The Sundance Kid is the frontier's fastest gun. His sidekick, Butch Cassidy, is always dreaming up new ways to get rich fast. If only they could blow open a baggage car without also blowing up the money-filled safe inside...Or remember that Sundance can't swim before they escape a posse by leaping off a cliff into rushing rapids. So Butch and Sundance pack their guns, don new duds, and, with Sundance's girlfriend, head down to Bolivia.
For more about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Blu-ray release, see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on May 14, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
At a time when spaghetti westerns were achieving broad success, a different kind of western was
produced featuring two of Hollywood's biggest stars in an attempt to capitalize on the genre's
popularity. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid melds traditional wild west themes and a
more fatalistic arch with winsome idealism. The result is a film both stuck in its time and
transcending the '60s. But no matter how you view it,
and audio are beyond resuscitation. Fox's Blu-ray has an
overall presentation stronger than the most recent DVD version, but most viewers will probably
the DVD. Perhaps this is because production in 1080p and lossless DTS-HD MA reveals too many
limitations of the source material. Or perhaps Fox tried too hard to wow us with the Blu-ray by
oversaturating the colors and pumping up the contrast. Regardless of the format, the combination
of Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy) and Robert Redford (Sundance) proves a strong draw and the
Blu-ray version is certainly not a bad way to enjoy the most wanted duo in the west.
Recognizing the way Conrad L. Hall filmed Redford, Newman and rugged landscapes, the
Academy awarded him an Oscar for best
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tells the story of two aging outlaws who have
their welcome in the ever-changing west. The film gets rolling as Sundance is accused of cheating
a card game and shows why he has the reputation as the fastest gunslinger. Back at the
headquarters of Butch's Hole in the Wall Gang, Butch's leadership is challenged but he remains in
charge by fighting dirty when backed into a corner (as much as he'd prefer to talk his way out of
fight). A much more serious problem arises after the gang robs a train guarded by six lawmen
on horseback. The riders make short work of the Hole in the Wall Gang and pursue Butch and
Sundance day and night, over all types of terrain. The pair barely escape with their lives, and
discover that the lawmen have been assembled from the toughest sheriffs and trackers, hired by
the railroad company to hunt them until they're dead. With Sundance's girlfriend Etta Place
(Katharine Ross), the
outlaws travel to New York and make their way to Bolivia. There, they find a new frontier that
ultimately offers them the same choices they had back home.
between Butch and Sundance is the
main draw of the movie and thanks to writer William Goldman and director George Roy Hill, their
interaction does not grow too stale or phoney. In fact, the dialog between the two is chock full of
sarcasm and jabs. "You just keep thinking, Butch," Sundance says on a few occasions. "That's
you're good at." Goldman received an Academy Award for best writing, story and screenplay.
Newman's more affable approach to his
character and Redford's machismo worked
very well together, making Goldman's screenplay come off perhaps better than it actually was.
The film earned two Oscars for the music, as well. Burt Bacharach's score and hit song,
Keep Falling on My Head", are featured very prominently in extended sequences that link distinct
plot lines or "movements" of the film. During these interludes, there is no dialogue and minimal
plot development. The music
may have seemed impressive at the time, but by slowing down the film to a crawl
and including the '60s-infused pop instrumentation and vocals, Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid does not age well. It was an interesting experiment to make a western more
"hip", but it seems silly by today's standards and clashes with the themes of robbery and survival.
The video quality has not aged well either. It lacks good resolution and definition, which is a
shame as cinematographer Conrad L. Hall received an
Oscar for best cinematography. The landscapes and countryside depicted in Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are beautiful, but almost every video parameter is subpar,
including detail and contrast, which appears to be artificially pumped up. As a result, depth
suffers. But the problems also include instances of noise, flickering/strobing and atrocious blacks.
fair, the picture would never be a videophile's dream because Hall shot much of the footage very
soft for a more romantic look. But even factoring in that caveat, it's difficult to say anything good
about the picture. I would like to say it feels like watching an old film projector, but it isn't quite
as organic because the digitized transfer has obviously been processed to death.
Watch the scene where the six lawmen pursue Butch and Sundance at night. On the DVD, this
pursuit occurs in near-darkness, with mainly the torches of the pursuers visible. But the Blu-ray
picture is brightened considerably, and what previously looked like night now looks like early
twilight or dusk. It's an odd choice to add so much brightness and contrast and I think I know
why Fox did it. With the soft shots delivered by Hall, pumping up the brightness and contrast
were probably the only ways to clearly distinguish the Blu-ray from the previous DVD edition.
