A Fistful Of Dollars

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Amber Wilkinson's film review of A Fistful Of Dollars
A Fistful Of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars certainly boasts a fistful of extras, but what of the print? MGM went to considerable lengths to give this double disc a good polish before releasing it. And it shows. The sound, in particular, has benefited hugely from being converted into 5.1. The print isn't perfect, a fact director of technical operations John Kirk freely admits in the five-minute Restoration Italian Style extra. He reveals that Italy retains the original print and so they restored what they had by splicing together all the best bits of the versions they could get hold of. Considering what a shoestring it was made on, it's amazing that the existing print is so well preserved and the film is good enough to make you forget about the scratching here and there.

Almost all the extras add something to the film, making it one of the best I've seen this year. Sir Christopher Frayling has written books on Sergio Leone and spaghetti Westerns, so he is well qualified to talk about the film and blissfully also understands how to put a point across. The commentary track is excellent and informative. He manages to knit together a good historical guide to how Leone came to make A Fistful Of Dollars, with snippets about what happened on the set, biographies of the main actors and general information about censorship and the audience of the day. Truly a classic commentary and proof that film writers are often better placed to provide interesting notes on films based on their research than even directors, who often slip into "love in" mode.

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Frayling is also on hand for the 21 minute documentary, A New Kind Of Hero, explaining how Leone transformed Kurosawa's Yojimbo and the consequences for them both, contextualising the film and discussing the casting of Clint Eastwood, the influence of James Bond on the title sequence and how the film came to be made in Technoscope. There is just enough crossover between this and the commentary to round out the information and make them feel like a unit without Frayling's observations becoming repetitive.

A Few Weeks in Spain is a seven-minute interview with Eastwood about the making of the film. He reveals that Leone spoke no English and he no Italian, making communication interesting to say the least. He comes up with a string of great anecdotes about how Leone cut corners to get what he wanted, including pretending that the whole production team was Jewish so they could work on a Sunday. Again, this offers a totally new perspective and covers different ground to the Frayling interview and commentary, making it an excellent addition to the disc.

The Three Voices (Tre Voci) featurette is equally endearing. It features producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati and American actor Mickey Knox, who helped provide English language tracks for many of Leone's films. They recall Sergio as a friend and remember funny details that Eastwood may wish to forget ("He said Clint had two expressions, with a hat and without a hat"). Another terrific extra offering lots of background gems that you won't have heard before.

The radio spot adverts are surprisingly entertaining, illustrating with its gravely male voice-over and climactic music, how little trailers have changed since 1964. Interestingly, the marketing men also prove, with hindsight, to have been surprisingly accurate: "It is the first motion picture of it kind... it won't be the last."

Another extra gem is information about the film's lost prologue. Seemingly, a man killing without any form of moral reasoning was too racy for a US network audience when it was first televised, so they called on director Monte Hellman to make a five minute preamble to give Joe, Eastwood's "man with a name," a motive. It looks completely daft now, with the acting double wearing a poncho nearly long enough to drag on the floor, being half Clint's height. It's all great fun and comes complete with an explanation of how one uber-Fistful fan became the owner of this rare copy after taping it on Betamax when it was first shown.

The other two extras are for completists only. The collector's gallery has some 30 photos from the set that roll round on their own, without musical accompaniment, while the Location Comparison, showing that - surprise! surprise! - things have changed in Almeria since this film was made, seems faintly pointless. The addition of one extra too many can't stop me recommending this, however. It really is a definitive edition that could well win the movie a whole new set of fans.

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2005
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A Fistful Of Dollars packshot
First instalment of the 'man with no name' trilogy.
Amazon link

Product Code: 10005396

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Audio commentary by Leone biographer Sir Christopher Fraying; A New Kind Of Hero documentary; A Few Weeks In Spain featurette; interview with Clint Eastwood; Tre Voci/Three Voices; three friends remember Sergio Leone; Restoration Italian Style; Location Comparisons, original location material; radio spots; The Television Cut; Not Ready For Primetime; The Network Prologue; trailer

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