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The Specialists – Blu Ray Review

Director Sergio Corbucci, along with Sergio Leone, is among the most respected directors of Italian westerns and The Specialists was made in 1969 at the tail end of the boom in these movies and was a modest success.

Notorious gunfighter Hud Dixon (Johnny Hallyday) arrives in Blackstone, a town where his brother was wrongfully accused of robbing a bank and lynched for it. As Hud seeks revenge, he starts to discover the truth behind the stolen loot, and has to contend with an idealistic sheriff, a beautiful and seductive female banker, a corrupt businessman and a one-armed Mexican bandit, who was once his friend.

A very odd addition to the Spaghetti western canon, Hallyday who was a big music star in France at the time has good screen presence and is aided by a pretty good cast including Gastone Moschin (The Conformist, Caliber 9) and Fran├žoise Fabian (Belle de Jour, My Night at Maud’s). The cinematography is also excellent with stunning wide shots and scenery not normally seen in these types of movies. The film was an Italian/French/German co-production and has some very weird scenes as well as a sleazy atmosphere. Apparently Lee Van Cleef was wanted by the director as the lead but when those plans fell through, an encounter with a French producer led to the lead role going to Johnny Hallyday.

Compared to other Corbucci westerns this was a bit flat and tired in places, with a very bizarre ending scene but fans of the director should get a lot from this release especially as the 4K remaster is excellent.

Crisp and colourful this new transfer shows off the scenery and close-ups beautifully. Audio has three choices, French or Italian language with English subtitles or English dubbed. The film was released in the UK later than other countries and was cut down, so the rarely heard English track is incomplete on this release and the extra scenes not in the UK version switch back to French with subs.

Extras include an audio commentary by Alex Cox and an interview with Austin Fisher, author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema. Also, A LIMITED EDITION collector’s booklet [First Print Run of 2000 units] featuring new writing by western authority Howard Hughes on both the film and the “French-western” sub-genre.


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