Well, the BD distinguishes itself, alright, but not for the best. The BD appears slightly richer, but it
is up for personal preference as to which version is superior. Those of you familiar with the film
know it starts out in a sepia treatment. Frankly, the introductory sepia sequence and a similar,
still-image treatment during the musical interlude when Butch and Sundance flee America are
the most interesting imagery in the film. That's a shame because the landscape shots really are
gorgeous. They simply are not done justice on the BD. Despite the color vibrancy or maybe
because of it, the picture has a processed feel. It's not horrible, but some life has
been sucked out.
The audio is not well defined either. Like the picture, the sound is processed heavily--mostly to
create the 5.1 mix from the original mono. Needless to say, 99% of the content remains in mono
(center channel). The sound of voices is good. Dialog is clear and easy to follow. Explosions are even
more dynamic. But the music is where it all falls apart, and since extended scenes involve music
scores, this is a big problem.
Listen to the piano accompaniment in "Raindrops Keep
Falling on My Head". It sounds like it was a plastic keyboard in a bathroom recorded through a 20-ft
hose. The dynamics are totally squashed and lifeless. The vocals fare a bit better, but it's nothing to
get excited about. To be fair, the problem is ultimately the source material. The expression
"polishing a turd" applies. No matter what Fox does to clean it up or process it, the recording was
not done properly in the first place and no amount of digital processing or noise reduction will help.
The best approach may have been to give us an honest transfer as close as possible to the source
material: mono audio and video that wasn't excessively processed. But that would not have met
with a warm reception, either, because most Blu-rays have spoiled viewers and audiophiles alike
with stunning resolution.
Almost all the worthwhile bonus features from the DVD release--the two featurettes and two
audio commentary tracks--found their way to the BD and they appear in 1080i for a worthwhile
All Of The Following Is True: The Making of "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid":
Clocking in at 36 minutes, the "making of" documentary was not included on the DVD version. It
delivers excellent insight and analysis through interviews with Robert Redford, Paul Newman,
Katherine Ross, William Goldman, George Roy Hill, Burt Bacharach and others. Some worthwhile
anecdotes are provided as well as less worthwhile handwaving about the influence and legacy of
The Wild Bunch: The Fact vs. Fiction of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Included on
the DVD version, but upgraded to HD here, the 25 minute featurette covers the real Butch and
Sundance and their exploits. The history documentary compares the outlaws with their
characters immortalized in the
movie, using interviews with a variety of experts interspersed with scenes
from the film.
Audio CommentariesFeaturing director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David, associate
Robert Crawford and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, the first bonus audio track is instructive,
but you will need to wait out boring stretches for the high points. It is somewhat refreshing,
actually, to hear the principles' takes on various scenes. Even observing which scenes get the
comments is interesting--not the scenes I predicted. Overall, it's a hodge-podge of stitched
together comments, but well worth a listen. An alternate bonus audio track is included featuring
screenwriter William Goldman. Like many writers, he does not have the greatest presence when
speaking off the top of his head. Also, as one might expect from a writer, he has a sort of
despondency and self-depricating quality not suitable for this type of commentary.
Rounding out the supplementary material is a three-minute deleted scene that's actually not too
bad, with a bonus audio track by George Roy Hill, and three trailers in HD, which have even
poorer video quality than the feature.
It's rare for me to find a BD that doesn't provide immense improvement over the DVD. House
Flying Daggers is the only other example I can think of, and that was because of low-
noise detracting from the picture. When Fox announced Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid, I had high hopes. Finely detailed 1080p images of Paul Newman and Robert Redford
across a rugged countryside played in my mind. Unfortunately, now that the Blu-ray has been
released, those same images do not appear as detailed playing on my screen. By getting my
hopes up too
high and by being spoiled by more modern gems on BD, perhaps I was setting myself up for a
negative reaction to this older film. Certainly other titles from that era, like Dog Day
Afternoon do not have a stunning picture, either, yet I rated them higher. That's because
the presentation seemed more honest. The video appeared like a direct transfer and the audio
was simple monaural. But Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid seems to have been digitally manipulated in questionable ways.
Still, there are positive elements of both the picture (in its color vibrancy) and audio (in the
explosions and hoofbeats of the horses), and the film remains important and unique. It is both a
window into another time and a study of individuals whose past finally catches up with them. The
scenery is still spectacular, the characters are still endearing and the stylings from the late '60s
are still interesting. It was a more innocent, idealistic time. I do recommend the film, and for
those who wish to buy it, the Blu-ray version is a solid choice, though it does not show off the
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (2 bundles)
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