Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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Ten years in planning, Sergio Leone's epic Once upon a Time in America portrays 50 years of riveting underworld history and offers rich roles to a remarkable cast. Robert De Niro and James Woods play lifelong Lower East Side pals whose wary partnership unravels in death and mystery. Strong support comes from Tuesday Weld, Joe Pesci, Jennifer Connelly, Elizabeth McGovern and the young actors playing the central characters as ghetto kids. To see this film (offered for the first time in the full version 1984 Cannes Film Festival audiences cheered) is "to be swept away by the assurance and vitality of a great director making his final statement in a medium he adored" (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times).
- Newly remastered "Director's Cut"
- Excerpt from the documentary Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone
- Photo gallery
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(I'm going to try and keep this brief, but it's almost impossible when talking this film.)
In 1984 Sergio Leone, master of the long-form story of American anti-heroes (and mostly through cowboys and gunslingers) set his sights high when adapting the 1952 gangster book "The Hoods" by Harry Grey for the screen. The result is long, drawn-out, meditative and grim, a delirious event onscreen which will either dazzle you or bore you if you don't have the patience to wade through it's original 229 minutes - and over three-and-a-half hour story.
Originally filmed as two three hour films, with each part filled with amazing history and detail from the book, and upon showing this cut at Cannes to raves and applause, Warner Bros. and their distributors The Ladd Company (who mangled 'Blade Runner" only two years earlier) convinced him to squash it into a single 229-minute film. Sadly the distributors - WITHOUT LEONE'S INVOLVEMENT AND CONSENT - tore it to shreds even more, to a more palatable two hours and 19 minutes, and rearranging the scenes into an almost chronological order.
The result was a critical and commercial flop worldwide, although a few critics liked it, but both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were the one of the few lone champions of it, brutalizing the distributors for their chop job (having seen it at Cannes)[...]and Siskel put it on his Top Ten films of 1984.
Having been disillusioned distraught by America and it's decline in substance over style, It was the last film Leone ever directed.
So what is it about? It's all a delirious dream and memories, or maybe it isn't, but is filled with some of the best performances onscreen by Robert De Niro, Elizabeth McGovern, James Woods, Treat Williams, James Hayden, William Forsythe, Darlanne Fluegel and a cast of dozens, all trying to tell you the viewer a story lasting almost 50 years. You have to watch it for yourself, it rivals "The Godfather" as one of the best gangster films ever made that you've never seen, even in it's chopped up form.
Unfortunately, if you've ever seen the theatrical version on DVD, it won't make much sense. Entire subplots are ripped out, and all we have left are some great bang-bangs and some sexy moments, but the subtlety of the story itself is almost 75% gone.
When it was finally released in 2002/3 a a "Special Edition" and as a "Director's Cut," restoring it to Leone's 229 minute cut, it was relevatory, and a new batch of wide-eyed filmgoers who truly valued this film (such as myself) were finally able to see Leone's version as he wanted to show it in theaters, complete with an intermission! Try that nowadays!
When it was shown in Cannes it was originally 269 minutes (over 4 hours!) from almost ten hours of film shot. Now here it is, almost a decade later, and we have been given the best possible and closest version to what Leone wanted to show, a still staggering 251 minute version (just a little over 4 hours).
OK, whew! Now for the details:
This version, that I bought here on Amazon, is the collectible Blu-Ray/DVD version, with both the 229 minute cut and the 251 minute cut available on 1 Blu-Ray disc and two DVDs, the former "Collector's Edition" from 2002/3. There's a staggering amount of new information included here, with a 32-page color hardcover book with photos and production info not found too many other places, with some of the same commentaries, documentaries and trailers found on the Collector's Edition.
What you have here is the best we're going to get, the Blu-Ray looks great, the colors are even, and even though the Italian restoring companies did a great job, it's obvious to see the scenes when it hits the screens - they look a little washed out, but it's to be expected considering it was from throwaway negatives, and not the original film elements.
Despite that, the film's story, as envisioned by one of the great director's in our lifetime of all things Americana, is a major step forward to being complete and worth the 4 hour watch. I give it, and the restoration, and the package overall, a mighty 5 stars.
Warner Home Video, who didn't help much to rescue it back when it was first released by the Ladd Company (the resulting flop almost bankrupted Ladd, just as two years earlier when they took "Blade Runner" and screwed that all up too, making that a flop as well), has finally delivered a package worth holding on to!
In 2012 Martin Scorsese re-introduced the 229 minute version to Cannes, and interest for the sadly forgotten film was reignited, and to this day he and Leone's children are still trying to gain back the rights to 29 minutes of the film to show his complete 269 ( ! ) minute 1984 Cannes version, which garnered over 15 minutes of a standing ovation.
You'll enjoy it, if you love the gangsters, the drama, and the story, told by one of the masters, and this should most definitely be in your collection!
(Thanks for reading, please leave a thanks if you liked it, and then check out my other so-so reviews of other items for sale here on Amazon.)
Don't know what others might think about the movie, but I like its completeness in describing the characters life, as to what brought him into the 'now'
It took me a while to understand that Robert De Niro (Noodles) is having what is called a 'Pipe Dream' (smoking Opium) in a Opium Den. Which is why the emphasis is on the telephone ring in the beginning of the picture, as its to remind the viewer of what is going through his mind all the while under the influence.
A true beauty in its own form.
I first saw this film when I was about 14 and I like it very much it wasn't till my later years when I was older and seen it on DVD that I actually fell in love with this film, all because I was able to truly understand the real meaning of the entire film as it was intended.
Now that DVD are no longer being used much and everything is going fully digital (streaming) I purchased this film on Amazon Video
I hope my review helps anyone decide to watch this great film.
Is Once Upon a Time in America a film about friendship? Greed? Unrequited love? The film echos with dreams, ultimately telling us that despite all the ambitions, it is difficult to realize your dream... and how easily it can slip by.
Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli, this is a marvelous film to look at, with many unforgettable shots. This DVD features high bitrate remastered anamorphic widescreen video transfer (1.85:1). The images pack a ton of details with deep shadow detail and periodic color palette. Best of all, no edge enhancement. The print is in generally good shape, but some print defects might show up here and there. Expect some grain and video noises on dark scenes.
Just as underrated is Ennio Morricone's score, possibly his most haunting work ever. Many film score composers cite Once Upon a Time in America as among the very best score ever written, and it is easy to hear why. Like his score to Once Upon a Time in the West, this score features 3 distinctively unforgettable themes. Remasterd in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital, his score packs deep bass response and generally wide soundstage. The surround activity is fairly minimal, however.
Restored to 229 minutes, this version indeed represents the longest US home video release to date. It is worth noting, however, that Italian release was significantly longer, with 9 minutes of additional footage, adding incidental scenes.
Film: 5 out of 5
Video Quality: 4 out of 5
Audio Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Supplements: 3 out of 5
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