By Howard Hughes
Just to report on the ‘Fistful of Dollars’ screening in Manchester at HOME on Sunday afternoon (May 20). It was well attended – difficult to say exact numbers, as we were seated towards the front, but maybe 150+. Considering it was a scorching afternoon in Manchester and the Simplyhealth Great Manchester 10K Half-marathon was on that day, it was very encouraging. In fact Olympian Mo Farrah (the eventual marathon winner) ran past us on the way to the cinema (us, not him).
The film was introduced by freelance film educator Maggie Hoffgen, in the cinema’s ‘Classics’ slot in Cinema One. The 4K restoration (credited to Cineteca Di Bologna and Unidis Jolly Film and using the original Techniscope negative with, the opening credits stated, a 1965 Technicolor print as reference) is very impressive. The opening and end titles have been restored to the English language ones – Ripley’s Home Video version has the Italian language titles – and the picture, in the 2.35:1 ratio Techniscope, looks tremendous. The level of detail unveiled when you see one of Leone’s films in the cinema on a big screen is always a revelation, no matter how many times you’ve already seen them. The details of costumes, the faces of background characters, the use of perspective, of the minutiae of buildings, weapons and furniture, and of course of Leone’s great close-ups and use of landscape. You could see clearly the faces of the Baxter gunmen in the background of the scene when Eastwood’s mule is spooked. The landscape, especially the scenes shot in Almeria, benefitted greatly from the widescreen cinematography, even for the night scenes, which in some prints can be too dark. The hostage exchange too, with its formal groups of figures, windblown leaves and dust, and that zoom-in on Marisol and her son, was also impressive.
The edges of the framing in this 4K restoration confirmed that the only home video release that includes the whole widescreen image so far is the Italian Blu-ray [see image below]:
Increasing the images’ impact even more were the music and sound effects, which were VERY LOUD.
The electronic whine that builds up in Eastwood’s confrontation with Baxter men early on (‘My mule don’t like people laughing’) and before the final showdown with the Rojos is absolutely ear-splitting, as were the gunshots. The trumpet deguello too was at full volume, to create a showdown that pales in comparison when seen on TV. The music mix also revealed aspects of the score I’d never noticed before. This is probably the best presentation of a Leone film I’ve seen in a theatre. As it was such a sunny afternoon, we headed off for a pint at the Albert Square Chop House and a late spaghetti lunch at Caffé Grande by Piccolino, an Italian restaurant on Clarence Street overlooking Manchester’s magnificent town hall and Albert Square, which was filled with throngs of successful marathon runners.