Making The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Bigger, Better and Badder
 
 

MGM has one of the two largest feature film libraries in the world, and it is my job to help preserve and restore it. Our four Sergio Leone-directed films are also among the most popular titles we own.

Five years ago, Glenn Erickson, a former MGM staff editor, asked me one day if I thought it would be possible to restore the scenes that were cut from the Italian release version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the original, shorter English release version. That sounded like a worthwhile project to me, so, realizing that this would be bigger than any other film restoration I'd worked on up to now, I immediately set out to determine what would need to be done to make it happen. First I tried to contact the Leone estate and Alberto Grimaldi, the film's producer, to get permission. The estate never responded, but fortunately Mr. Grimaldi did, and he gave me the OK. Then I had to determine which scenes needed to be put back in and where they would go. I looked for an English language shooting script so I could make copies of the script for the actors to loop. At that point I realized, but what if Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach don't want to come in and loop the lines they didn't do thirty-five years ago? Thank God, they both agreed to participate.

At this point I learned that, even with the stars' willingness to help, the studio was not ready to fund such a large project. Despite the fact that I had to put the project on the back burner, I continued to look for film elements and the script. I didn't find an English script, so I ended up translating the Italian dialogue for the scenes myself. I knew
it wouldn't be exactly what the actors said during filming, but it would be as close as I'd get. I also came across two scenes that were not in the Italian negative. One was a scene in which Tuco (Eli Wallach) recruits three fellow bandits to help him catch Joe (Clint Eastwood–and you thought his character was called The Man with No Name!). I felt this scene, which had been cut immediately after its Rome premiere, should be reinstated for continuity clarity. Fortunately, the film's producer agreed, so this is the one scene now in the English version that does not exist in the Italian version.

Late last year I got the green light to do the project, but with a very short window of time to complete it. Since I had done my homework, I was able, with the help of many technicians, to complete the new version in less than three months. For those of you who are fans, I think you'll be very pleased with the outcome. We had to do a bit of fiddling with Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach's voices to try to make them sound as close to the way they sounded thirty-five years ago, and I think Simon Prescott did a great job with Lee van Cleef's lines. Although they don't all sound exactly like the original voices, you'll have the opportunity to see what the movie would have been like if some studio executive all those years ago hadn't had the bad idea to meddle with the director's vision.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the second Leone film I have worked on. The next one will be Duck, You Sucker!, with three and a half minutes of extra footage restored to the ending of the film. You can expect to see it on the big screen this fall.

©2003 Landmark Theatres