The best westerns are the ones that defy the conventions of the somewhat limited genre. In other words, when the film uses the western motif as a symbol or social metaphor for friendship, love, loyalty, compassion, danger, etc. Butch Cassidy is one of the
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: The Ultimate Collector's Edition
Directors: George Roy Hill
Producers: John Foreman
Writers: William Goldman
Features: * Commentaries * Documentaries * Deleted Scene * Interviews * Trailers
Paul Newman...Butch Cassidy
Robert Redford...The Sundance Kid
Katharine Ross...Etta Place
Strother Martin...Percy Garris
Henry Jones...Bike Salesman
Jeff Corey...Sheriff Ray Bledsoe
Ted Cassidy...Harvey Logan
From time to time, DVDFuture writers will be reviewing old DVD releases or new special edition DVD releases of classic or cult films. We'll also review out-of-print movies and bootleg prints of long forgotten cult gems weíd like to see officially released on DVD or special edition-ized in our newest feature: Retro Releases. Enjoy and stay groovy!
This Weeks Retro Release: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The best westerns are the ones that defy the conventions of the somewhat limited genre. In other words, when the film uses the western motif as a symbol or social metaphor for friendship, love, loyalty, compassion, danger, etc. Films like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Unforgiven and countless other have taken the genre and turned it into something much greater.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid does just the same. Itís a film about two friends on the edge of losing it all. The western theme is turned on its head thanks to the delightful pseudo-comic performances from the filmís two leads. But is the film really a western at heart, or is it a subtle statement about the impending death of the hippie culture that boomed during the age of the film?
It may not have been totally about that, at least not as forward as Easy Rider was, but itís there. This is a film about the end. Itís about going out in a blaze of glory. Itís about holding on to oneís ideology until the brink of oneís existence. Itís what makes this buddy adventure so amazing, even by todayís standards.
The film itself is entertaining throughout, but itís not without its flaws. The third act is not nearly as clever as the first two acts. The trip to Bolivia drags and once our characters make it there; the movie has a hard time getting back on track. Itís jarring, to say the least. But, the film is set up as a serial, much like the films that inspired it, so some forgiveness is due.
The dialogue is absolutely perfect. Butch Cassidy and Sundance play off of each other with such clever wit, thereís no surprise this has become such a quotable film. The scene on the mountain, one of the most famous, still remains as funny today as it was in 1969.
I also must comment on the absolutely stunning Oscar winning cinematography of Conrad L Hall. Every shot in this film is marvelous. The use of sepia tones during certain segments is clever and refreshing. The scenery of the old west is both beautiful and tragic, as it will be forgotten in the years to come. Conrad, I applaud your effort.
Of course, what modern Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid review wouldnít be complete without mention of the recent gay cowboy epic, Brokeback Mountain. Yes, Butch Cassidy and Sundance do have a rather odd relationship and itís unclear as to what the filmmakerís true intention was with that. Sundance gets angry when Butch Cassidy is fooling around with women. They ride a horse together, for several hours. Butch rides around on a bike while "Raindrops Keep Falliní on My Head" plays. And they spend virtually every waking moment together. Sure, some could argue the homosexual connotations or clichťs, but thatís not what this film is about. Butch and Sundance are too much in love with the west to be in love with each other or anyone, for that matter. They love the ideology of the west. They love bank robbing and train robbing. They love the thrill and they get along because they share that passion. Thatís what the film is about: passion, not homosexuality.
Hopefully studios will hold off on remaking this classic film. Itís still relevant and a remake just isnít necessary. I hear rumors occasionally about a remake, but they never go very far. A classic like this should really only be remade once its relevancy has ceased to exist, but then, what would be the point in remaking it in the first place?
As entertainment: * * * *
As a film: * * *
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 2:35:1, the film looks fairly worn. This is the best presentation of the film weíve seen thus far, but a lot of wear and tear can still be seen on the film. Itís sad that older films were not stored properly. While the film does look as good as it can, it could have looked so much better has the stock been stored at the proper temperature. Still, Conrad Hallís scenery shines through, even amidst the dirt and grain piled on the actual film stock. An excellent transfer given the circumstances.
The film is presented in a very appropriate Dolby Stereo and Mono track. To capture the feel of an old western, the film was not given a booming 5.1 track. While the audio is not reference quality, it works because itís formulated with a strong sense of artistic style. Dialogue and sound effects do not overlap. The best effect, of course, is the sound of hoofs racing towards Butch and Sundance. Itís a haunting noise of impending doom that might have lost its luster in 5.1.
Spanish and French mono tracks are included as well as English captions and subtitles and Spanish subtitles.
Fox has been kind enough to present us with a fantastic two-disc set loaded with goodies.
Disc One features two audio commentaries. The first is from director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David, documentary director Robert Crawford Jr. and cinematographer Conrad Hall. This track is enormously entertaining, particularly for fans of the film. The second commentary comes from the filmís writer William Goldman. While not as fun as the first track, it certainly is entertaining, offering insight into the screenwriting world.
Also on the first disc is a rather lengthy "Making Off" documentary, well worth watching.
Disc Two features a wealth of documentaries to peruse. The first is "History Through the Lens: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Outlaws of Time". This 90 minutes doc is a sort of best of the set. For fans not wanting to watch the other special features, this doc will suit you. It cover the making of the film, the history of the characters and much more.
The next doc is "The Wild Bunch: The True Tale of Butch & Sundance". This 30 minute documentary discusses the films characters and their historical relevancy. Interesting for history buffs.
The last doc is called "All of What Follows is True: The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". This newly created doc is extremely informative, but again, a lot of information is covered here and in other docs.
Rounding out the set are a series of interview broken over the disc, a deleted scene and several trailers for other Fox releases.
My only complaint about this set is that it doesnít contain Butch and Sundance: The Early Days, or the T.V. movies features Sundanceís girlfriend, Etta Place. A four or five disc box set would have been awesome. Also, I must comment on the rather odd box art, which bears an extremely close resemblance to Brokeback Mountain. The font is the same, as is the one actor leaning over another picture. I think someone in the graphic design department at Fox, wants to imply something.
The two-disc set also contains the always annoying and thankfully skippable Ďanti-piracyí spot at the beginning of the disc. This time they're asking you not to buy pirated movies. Come on Fox, we are the ones BUYING or renting the real discs! We arenít stealing them. Weíre the GOOD GUYS! We arenít downloading movies and weíre not buying bootleg movies, so stop telling us not to with your "cool, hip promo". It's bound to irritate consumers and make pirates laugh rather than feel guilty. I canít stress this enough!
If you havenít seen this gem of a movie, go out and buy this awesome special edition. Fans of the film should pitch your old discs and check it out as well. The film is still relevant, still funny and still stunning. Everyone involved should be proud, which I assume they are. Thereís something here for everyone, so check this one out. Itís well worth your time.
Overall Value: 9
* Running Time: 110 minutes
* List Price: $26.98
* Available on DVD June 6th 2006.
Email Me with Comments, Concerns, Questions and Complaints regarding this review, but please, be nice.
----R. L. Shaffer