Once Upon a Time in the West


D: Sergio Leone
Paramount/Rafran/San Marco (Fulvio Morsella)
US/Italy 1968 (released 1969)
165 mins
W: Sergio Leone, Sergio Donati, Dario Argento & Bernardo Bertolucci
DP: Tonino Delli Colli
Ed: Nino Baragli
Mus: Ennio Morricone
Charles Bronson (Harmonica), Henry Fonda (Frank), Claudia Cardinale (Jill McBain), Jason Robards (Manuel 'Cheyenne' Gutierrez), Gabrielle Ferzetti (Mr. Morton), Keenan Wynn (Sheriff of Flagstone)

Following the success he had with his "Spaghetti Trilogy", Sergio Leone got his opportunity to direct a Western for a big Hollywood studio, and with it, delivered one of the most polished films within the genre, a gritty Wild West epic built on a masterclass of dramatic tension.

A notorious gunfighter does the bidding for a railway company, planning to force the newly-widowed Jill McBain off her homestead so tracks can be laid through them, making him a wealthy man in the process. Jill, however, has allies in the form of a harmonica-playing stranger and a shady bandit, both of whom are looking to settle their own vendettas.

Though incredibly lengthy and a tad slowly paced, Leone's work is a thoroughly professional piece of work. There are no real good guys here, and the casting decision of Henry Fonda, a revered American icon, in the role of a violent opportunist, proved to be a work of genius, especially when his character is introduced killing an entire family, including the women and children.

At 165 minutes, you'll need a bagful of patience to truly appreciate this, and the drawn-out opening gunfight sets the pace the rest of the movie, and though it is very slowly paced, it's very much worth the journey.

Ennio Morricone's music score is one of true beauty.


Once Upon a Time in the West
Once Upon a Time in the West