Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Ultimate Collector's Edition – DVD Review

Directed by:
George Roy Hill

Starring:
Paul Newman ………. Butch Cassidy
Robert Redford ………. The Sundance Kid
Katharine Ross ………. Etta Place
Strother Martin ………. Percy Garris
Henry Jones ………. Bike Salesman
Jeff Corey ………. Sheriff Ray Bledsoe
George Furth ………. Woodcock

20th Century-Fox presents a Newman-Foreman presentation, produced by John Foreman and directed by George Roy Hill from a screenplay by William Goldman. Photographed in color by Conrad Hall. Runtime: 110 minutes. Rated: M (original rating), PG (1974 re-release). Available on DVD: June 6, 2006.

The Movie


By 1969 film was beginning to transition in to the more modern sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll generation. People just weren’t lining up to see cowboys when the 70’s rolled around, they would rather go see people like Henry Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. But there was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and they swept audiences away. While the film was first rejected by critics for demoralizing what westerns stood for, as word of mouth got out it became a smashing success. It was introducing a new breed of modern films, ones more interested in characters and emotion rather than staying completely true to the time period or genre in which they take place.

Butch & Sundance’s story is certainly an interesting one, due in large part to the unresolved ending of their journey that to this day remains unknown. The unresolved nature of the story has made them so much more provocative to historians, they quite simply fell off the map with no notion of how they spent their last days on the earth. Their notoriety and fame has lead many to mythologize these two men, with people wondering exactly what happened to two of the wild west’s most infamous outlaws.

Butch Cassidy was a man who’s smarts kept him out of trouble and who’s kindness kept him out of prison. Along with The Sundance Kid, the fastest gun in the west, as his right hand man the two were unstoppable. Butch was the leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang, a menacing group that were above the law. When the banks they would regularly hit up began to arm themselves with guards and heavier security, they fought back, the only way they knew how. They began to rob the trains that carried the money to the bank, cutting out the middle man all together.

The movie focuses on a particular plan of theirs which was to rob a train once, get a quick pay day, and to then wait for its return trip. That would, assumably, be filled with more cash. On paper it’s a very sound idea and sure did work, only the Hole in the Wall Gang didn’t anticipate E.H. Harriman of the Union-Pacific Railroad to gather the countries greatest authorities to round up the men who had been robbing him. I guess Butch and Sundance got caught with their hand in the cookie jar one too many times. It’s then that they decide to leave the states and head down to Bolivia in South America. In one way they’re avoiding the law but in another they’re running away from the modernization of America, trying to hold on to a time where they were kings.

The two along with Sundances mistress Etta Place head to South America where they reinvent themselves as ruthless outlaws all over again robbing banks left and right. Being revered in an entirely new country. After they’re once again discovered by the group of trackers hired by Harriman, the team attempts to go straight. Only it doesn’t take long for them to return to their outlaw ways.

During a pivotal scene in the film when Butch & Sundance break in to a Sheriff’s office late at night in hopes to find safe harbor. While inside, Sheriff Ray Bledsoe makes a statement to them that defines the entire film in a short precise handful of sentences. That statement is, “There’s something out there that scares you, but it’s too late. You know, you should have let yourself get killed a long time ago when you had the chance. See, you may be the biggest thing that ever hit this area, but you’re still two-bit outlaws. I never met a soul more affable than you, Butch, or faster than the Kid, but you’re still nothing but two-bit outlaws on the dodge. It’s over, don’t you get that? Your time is over and you’re gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where.” Right there, in that paragraph, we see the film.

Here George Hill spins a classic setting by filming it in a very modern way. The look of the time period and costumes are perfect from a visual standpoint, but the way the characters present themselves and speak relates to modern viewers. Making a film that while set elsewhere, feels new, making audiences more likely to embrace it. Maybe it was just Hill giving his own interpretation on the genre or perhaps him trying to play it straight yet lucking out with the final product. Either way, what he created on this film is something to marvel at. Yet it isn’t the filming style that makes this film such a wonderful experience after nearly four decades. It’s the story and script by William Goldman combined with the onscreen relationship between two actors in a warm and entertaining way.

The teaming of Robert Redford and Paul Newman is one of the screens best duos, and dozens upon dozens of films have tried to replicate what they accomplished here. The chemistry between the two men is incomparable, and it reflects on screen to a point where you believe the comradery between Butch and Sundance. Never once questioning it because Paul and Robert are such a perfect matching. The two along with director George Hill would later team up for yet another modern classic in The Sting and the two yet again create such a tandem it’s a joy to watch thanks to the brotherhood the two show when they’re on screen together.

