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Love it or loathe it, the Young Guns duology became a very popular re-telling of the most (in)famous outlaw in the north, south, east aaaaaand west of the American frontier - Billy the Kid, (otherwise known as William H Bonnie).  Featuring the hottest Hollywood acting folk of the late 80s early 90s (otherwise known as the "brat pack") this sequel begins somewhere in the 1950s with an old man claiming to be that same outlaw of long ago.  This old-timer has been sending out telephone smoke signals so's he can find a lawyer to represent him in a full pardon for all his regretful doin's out in the old west many a year back.  His lawyer-to-be agrees to meet this varmint out in the desert to hear his story (strange as it all sounds) but the legal critter is also asking for some kinda proof of his identity.  So begins a two-hour flashback told in tale by this living fossil of yesteryear.

"Sorry guys ... I did have the handcuff keys after all."

The tale of Billy The Kid has been retold and "relegendised" for film on no less than 69 occassions to date - and I'm not making that number up just for fun.  This 1990 sequel to the surprise hit back in 1988 is based on the alleged true story described above and of the events that followed after Billy the Kid was apparently shot and killed by his former pal turned sherriff.  Whether or not this was a factual case is a matter for the historians, but who cares when it can be made the stuff of legend and entertainment such as this?  This movie is just as much fun as the original that spawned it and if you loved the first one then you simply can't miss its sequel.

Some people may think that the entire musical score was composed by Jon Bon Jovi himself, but this is not the case.  He did however write an "inspired" pseudo-soundtrack album containing numerous songs & ballads (11 in total), but only "Blaze Of Glory" was used at the end of the film as well as another song called "Billy Get Your Guns" found in the end credits.  Instead, it was Alan Silvestri who wrote the movie's orchestral sequences (his efforts include The Mummy Returns and Predator).  On an even more bizarre sidenote, there are a couple of musical cues that inexplicably sound a lot like Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"...maybe I'm just too tired or something.

And I still think that the "Blaze Of Glory" theme song sounds cool after all these years (if listened to in moderation, of course).  Oh, watch out for Jon Bon Jovi's cameo as the scruffy man who gets shot in the chest and blown backwards after Doc and Chavez's jail cell incident.

Lady Godiva ... Eat your heart out!

Movie
Taking place a year later from where Young Guns left off and told in flashback by an old geezer using the name of Brushy Bill Roberts, the search is on for Billy The Kid (Emilio Estevez) and his previous gang of outlaws who have since all gone their separate ways.  One by one they are found and arrested awaiting hanging...er, trial.  Billy the Kid is offered a treaty by the newly elected Governor and offers to meet with him to discuss terms.  The deal is set for Billy to turn in state's evidence against his arch enemies "The Murphy Boys" (whom had murdered the Young Guns' employer and saviour) in return for leniency (the Governor's offer) or a full pardon (Billy's offer).

Of course, nothing ever goes to plan. The betrayals are what hurts Billy the most and this is yet another heartache for him to contend with.  Along the way he endlessly roams the countryside for sanctuary whilst practising his gun skills in the multiple shootouts he finds himself in. And quite inventive about it he is, too.

Video
Well, I'm not sure what I should say about this transfer.  I feel that the video remastering of this title was only overseen on the DVD authoring stations PC monitors as I cannot understand why it should look as bad as it does on my TV - it still looks pretty great on my PC though.

Unfortunately I will have to make my evaluations based on what the majority of DVD viewers use to watch their movies with, which is their TV of course. (If anyone has any objections to my views on the quality issues of this disc, please inform me of any other opinions so I can determine what might be wrong on my side, thank you).

"If I didn't know any better, I'd think they were trying to hang me."

The television picture is generally murky, drained of the basic colour hues except for the reds and browns and shows an old-time blurriness that used to be common in NTSC video.  Surprisingly the blacks are quite deep and the indoor scenes actually exhibit more detail than I would have originally expected from this transfer.  However, the image in its entirety is very dull and not at all bright.  The one grace to all this is that there is hardly any grain and little or no MPEG artefacts to speak of.  Thankfully I can view all these scenes and not miss much in general, even if the detail is seriously lacking.  Technically speaking this is an acceptable film-to-video transfer but it could have been slightly better with maybe some beta tweaking on a TV display (if this wasn't already done).

