Customer Review

255 of 283 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
"Once Upon A Time In America" is director, Sergio Leone's stunning tale of organized crime and the destruction it unleashes into the lives of four life-long friends. Robert DeNiro headlines a cast of great talent that includes Joe Pesci, Treat Williams and James Woods. When this film first premiered in 1984 it was 229 minutes. However, the subject matter was considered so violent and shocking, and the pace so methodically slow that nearly 40 minutes were excised for general exhibition, rendering the story line practically incomprehensible. I am pleased to say that this new 2-disc set at last gives us the story as it was originally intended, full of robust characterizations, enthralling action sequences and filled with the sort of memorable moments that have reminded me why we all go to the movies - to be entertained (not overwhelmed with way-too-many, ultra-slick digital effects!).
Warner Brothers 2 disc set does have its drawbacks. First, the movie itself is spread over two discs and, there is no polite way to say it, the interruption is obtrusive. The break happens right in the middle of a crucial scene. Interruption aside, the DVD is marred by considerable film grain and a bit of digital grit that make most of the images digitally harsh instead of creamy smooth. Many scenes offer remarkable clarity and depth while others, mostly night time or dark scenes suffer from a loss of fine detail that disappears into a haze of undistinguished muddy blacks, browns and blues. Edge enhancement, pixelization, shimmering and aliasing are present throughout the transfer, sometimes distractingly so. The audio is remixed 5.1 and is strident and lacking in tonal bass.
Extras: Pretty much a retrospective and audio commentaries. Some toss away stuff. That's it, that's all!
BOTTOM LINE: For its sheer mastery in the art of cinema story telling, I recommend "Once Upon A Time In America". The transfer leaves something to be desired but hey, it's nice to have this American classic back in the spotlight and, finally, in its full running time.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 1, 2008 5:04:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 1, 2008 5:06:29 PM PDT
Carl Stewart says:
There is some incorrect history here; when the film was released considerably more than 40 minutes was excised, in fact, Leone's original film of just under 4 hours was reduced by nearly half...I believe that about 90 minutes were cut. And the cutting had nothing at all to do with violence. Keep in mind that this was a time when Hollywood reveled in sex and violence....and the sex here, in particularly, was pretty mild. The film was cut because it was thought much too long for American audiences, and especially because of the way in which Leone cut back and forth through time. Too many people know this film only in its commercially reduced version and that is a crime.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2011 2:57:56 PM PST
Kudos on the corrections,
I saw the original 2.5 hour release and while I was enthralled, I did think it a bit too lengthy. A
masterful film none-the-less!

Posted on Apr 23, 2012 9:08:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 23, 2012 9:10:00 PM PDT
Tuco says:
Looks like the Leone Estate has recently uncovered an additional 40 minutes cut from the film and are premiering this restored 269 minute version at the Cannes Film Festival. The current DVD available is 229 minutes. The article states that Leones original vision was for two 3-hour films:

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 10:03:59 AM PDT
Nix, your headline bespeaks the real deal about this masterpiece,
it's seriously enjoyable "to have this American classic back in the
spotlight". It's also a kick to see a youthful Jennifer Connelly &
James Russo (not to mention Will Forsythe) in this film. The tech-
nical glitches aren't apparent to me, I'm glad to finally have such a
memorable flick in my possession.

Posted on Nov 29, 2013 1:35:44 PM PST
jderrico says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 23, 2014 2:09:42 PM PST
I"m sure you have to have seen the original extended cut of this Sergio Leone masterpiece (surpassed only by his towering western magnum opus, Once Upon A Time In The West), not the truncated first U.S. release that was an unmitigated disaster after it was taken from the director and re-cut by the studio to run in a 2-hour slot without valuable time-shifting, to truly appreciate what an achievement it is. Despite the low quality of some of the restoration pieces (all that were available after languishing for decades who knows where), the feel and timelessness of the story is overwhelming to any true cinefile.

Posted on Nov 28, 2014 2:54:50 PM PST
David Gabai says:
I'm curious based on your thoughts about the graininess of it what do you think it's worth it to buy the Blu-ray versus the DVD?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2014 11:48:22 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 26, 2014 11:51:16 AM PST
John A. Lind says:
Basic answer, Yes - for either the 229 minute version (as originally released outside the US) or the 251 minute extended one which restores 22 minutes of cuts Leone made for its general release (not to be confused with the US theater distributor's 2-hour editing butchery). The overall transfer of the 229 minutes is very good and a noticeable improvement over the DVD in both. The restoration and transfer of the additional 22 minutes for the longer one was done from work prints and similar sources that had handling and projection damage and storage deterioration. Thus the additional scenes show some of this in spite of the restoration effort. You can see the difference when they appear in the movie although I didn't find it that dramatic. Their reinsertion was also done well and they fit the flow of the story. As an aside, I had no trouble following the 229 minute and it feels complete without any "holes." The additional content in the 251 minute - for the most part - develops some characters a little more and adds some finer details to the story; enhances the movie but it's not essential. Take your pick between the two or get the one with both lengths (I have both). You should be pleased with the upgrade from the DVD, especially on a larger TV screen.
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