Universal’s 40th Discs

universal-40th-discs-dvd-reviewsTwo Universal Westerns have been released on blu-ray as “40th Anniversary Editions,” High Plains Drifter ($20) and My Name is Nobody ($25). Although Clint Eastwood’s ghostly tribute to Sergio Leone has never looked better than this superb transfer, Nobody edges out as the disc deserving of a special look.

Based on a story by Leone and directed by his assistant Tonino Valerii, Nobody is a good-natured, lighter Western with some stunning action sequences and fine chemistry between Henry Fonda and Terence Hill. Fonda’s gunfighter character is trying to leave his rep behind him, while Hill plays a young admirer who keeps getting into trouble and dragging Fonda right along.

The film’s comedy has the “Trinity” mark to it, as typical with many Euro-Westerns, but Hill’s charisma and amazing athletics have never been better showcased. Fonda, of course, plays on his own quiet, iconic screen image, but he becomes a brutal force in the gunfights.

The “Into the Pages of History” sequence, where Fonda and Hill blow bad guys off their horses by igniting nitro hidden in their saddlebags, is masterful and is complemented by the grandeur of Ennio Morricone’s score.

This Image presentation is the European cut—with Italian titles and five extra minutes. Leo Gordon and R.G. Armstrong are still dubbed by others, but that is minor quibbling about a fun, energetic and sometimes spectacular Leone Euro-Western that has been long neglected. This disc is Nobody’s chance for rediscovery.

Universal has released High Plains Drifter a number of times on DVD, but this blu-ray shows off Eastwood’s stylized direction and the late Bruce Surtees’s superb cinematography. In high-definition, the town of Lago really looks like Hell, and you can see the terror on Geoffrey Lewis as he screams, “Who are you?” before that final bullet.

Unfortunately, neither film has a single extra. But even as bare bones discs, both titles are a bargain, and they make a great Saturday night double feature.

C. Courtney Joyner is a screenwriter and director with more than 25 produced movies to his credit. He is the author of The Westerners: Interviews with Actors, Directors and Writers.

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