The picture on a PC is quite a stark contrast comparitively speaking.  The darker indoor and night-time scenes are what suffers the most here with the detail easily becoming lost in the shadows, so any hope of viewing them on a PC monitor needs a boost from the brightness control (with a subsequent washing out of the image).  The outdoor and day-time scenes exhibit relatively good use of colour and overall image quality, however there's some fine detail that's sorely lacking. Objects such as the various trees and shrubs around the place are an example.

The total running time comes just under two hours which is acceptable for a single-layer DVD, and unless there was a better film-to-NTSC transfer available to the studio then I doubt a double-layer DVD would have improved things significantly.

"Sheesh, I couldn't even hit this cameraman with a shovel full of sand."

Audio
I wasn't totally disappointed with this effort, not totally anyway - this soundtrack exhibits none of the qualities that were afforded for the Dirty Harry stable of movies.  So basically it's an old-time sounding soundtrack for a film set in older times, but it didn't have to be - this is a barely servicable soundtrack.

Unfortunately, any lack of a proper 5.1 remix is immediately obvious at the beginning of the film when the truck roars past from left to right ... I was at least expecting a half-decent panning of sound from the relevant front speakers, but the best I got was a raised volume to signify that it was directly in front of us for a second, that's all.  The soundtrack is mainly (mono) frontstage directed with some bleeding to the rears so that it fools us into thinking we are being immersed in sound.  Resultantly, there is very little or no split-surround activity (and if there WAS any proper rear-channel mix in place, it gets terribly lost in the quagmire of aural-quicksand).

The sub-woofer gets a sub-standard usage and it also sounds strangely distant from the action that is being exhibited on-screen (ie  the bass doesn't seem to belong to any of the sound effects being produced).  Therefore the low-end of the audio spectrum doesn't always kick in when you expect it to, but when it happens it's still perfectly timed to the action.  However, the worst feature of this mix is sadly the dialogue which sometimes gets lost in the murkiness and is a slight struggle to hear every word spoken.

Extras
The main menu screen is static and funnily enough it has a couple of the minor actors missing compared to the pic exhibited on the DVD back-cover insert.  The featurette provided is pretty much your standard TV promo fluff - it contains a few on-set interviews with the cast discussing the film's plot points (good insights actually) but it also has plenty of unnecessary movie footage (in cramped Pan&Scan).  The theatrical trailer rounds off the package.

It's just a pity they couldn't get a hold of the "Blaze Of Glory" music video as well (I know, complex music rights, etc).

"Whaddaya mean we gotta take a pay-cut?"
Take note that there are no subtitles whatsoever, which is a great shame considering how muffled the dialogue sounds sometimes.

Overall
A couple of flaws regarding the packaging and the disc itself.  The cover insert says that the DVD is "single-layer" (which is correct) but claims that the "layer transition may trigger a slight pause" (ahem).  Also, the original DVD I was sent nearly a year ago was still encoded for Region 1 only, so after a whole year has passed we are now finally getting the properly encoded title onto our Region 4 store shelves (albeit not in PAL).

So then, adequate video, average audio, no subtitles and NTSC.  If you must own it, then this is the only version available.  I have no idea whether Warner Bros is going to rely on NTSC masters for a supposedly 100% PAL market, but if this becomes permanent policy don't expect a remaster of this (or any of their other titles) from now on.  However, in this way we might end up receiving every extra that their R1 versions have (which ain't much usually) and get it cheaper locally than having to import the same R1 product. Every cloud has a silver lining.

In a way, I might have to give Warners a break this time around since the Young Guns franchise was originally released by 20th Century Fox and I would hazard to say that Warners was given whatever source materials were deemed sufficient for DVD mastering at the time.  Also, I have seemingly bumped up my overall rating just a notch over what I would usually give a DVD of this technical quality, but you can blame this on my adoration of the movie.


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