Also known as: C’era una volta il West (Italy)
Release Date: December 21st, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Leone
Written by: Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, Mickey Knox, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Woody Strode
Rafran Cinematografica, Finanzia San Marco, Euro International Film, Paramount Pictures, 165 Minutes (international version), 175 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
Once Upon A Time In the West is currently ranked as No. 25 on IMDb’s Top 250 movies list. That makes it the 25th greatest film of all-time, as dictated by the votes of millions of IMDb users worldwide. Frankly, I think it is too low.
The fact is, I consider Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly to be the greatest film ever made. This movie, is just one very small step behind it. Once Upon A Time In the West is just about as flawless and as perfect as a film can be.
The direction by Sergio Leone is exactly what you would expect if you have seen any of his nearly immaculate films. The actors were working with a master and being as talented of a cast as they were, they all performed at their absolute best and gave audiences something gritty, real and straight from the heart. Every talent in this movie conveyed raw, honest and sincere emotion. Acting like this only comes across in a film once in a blue moon and it is even rarer if Sergio Leone, Stanley Kubrick or Akira Kurosawa aren’t in the director’s chair.
Continuing on about the stellar acting, Charles Bronson owns this film and has never been better. For a guy as talented as he is, this is certainly his magnum opus. He is a likable bad ass who carries some serious emotional baggage and a lust for revenge that is never fully revealed until the end of the film.
Henry Fonda is so good as the evil bastard Frank, that he may be one of the greatest villains in cinematic history. I couldn’t help but hate him and appreciate the acting prowess of Fonda in this dastardly role.
Jason Robards was another great addition to this cast as Cheyenne. He was kind and caring and still a bit of a bad ass as well. He needed to be, sharing the screen with Bronson and Fonda. The trichotomy of these characters was on par with the intense and intertwined relationship of the three title characters in Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
Rounding out the cast was Italian actress and model, Claudia Cardinale. She was mesmerizingly gorgeous in a way that I have never experienced in any other film. She is still the most beautiful actress and presence that I have ever seen in any film and she owned this movie like no other actress could. She had an incredibly tough task to accomplish in taking on this role and she far exceeded what was needed, which is a testament to her talent, her beauty and the direction of Sergio Leone.
Yes, I am pimping the hell out of this film. I can’t help it. When I am this passionate about something so flawless and so spectacular, it is hard for me to tone it down. There are very few films that I can consider perfect. This is one of those films.