And the HD Oscar Goes to: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross.
Director: George Roy Hill.
Screenplay: William Goldman.
Score: Burt Bacharach.
Cinematography: Conrad L Hall.

“We’re back in business, boys and girls.” Butch and the Kid saddle up for the Blu-ray that should have been the definitive home video version — but isn’t. For anyone who has to ask, “Who are those guys?”, they’re Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and this lighthearted adventure was the most popular western of all time until Kevin Costner danced with wolves. (Not that it matters but most of it also happens to be true.) The winner of four Oscars, including best original screenplay, also was nominated for best picture, best sound and best director (George Roy Hill). Its box office was worth more to 20th Century Fox than all the silver mines in Bolivia and it has been just as big a bonanza on VHS, Laser Disc and DVD. Indeed, whenever a new home video format has been launched, Butch Cassidy has always been one of the first titles Fox has rolled out to capture the interest of early adopters. So given it’s a jewel in the studio’s crown, why is its Blu-ray transfer so substandard? Yes, it improves on any previous release but it’s clearly not been taken from a flash print and little appears to have been done to clean it up digitally. Since the movie’s 40 years old, the Blu-ray could have snuck under the wire of acceptability if not for the outstanding 1080p restorations Warner Home Video has notched up with classics that are even older, such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind and North by Northwest. At least Fox has rounded up most of the extras from the previous special edition DVD (unlike the Blu-rays of two other Fox titles, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and Kingdom of Heaven). They include a commentary by the Oscar-winning, critic-hating screenwriter, William Goldman, cast and crew interviews, a deleted scene in which the outlaws see themselves in a silent movie of their lives, and documentaries. Goldman, who calls 1969 “the last year for great westerns”, originally wrote his first script with Paul Newman in mind as Sundance and Jack Lemmon as Butch. He says the movie is one of only two he’s written he still likes to watch: “For the most part, all you see are all the things you did wrong.” You can say that again, Fox.

Movie: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
Image: 😀 😀 😐
Extras: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

This is the second in a series of Blu-ray reviews counting down to the the Academy Awards, which will screen live in HD, for the first time in NZ, on Sky Movies (March 8, 2.30pm).

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