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20th Century Fox presents

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)

"I've got vision and the whole world wears bifocals."- Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman)

Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford
Other Stars: Katherine Ross, Chloris Leachman
Director: George Roy Hill

Manufacturer: Digital Video Compression Center
MPAA Rating: PG for violence
Run Time: 01h:50m:01s
Release Date: 2000-05-16
Genre: western

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+AC A

 

DVD Review

The Hole in the Wall Gang, run by Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and his young, loner sidekick, the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford), were the kings of the late 1800's, robbing banks and moving trains. One of the few western films I loved as a child, this was really the film that made Newman and Redford the biggest names in movies; in fact made Redford a movie star. Ironically, Fox executives did not want the unknown Redford, but were desirous instead for Steve McQueen to play the role of Sundance. In my humble opinion, if any one else were to play Sundance, it should have been McQueen—king of the alienated loner role. Oddly enough, Newman had always thought HE would play Sundance, giving Butch not even a cursory thought. Legendary director George Roy Hill fought for Redford until, as Redford says, they ran out of Sundances to tryout."

"I don't mean to be a sore loser, but if I'm dead...kill him."-Butch

In his 1994—upon the 25th anniversary—interview, the ornery screenwriter, William Goldman, says that he never saw this film as a comedy at all. But funny it is. We were laughing out loud the other night watching it, as this classic proves timeless and eternal. The rapport between Redford and Newman (could anyone else really have played Butch?) is one of the best ever; the comic timing impeccable. Redford's deadpan foil to Newman's affability, truly makes one understand why Butch Cassidy was a thief who was genuinely liked by the people he met, including his sworn enemies—the Pinkerton guards. Of course, they followed this up with the Academy Award® Best Picture winner, The Sting.

One of the reasons for the success of the onscreen relationship is because Hill allowed the actors enough leeway from the script to improvise. Despite that Hill banned Katherine Ross from the set except when she was scheduled to be filmed (he caught her operating one of the cameras early on), he believes that she was the most skilled actor of the three at improvisation, creating more information about her character in the Raindrops bicycle riding scene, than in all her scenes with dialogue.

Goldman really liked the fact that the story was so opposite from the usual John Wayne fare in that the two run away rather than face the "Super Posse," of which there are no one shots. The effect of not knowing their identities gathers the steam in the audience's imagination, and leaves them asking, "Who are those guys?"

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: For a film 31 years old, Fox has done right by this childhood favorite. The color is generally well-rendered and without bleeding, but there are some outdoor vista scenes where there is dirt, and where the color is slightly dull and washed out, and softer than in darker shots. For the most part this anamorphic image is so sharp you'll be able to see the pores on Redford's face, or the razor stubble on Newman's. Truly amazing. If you have any doubt whatsoever the difference in quality of this transfer, watch the documentary (full frame) to see how much sharper the image and more saturated the color are.

Image Transfer Grade: A
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Unfortunately the mono mix is the weakest aspect by far for this disc. Originalists will be lighting up celebratory cigars, all for the sake of listening to that center channel like David Berkowitz did his neighbor's dog. The track is wholly blue collar, but the dialogue is well rendered, so that's something.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director George Hill
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews taken from 25th anniversary piece (1994) with stars Redford, Newman and Katherine Ross, and screenwriter William Goldman. (No time shows, somewhere around 45-60 minutes).
Extras Review: Fox is really coming around in a big way. First anamorphic support, now special edition after special edition. Someone posted on HTF that they were sick of special editions; that there were so many of them it diluted the meaning. Screw them. Except for the fact it takes so darn long to review them, I love them.

This one comes with the usual trailer, subtitles and a really nice animated main menu. But this puppy comes with an in-depth 45 minute documentary, 1994 interviews with Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross, writer William Goldman and feature-length commentary by legendary director George Roy Hill and an accompaniment of producers and the like.

The interviews are far more extensive than one would expect (in a world of interview snippets and featurettes). I was very impressed with their length, but I can only guess at the length because the time function does not work here, and it was after 1am when I was watching (my guess is somewhere between 45-60 minutes).

The commentary is piece meal in that the participants are not concurrent, but edited to fit the time, depending on 1999-2000 Oscar® winner Best Cinematography, Conrad Hall—American Beauty to fill in most of the time. This track is not the most lively, but will be interesting to film students and buffs.The 1970 documentary, The Making of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, is interesting, albeit the sound contains old, somewhat muffled audio clips ala Patton intermixed with behind-the-scenes footage. I preferred the interviews, but found it entertaining and informative as well. Who would have thought the film would open to some horrible reviews. I wonder if those critics are still eating crow all these years later.

FYI: The supplements contain an inordinate amount of cussing by Hill and Goldman.

Extras Grade: A
 

Final Comments

It sure seems I've been kissing some serious butt lately, but you REALLY have to hand it to Fox; they say a leopard cannot change its spots, but this one has done more than that—Fox now sports the look of a grizzly bear in its push to put out special edition content. Add to it a beautiful anamorphic transfer and you have a winner. Still, this is NOT why I am handing it to them brown nose intact...it's because this special edition isn't for a new title, but a 31-year-old catalogue title (albeit an Oscar® winner).

How often have we as a community clamored for more catalogue titles, only to then bemoan the fact those that have been streeted aren't treated better than a two bit whore? A dream Redford and Newman commentary notwithstanding, this is the real deal, folks. And why shouldn't we kiss Fox's butt? As a community we praised Warner Bros., Columbia, Dreamworks and New Line for all they've done to support the medium, why not now bestow the similar gratitude to Fox as they push the envelope? Thanks, Fox! Paramount? Oh, Paramount!?

Robert Mandel 2000-05-16