Now, for the first time, Sergio Leone's original uncut version of this monumental epic can be seen. The picture itself is as big as its Monument Valley locations, as grand as its fine, distinguished cast, as tough and bawdy as every kid imagines the Old West. Henry Fonda plays the blackest character of his long career, and he's utterly convincing as Frank, the ruthless murderous psychopath who suffers no conscience pangs after annihilating an entire family. Jason Robards is the half-breed falsely accused of the terrible slaughter. Charles Bronson plays The Man, who remembers how his brother was savagely tortured. Brilliantly directed by Sergio Leone, this glorious picture re-established the Western'' significance to cinema art."
The Blu-ray edition of Sergio Leone's Once upon a Time in the West
is not only a vast improvement over the 2003 DVD release, but the lavish tribute a classic of its stature has long deserved. The much-discussed inclusion of both the American theatrical version and the restored Italian cut will undoubtedly be the chief attraction for fans, though it should be noted that the differences between the two amount to less than a minute of footage involving Jason Robards's Cheyenne. However, a three-part, hour-long series of new documentaries features interviews with the film's surviving participants--actors Claudia Cardinale and Gabriele Ferzetti, cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, and in particular, co-screenwriter Bernardo Bertolucci. It offers fascinating perspective on Leone and his epic, as well as homage from genre experts and famous fans, including directors John Carpenter (whose no-nonsense approach is refreshing), Walter Hill, and Alex Cox (Repo Man
), who are appropriately respectful and informative. Most of the aforementioned people are also featured on a commentary track led by author and film historian Sir Christopher Frayling; their contributions range from the didactic to (in the case of Cox) the truly offbeat. Less intriguing is The Railroad: Revolutionizing the West
, which awkwardly blends clips from the interviews with historical text and photos. But the original trailer, now presented in high-def, is stunning, as are galleries of production photos and location footage, the latter shown in the present as well as during filming. Audiophiles will also appreciate the wide range of audio options, including English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (as well as English mono, for those wishing to emulate the original TV broadcasts), and the attention paid to composer Ennio Morricone's score, which sounds extraordinarily lush and grand. Purists and obsessives will undoubtedly find some fault with the presentation, most notably in regard to the varying lengths (since rumors of a longer European cut abound), but for now, this is the version of Once upon a Time in the West
that Leone fans have been waiting for. --Paul Gaita