Butch and/or Sundance

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on Blu-ray

1969's pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford is a witty and charming western comedy/drama about the decline and fall of a pair of aging outlaws. Now, as the original DVD format begins its long fall in favor of high definition formats, 20th Century Fox has released it on the new Blu-ray format to bring this classic into the modern video age.

Newman is Butch, the brains, and Redford is Sundance, the brawn - well,the fast gun. They lead the Hole in the Wall Gang and are legends in their own time.

Pickings are getting a little slim, though, and affable, generous Butch never thought about such things as retirement savings, so they're no farther ahead after their lifetime of thievin' than they were before.

Nearly every frame of "Butch Cassidy" is a gem, as is every line of William Goldman's screenplay. Butch and Sundance come off as the Abbott and Costello of the old West, bickering and calling each other names at every turn, while all the time displaying a fondness and respect for each other that has stood the test of time.

Likewise, the direction of George Roy Hill (for whom the Newman/Redford tandem would have repeat success in "The Sting") cannot be faulted. He recreates an elderly old West whose best and most glamorous days are past - and a Bolivia that's about as welcoming to Butch and Sundance as was the superposse that chased them there in the first place.

Newman and Redford are great, and there's wonderful chemistry between them. Katherine Ross, as Sundance's main squeeze Etta Place, is also very good in her role as the duo's sidekick and support, and the supporting cast of veteran Hollywood character actors (including Jeff Corey, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, George Furth and Ted Cassidy to name just a few) are gems who provide harsh reality to the duo's running comedy relief.

Fox Home Entertainment has given this winner of four Academy Awards a good treatment, though it could have been better. The 1080p widescreen (2.35:1) picture is usually good, not not always. The source material seems to not have been remastered for this high def release, since we noticed dirt and dropouts sometimes - and even hair on the film! Black levels are okay and the olors are a tad faded. Detail is generally pretty good, but the overall look is very flat, with little or none of the depth we like to see.

The audio is presented in dts HD 5.1 Master Lossless and it's little more than mono. The music extends across the front channels, but as far as surround use is concerned all you can expect is the occasional gunshot to be heard from the rear channels. The sound quality is okay, though, quite clean and clear.

Extras include a commentary from director George Roy Hill, lyricist Hal David (?), documentary director Robert Crawford, Jr. and cinematographer Conrad Hall. It's pretty good, with some interesting nuggets of info. Better is the commentary with writer William Goldman.

You also get "All of What Follows is True: The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," which is self explanatory, fairly new, and quite interesting, and "The Wild Bunch: The True Tale of Butch & Sundance."

And there's a deleted scene with optional director's commentary.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of those special movies that seems timeless in its appeal; hopefully Fox will do it justice with a remastered version with better picture down the road..

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
110 minutes, 1080p widescreen (2.35:1), dts HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio
Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross
Produced by John Foreman,
Written by William Goldman, Directed by George Roy Hill

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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