What made this film such a hard pill for many critics to swallow was the fact that our leads, while outlaws, rather than confront the law chose to run away. And since people like John Wayne never backed down from a fight they assumed that in film nobody else could either. They didn’t like how we’re forced to cheer for the bad guys that run from justice. But that’s what really happened, Butch & Sundance ran away. But not entirely out of fear of prosecution, they ran because they didn’t like how the western world was evolving. How the wild west was being tamed and modernized by big business.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
What we’re given here is the exact same transfer we got with the previous DVD release many years ago. For it’s time this was a very impressive looking DVD, but times have changed and the bar has been raised for older films. Fox could have atleast given the movie a quick clean-up for the new release. Instead we have a very tolerable transfer that still has many of the problems it had before.

Audio:
(English 2.0 stereo, English, Spanish and French 2.0 mono)
The stereo track is very nice and adds a bit more of an environment to the sound, but honestly, the original mono track is my personal favorite of the options presented.

Extras:

Disc One:
Feature Length Commentary – The first commentary track on the DVD is by Director George Roy Hill, Lyricist Hal David, Associate Producer Robert Crawford and Cinematographer Conrad Hall. The track, I believe, is the same one previously available on the old Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid DVD. It’s an informative track that is edited together quite nicely, the flat tone leaves it a little bit like a lecture, and we all know how anti-fun those can be.

Feature Length Commentary – The second track and brand new to the DVD is by screenwriter William Goldman. Goldman spends a lot of time reminiscing about the good ol’ days back when the movie was first being developed. He covers many interesting and amusing stories behind the writing, the only down side is that what’s talked about here is repeated numerous times when Goldman appears in other features in the DVD set.

The Making Of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (42:09) – This is my personal favorite feature of them all, director George Roy Hill speaks over some footage that was taped while filming was going on along with some scenes from the movie. Here he speaks with such passion for the project and everyone involved, not afraid to hold back on parts of the production he didn’t much care for. While the video and audio quality are low, the stories being told are so engrossing at times you forget all about them and just go along for the ride with Hill.

Disc Two:
All Of What Follows Is True: The Making Of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (35:27) – Here many of the people that worked on the film discuss how Butch and Sundance came out in a year that was the last hurrah for westerns. We learn how some studios actually wanted writer Bill Goldman to rewrite their history so that they returned to stand off against the law. The cast and crew all agree that director George Roy Hill received very little recognition while he was working in the business. The featurette covers the good and bad of making the movie, not ashamed to show some of the films lesser moments like how top billing became such an issue that people would leave to project because of it. Or how Redford almost didn’t get the part because he was close to being type cast with his previous work.

The Wild Bunch: The True Tale Of Butch And Sundance (25:11) – This feature takes a critical eye to some of the more questionable things in the movie. Telling just what was fact and what was fiction. We learn things like where the two men got their outlaw names along with each of their background stories. Other things questioned include who Etta Place was, the name chosen for Butch’s gang, the fight between Butch and Kid Curray in the movie, if both men actually jumped off a cliff, if there ever was a real super posse, and more.

History Through The Lens: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid: Outlaws Of Time (1:30:16) – The longest special feature in the collection running over ninety minutes, this is basically all the facts and information about the real life Butch and Sundance found elsewhere in the DVD set compiled in to one feature. We learn the background information on both Butch and Sundance, finding out how they chose their outlaw names. Then we find out about all the jobs they pulled and the one that forced them to leave the country. Talked about a lot in the feature is the unknown whereabouts of the two men and we see historians trying to solve the puzzle.

1994 Interviews (49:42) – Seven interviews are included in this section, included in them are Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharin Ross, William Goldman and Burt Bacharach. The remaining two pieces are titled “Maybe Some of what Follows is True” and “All of what Follows is True”. These were filmed in 1994 and has the cast and crew talking about the film and sharing some little tidbits about the production and how they feel about the movie today. A “play all” option would have been nice here.

Deleted Scene (4:07) – Provided here is a scene titled “Tent” that has been thought lost. After diligent work by Associate Producer Robert Crawford to find it, along with the studio working hard to clean it up this is the first time it has been seen since first shot. The audio track for the scene was never found and subtitles have been added. The scene takes place in a theater and happens right before Etta leaves the boys and heads back home. Also happening inside of it are news reels from America setting the time period, along with Butch and Sundance viewing the re-enacted black and white scene we see at the start of the movie. An optional commentary by Hill is included and shares his views on why the scene was cut.

The last few things that make up this DVD collection are: over 50 pages of Production Notes, three Theatrical Trailer, an Alternate Credit Roll, and The Films Of Paul Newman which are seven trailers for From the Terrace, Hombre, The Hustler, The Long Hot Summer, Quintet, The Towering Inferno, The Verdict and What a way to Go. Also included inside the DVD case is a nice little six page Booklet with a brief summary of the movie and some production photos.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10
THE VIDEO

7.5
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

9
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
10
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
There is nothing to complain about here, the film is a classic and the extras do their very best to give us more insight in to the men the film was based upon. My only complaints would be the lack of a new transfer and the occasional repetitiveness of the special features. Simply put, this is one of the best DVD’s released so far this year along side The Complete Mr. Arkadin and the Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut, and is something that I highly recommend purchasing.