Long before tough cop Dirty Harry made our day, Clint Eastwood defined the modern western with his Spaghetti Westerns. It is no surprise that a Western would define Clint Eastwood as an Academy Award winning producer and director. Unforgiven is unlike any movie Eastwood has ever done. It is loaded with extraordinary actors surrounding his own stellar performance. Names like Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris are rarely found in such supporting roles. Unforgiven also sets itself apart from Eastwood’s previous films in the way it portrays the West that Eastwood glorified for so many years. This film is dark and foreboding and offers no redemption by the end of the story.
In the town of Big Whiskey a prostitute is scarred by a rowdy customer. The girls pool enough money to put a price on the heads of the two cowboys responsible when Sheriff “Little” Bill (Hackman) simply fines them some horses. A young gunslinger wannabe offers to partner with legendary William Munny (Eastwood) and Ned Logan (Freeman). The two mythic outlaws soon discover they are changed men but need the money. The rest is an incredible odyssey to do a job and walk away from the consequences.
The audio soundtrack is the same Dolby Digital 5.1 production found on the previous barebones release. Dialogue is king for the most part. Ambient sounds are mostly used for enhancement and atmosphere. The subtle Spanish guitar music soundtrack is crystal and worth listening to on its own. Gunplay is particularly effective in the rear channels and a storm early in the film makes fine use of the sub.
This edition contains a commentary track by Richard Schickel, a renowned Clint Eastwood biographer. Although concentrating heavily on Eastwood himself, it includes quite a lot of information on the film.
Unforgiven is presented in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The video is nothing short of stunning. The cinematography is a wonderfully vivid window into the landscapes of the great American West. Warner Brothers was wise to concentrate on this new video transfer. It easily makes up for including the older soundtrack. Unforgiven is a visual experience as much as it is a story. The colors are breathtaking and quite realistic. The blacks are perfect and stark contrast to the exterior daylight shots. I honestly do not remember a film that was as visually exciting as Unforgiven. This transfer is light-years ahead of the previous release. There is not the minutest trace of artifact or transfer flaw to be found. This picture will please the pickiest viewer.
James Garner fans will certainly enjoy the Maverick episode “Duel At Sundown” included on the second disc. This episode marked Eastwood’s first major role on TV. My favorite extra was the documentary “Eastwood On Eastwood” which is the most exhaustive work on Clint Eastwood I’ve seen. “Making Unforgiven” is the typical behind the scenes material. Morgan Freeman hosts “All On Account A Pullin’ A Trigger” Mostly using scenes from the film, it offers some unique retrospect from the original stars. The menus are a little better than the previous release, highlighted by the extensive use of the soundtrack.
I honestly believe this was the best Western ever made. My hat’s off to Eastwood’s many fine films and many of the perennial classics but none were ever this much of a complete package. The photography, music, story, and acting are all top rate. You don’t have a DVD collection if this isn’t on your shelf. Obviously we don’t deserve a film like this, but then again “Deservin’s got nothing to do with it.”