Leone pic hops hurdles to restoration

Restoring “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was no easy feat, especially since the Bad wasn’t available and the Good and the Ugly had different schedules.

Sergio Leone’s reconstituted 1968 classic spaghetti Western is slated to hit arthouses and cable’s AMC channel this May.

But beyond the usual restoration obstacles — unearthing usable footage and clearing rights issues — MGM archivist John Kirk had the challenge of remixing the film without reuniting stars Clint Eastwood (the Good), Lee Van Cleef (the Bad) and Eli Wallach (the Ugly).

Van Cleef died in 1989, and scheduling conflicts kept Eastwood and Wallach from dubbing their lines at the same session.

Like most Italian films of the era, “Ugly” was shot silent and dubbed later, but since some of the scenes of Leone’s 1966 Italian-lingo version were never planned for inclusion in the English-lingo cut, no English voiceover was recorded.

Cuts included expositional bits of six existing scenes and two entire passages never viewed in the original U.S. print, including the legendary “grotto scene,” in which Tuco (Wallach) recruits bandits to hunt down Joe (Eastwood), and a sequence where Angel Eyes (Van Cleef) visits a Confederate Army fort.

Kirk says other reportedly deleted scenes were never found during a 1998 excavation by Italy’s Cineteca Nazionale. And one dramatic scene — of Angel Eyes torturing Tuco — was in such poor condition that it couldn’t be salvaged.

But the biggest problem for Kirk was scheduling the actors. So Wallach dubbed his lines in a New York studio last October while Eastwood recorded his in December at MGM’s L.A. studios. Voiceover artist Simon Prescott was brought in to do Van Cleef’s lines in January.

Prescotthas vocally impersonated stars ranging from Omar Sharif to Jerry Orbach and says it was “a piece of cake” to mimic Van Cleef.

Auds will soon get to determine for themselves if Eastwood and Wallach’s voices sound any different after three-plus decades, or if Prescott successfully imitates Van Cleef’s famous growl.

The film, with its 19 minutes of restored footage, receives a gala premiere at the Tribeca Film Fest on May 8.

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