Once Upon A Time In The West 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue Issue 273, May/June 2024

WSR Score5
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Paramount Home Entertainment
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Western violence and brief sexuality
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-66)
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Sergio Leone
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DTS HD Lossless 5.1
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This is Sergio Leone's restored 4K Ultra HD original uncut version of "Once Upon A Time In The West", the 1968 monumental epic Western, which stars Henry Fonda as a ruthless murderous psychopath responsible for the cold-blooded killing of an entire family. Charles Bronson is the harmonica-playing stranger who stalks him, intent on revenge for his brother who was savagely tortured, and Jason Robards as the falsely accused escaped convict and half-breed. This restoration was made possible with support by The Film Foundation and The Rome Film Festival in association with Sergio Leone Productions and Paramount Pictures. (Gary Reber)

Special features include both the restored uncut and original theatrical versions; commentary with contributions by Directors John Carpenter, John Milius, and Alex Cox; film historians Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall; and the cast and crew; five featurettes: "An Opera Of Violence" (SD 28:49), "The Wages Of Sin" (SD 19:36), "Something To Do With Death" (SD 18:16), "Railroad: Revolutionizing The West" (SD 06:21) and "Locations Then & Now" (SD 04:29); a production gallery; and the theatrical trailer.

The 1.85:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision/HDR10 picture, reviewed on a VIZIO Quantum X P85QX-JI UHD/HDR display, was photograph on film stock using the J-D-C camera system and sourced from a newly remastered 4K Digital Intermediate. The grain structure is smooth and light, and never objectionable. The color palette is strongly saturated in rich and warm earthy hues. The wide color gamut reveals nuanced hues throughout. Dirt browns are prevalent with red rock formations along the path of the railroad, and patches of green shrubs. The settings are spectacular. Flesh tones are natural with strong skin tanning. HDR contrast is excellent. Black levels are deep. Shadows are revealing. White levels are perfectly natural. Resolution is superb, especially in closeups, with fine sun-drenched facial features revealed in skin pores, sweat, lines, beards, sideburns and hair, as well as weathered clothes fabric detail and intricate wood set and metal object textures designed a rugged western motif. This is a wonderfully colorful picture that is a Western classic. (Gary Reber)

The repurposed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack features the incorporation of the stereo music score recording and some multichannel ambient effects. There is a rather nice rendering of atmosphere, consistent with the outdoor settings, and the music has a palpable, wide, panoramic spread across the screen and into the surrounds. Featured is Charles Bronson playing harmonica. The dated fidelity should not be particularly objectionable in the form of distortion or other artifacts, because overall, the fidelity and dynamics are satisfying. Foley sound effects are precise. Atmospherics, such as wind, sound realistic. Sound effects are often powerful such as loud gunfire and at times the sounds associated with the building of the railroad. One particular segment in Ennio Morricone's score, during a shoot-out in the town, is full of percussion, which sounds remarkably well recorded with a wide and deep soundstage presence and natural kettle, bass drum, and snare drum tonal reproduction. Deep bass is expectedly restrained. The dialogue is generally functional, with the studio ADR characteristic noticeable, for a forward-sounding presence with limited spatial integration. this is an enjoyable holosonic® soundtrack. (Gary Reber)