scene (SD, 3 mins) – There’s only one scene here folks, called ‘Tent’ with an optional commentary explaining its removal by director Hill. Good for completists.
Theatrical Trailers (HD, 6 mins total) – We get the original teaser and two trailers for the movie from ropey old prints that have then been upconverted to HD. Not exactly pretty but good to see how the movie was sold to the world back in 1969.
That classic buddy Western movie ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ comes to American Region A locked Blu-ray in a 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Digibook with a bitterly disappointing 1080p MPEG-2 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It lacks sharpness, consistency of colour, contrast and any kind of dimensionality. A movie in need of a proper restoration. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track provides us with clear, intelligible dialogue and not a whole lot more. Stick with the included original mono mix, folks. The bonus materials comprise recycled featurettes and a couple of commentary tracks give us some insight into the production.The movie itself is just sheer entertainment with a witty script from William Goldman and great buddy performances from Newman & Redford in the tale of the two Bank and Train robbers who try to go straight in Bolivia. Great movie, shame about the transfer.
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