"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" blu ray review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 5 Old 09-08-09, 07:52 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" blu ray review

The blu ray of "Butch Cassidy" doesn't look that much better than the last
standard edition Special Edition but that didn't surprise me. As I've mentioned
many times before, the New Hollywood style of fillmmaking in the late sixties
and early seventies doesn't adapt well to the digital formats.

Conrad Hall was an experienced cinematographer who had shot some vibrant
Technicolor films ("The Professionals") before this one. Although he wasn't young,
he jumped onto the New Hollywood Band Wagon and like others with this mindset decided to
abandon everything associated with "Old Hollywood". Rich and vivid Technicolor
imagery was out. Grain was "in". The mantra was that grainy, underexposed and
murky images were more 'realistic' which suited the counter-culture movies of the
time. Well maybe so back then but they don't translate well to modern technology.

The traditional method of filming a Western exterior was to put on a polarizing filter
and expose for the sky making it a bright blue. Then they would add reflectors or
lights on the faces to even out the exposure which would generate a very colorful
and fine grain image. "The Searchers" and "How the West Was Won" and Hall's
own "The Professionals" are examples of this type of camerawork which look spectacular on DVD.

On this movie and in some later features Hall decided to do the opposite.
He exposed for the faces and let the backgrounds get washed out and underexposed.
Since the film starts with a sepia tinted prologue and then adds the color later (just a
little muted color), I assume he was attempting to simulate a Mathew Brady photograph of the 19th
Century. Does it work? I guess it works stylistically then but not really on blu ray now.
The image on this disc is pretty washed out, grainy and soft focus. Only slightly better
than the standard edition.

Fortunately, the movie is so entertaining you can get used to it although I wouldn't
project it on too big a screen. In this case, the bigger the image, the worse it will
look because there is no way of circumventing the underexposed and by now faded 35mm
camera negative. This is a far cry from "Glorious Technicolor".

The 5.1 stereo re-mix of the original mono sound is an improvement compared to previous
discs. Nothing spectacular but the gunfire and bouncy Bacharach score is enhanced
when they spread it out over the multiple channels.

As for the movie itself, it's an amusing Western or Western spoof depending on your
perspective. Newman and Redford have great screen chemistry (as they did in "The
Sting") and the supporting cast is good too (Katherine Ross, Strother Martin). The
score really carries the rather convoluted story about two has been outlaws on the
run from a bounty hunter as well as the twentieth century.

They speak in anachronistic slang and crack puns and jokes with each other. Like "Bonnie
and Clyde" there was some critical backlash at the time about depicting murderous
thieves as amiable pop culture icons although at least this film makes no claims that
this is a biopic or accurate historical acccount of the Hole in the Wall Gang. They even
have a disclaimer about this up front. In addition, the critics in the sixties seem to have
forgotten that Hollywood had a long history of re-writing history, especially regarding
the Wild West. There were earlier movies about Jessie James that also portrayed him
in a sympathetic light. As John Ford use to joke (paraphrasing), "If you have a choice
between showing history and showing myth...show the myth which is always more

The soundtrack album was one of the best selling ones at the time although Bacharach's
score doesn't sound anything like a Western score of the past. The "Raindrops" song
became a hit too despite the fact that it doesn't fit the time period.

So I recommend this movie for it's style, performances and music score but not for it's
cinematography. You'll need some tolerance watching it on blu ray which exagerates the
grain and murkiness. But if you can get past that, it's still fun to watch.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 09-17-09 at 02:06 PM.
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post #2 of 5 Old 09-15-09, 10:27 AM
andy summers
Join Date: May 2008
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Re: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" blu ray review


I can’t swim!

The scene where they have no choice but to jump!

So does this have all the cigarette burns every 20 minutes as well as scratches otherwise it won’t look like film?

Seen this film many times televised and you can image the pan & scan look. I’ve never seen it in its full aspect ration.

(okay forget this part I’ve read what you said here…)!Their are few DVD version or is it just one that has re-mix to Dolby 5.1 or is it just plain stereo can’t recall which..

Does it have original monaural mix option on the disc?

Doesn’t the film a few split Doppler screen effects where background foreground is focused or is that a bit too early where some scenes have character shots with this film effect process that looks really neat I mean cool.

They haven’t added any additional sly gun effects like (ricochets)?
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post #3 of 5 Old 09-15-09, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Re: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" blu ray review

They cleaned up the image from years of De Luxe color abuse. So no scratches
but what's there is not that sharp and somewhat washed out and murky by
design. I think it's supposed to look like an old faded Matthew Brady photograph even
though it takes place in the 20th Century. One of those 'end of the West'
Westerns that were popular back then. And they were right in that they basically
ended the Western as a staple movie genre. They still make them once in a while
but they aren't common as they were through most of cinema history. Other
'end of the West' pictures include "The Wild Bunch" and "McCabe and Mrs. Miller".
The Pekinpah film has excellent photography and looks great in high definition.
McCabe is even murkier and muddier than Butch Cassidy.

Conrad Hall does some rack focus shots that you recalled although I personally
hate them. It really calls attention to the fact that you are watching a movie
when they change focus during a shot. It's better when you get so involved
with the picture with cinematography that creates the appropriate atmosphere
that you forget it's an optical illusion on film. This movie has lots of gimmicky
visuals (stills, sepia turning to color, rack focus) that calls attention to itself.

I'm sure they did enhance the original mono mix with extra sound effects when
creating this stereo version. They usually do. However, it does sound better than
the original track although it doesn't have the surround sound field of contemporary

I agree that the pan/scan full frame versions they used to show on TV looked really
bad because the cinematography was so muddy to begin with. Not much to work with.
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post #4 of 5 Old 09-15-09, 03:37 PM
andy summers
Join Date: May 2008
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Re: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" blu ray review


I only saw the opening and ending of the film where it’s in scope at the start then towards the end when they came shooting there way out. I liked the way it opened with colour style.

Rain drops keep falling on my head. That’s a song I can’t forget during the middle of the film.

The last of Conrad Hall works that I seen was on DVD that I have was*

Road to Perdition seen on DVD rental scope
*American Beauty scope
Tequila Sunrise seen on TV W/S
Black Widow seen on VHS W/S
Marathon Man seen on TV and no its not safe! LOL W/S
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid seen many times on TV
Cool Hand Luke seen many times on TV i'm sure this was scope

Anyway getting an early nights kip shopping in the morning you, take care.

Last edited by Andysu; 09-15-09 at 03:50 PM.
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post #5 of 5 Old 09-16-09, 07:11 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" blu ray review


"Cool Hand Luke" was shot in the 'classic studio style' and looks good. It was
also printed in dye transfer Technicolor. "Road to Perdition" was shot in the
"New Hollywood" style and in my opinion looks terrible.

Contemporary cinematographers should accomodate the format that most people will
see the finished product in and that will be some digital system. Digital looks best
when it's derived from extensively lit and fully exposed 35mm negatives. I guess old
habits die hard and some older cameramen continue to shoot in the style of late
sixties movies when 'grain' was 'in'.

I wish Hall's "Butch Cassidy" was shot in the style of his "The Professionals" but it wasn't and there's
not much that can be done to improve what the original negative looks like. Fortunately
it's entertaining on other levels despite the cinematography.

"Raindrops" is a very catchy tune like most of Bacharach's songs although the lyrics
are pretty rediculous and have nothing to do with the story. I guess so much of the
film is anachronistic it doesn't matter.

What is 'an early night's kip shopping' mean?

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 09-17-09 at 02:09 PM.
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