"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Ultimate Collector's Edition " on DVD
1969's original pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford is a witty and charming western comedy 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 an excellent new, two disc version of the film that really does this classic justice.
Newman is Butch, the brains, and Redford is Sundance, the brawn - well, 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 generous Butch never thought about retirement savings plans, assuming such things existed back then, 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, with wonderful chemistry between them. Katherine Ross, as Sundance's main squeeze Etta Place, is also very good, 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 a harsh reality to the duo's running attempt at comedy relief.
Fox Home Video has given this winner of four Academy Awards a deluxe treatment with this two disc collectors edition, and it's very welcome. The anamorphic widescreen picture is excellent, looking very fresh some 35 years later. The picture is clean and sharp and colorful (when there's color, of course).
And they've really piled on the extras this time (not that the original DVD release was a slouch), including multiple commentaries from director George Roy Hill, Lyricist Hal David, documentary director Robert Crawford and Oscar-winning Cinematographer Conrad Hall and one with screenwriter extraordinaire William Goldman. There's also a new documentary on the making of the film, older interviews with cast and crew members, production notes and lots, lots more.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of those special movies that seems timeless in its appeal, and Fox has done it justice with this special, Collectors Edition DVD.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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