Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 2nd, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1966
Director: Damiano Damiani
Writers: Salvatore Laurani, Franco Solinas
Cast: Gian Maria Volonté, Klaus Kinski, Martine Beswick, Lou Castel, Jaime Fernández, Andrea Checchi, Spartaco Conversi, Joaquín Parra, Aldo Sambrell
BluRay released: May 22nd, 2012
Approximate running times: 115 minutes (U.S. Version), 118 minutes (International Version)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (U.S. Version), DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian (International Version)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, English for Italian Version
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: A bandit named El Chuncho becomes the figurehead of a revolution. Along the way he meets up with meets an American mercenary, who has ulterior motives for helping El Chuncho and the other revolutionaries. Will this most unlikely partnership prove to fruitful or will it end in bloodshed?
A Bullet for the General was directed by Damiano Damiani, who’s other notable film’s include The Most Beautiful Wife, Confessions of a Police Captain, A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot and How to Kill a Judge. Key collaborators on, A Bullet for the General include screenwriter Franco Solinas (The Big Gundown, The Mercenary), cinematographer Antonio Secchi (The Hills Run Red) and composers Luis Bacalov (Django, The Grand Duel) and Ennio Morricone (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage).
By the mid 1960’s the Spaghetti Western genre was in full swing in Italy and the genres most famous director had by this point had just wrapped The Man with no Name trilogy. The genre was nearing its apex and in just a matter of a few short years it would undergo a slight make over, with a shift more towards humor. And while some of the reasons why the genre started to run dry by the late 1960’s point heavily towards the genres innate need to mimic the film’s of Sergio Leone. Ever so often there would come along a film that would go against the grain and not rely as much on the tried and true clichés of the genre.
Take for instance a film like, A Bullet for the General, which on the surface resembles countless other Spaghetti Westerns and yet the end result is easily the closet any film has ever come to capturing the mood and style that had become synonymous with the films of Sergio Leone.
As mentioned before, while this film features many of the staples of the Spaghetti Western genre. It’s core message ‘government corruption’ is one that transcends the genre and would be just a potent no matter where or when you had this story take place.
When it comes to Spaghetti Westerns, the violence which unfolds on screen is easily this genres most durable and bankable asset. With that being said, A Bullet for the General delivers this in spades as there never a shortage of carnage unfolding in this film. In fact the film sets the tone right off the bat during its opening sequence in which dissidents are being executed by the government.
Performance wise, the entire cast are all exceptional in their respective roles. With the film’s standout role being Gian Maria Volonté (For a Few Dollars More) in the role of El Chuncho. And while his performance contains many of the hallmarks that one would expect from watching his other films. His portrayal of a character that is against the type of characters he was so prone to play, is without a doubt one of his finest moments as an actor. Other notable performances comes from Lou Castel (Fists in the Pocket) in the role of American mercenary and Klaus Kinski (Venus in Furs, Nosferatu the Vampyre) in the role of El Chuncho’s brother, a priest named El Santo.
A Bullet for the General comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Details look crisp – especially close ups, black levels look consistently strong throughout, flesh tones healthy and colors look nicely saturated. There are no problems with compression and DNR, while present it is never too intrusive.
This release comes with three audio options, two DTS-HD Mono mixes in English and a Dolby Digital Mono mix in Italian (English subtitles have been included with the Italian audio mix). The U.S. cut of the film comes with only one audio option a DTS-HD Mono mix in English, while the International cut of the film comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English and a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian. It should be noted that the English cut of the film comes with a different English ‘dubbed’ track then the one that has been included with the more familiar International cut of the film. Quality wise all the audio mixes included with this release are in very good shape, as dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. This release also comes with these subtitle options, English SDH, French and Spanish.
Also besides the aforementioned two different English ‘dubbed’ audio tracks. Another area in which these two cuts of this film differ includes there opening sequence. The U.S. cut of the film has a much more abrupt opening.
Extras for this release are spread over two discs. Extras on the BluRay disc that contains the main feature include a poster & still gallery, the U.S. trailer for the film (1 minute 52 seconds), the International release trailer for the film (4 minutes 29 seconds) and a interview with director Damiano Damiani (5 minutes 1 second, in Italian with English subtitles), who discusses the satirical tone of A Bullet for the General and how it differs from the majority of Westerns that were being made in Italy at the time, Sergio Leone and John Ford contributions to the western genre and the cast.
Extras on a second disc (a DVD) includes the feature length documentary ‘Gian Maria Volonte: Un Attore Contro’ (112 minute 30 seconds, in Italian / English with English subtitles). This is a well rounded look into the life and career of one of Italy’s most celebrated actors. Overall A Bullet for the General gets a strong release from Blue Underground.