Once Upon A Time In The West

Featured In Issue 159, September 2011

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Paramount Home Entertainment
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Western violence and brief sexuality
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-50)
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Not Indicated
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Sergio Leone
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Dolby Digital 1.0, DTS HD Lossless 5.1
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This is Sergio Leone's restored 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; four featurettes: An Opera Of Violence (SD 28:49), The Wages Of Sin (SD 19:36), Something To Do With Death (SD 18:16), and Railroad: Revolutionizing The West (SD 06:21); Locations Then & Now (SD 04:29); a production gallery; and the theatrical trailer.

First reviewed in Issue 80, the anamorphically enhanced DVD—presented in its original 2.35:1 Techniscope aspect ratio—exhibited a picture that was nicely textured and sharp, with generally satisfying contrast and shadow delineation. The picture certainly had a dated appearance, but the color scheme, with its abundance of brownish hues, was complementary to the western genre. There was some smearing or loss of finer details that suggested an overuse of digital video noise reduction. There was also some minor pixel breakup. Edge enhancement was unacceptable, with annoying white halos separating objects from their backgrounds. However, the picture could look very good at times. The newly restored version presented on the 2.35:1 1080p AVC Blu-ray Disc™ overcomes the smearing and loss of finer details, as well as the pixel breakup and edge enhancement, for a dramatically improved visual experience. Resolution is impressive, especially in close-ups of sun-drenched facial features, weathered clothes, and intricate wood, fabric, and metal textures, all expressed in a rugged western motif. The prominent brownish hues are strongly saturated, which enhances the sense of western ruggedness. Contrast is quite good with deep, solid blacks and revealing shadow delineation. This is an impressive restoration that allows viewers to fully appreciate the superb cinematography and the widescreen Techniscope framing of this Sergio Leone classic. (Gary Reber/Suzanne Hodges)

As with the previous remastered Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack, the new lossless DTS-HD Master Audio™ encoding features the incorporation of the stereo music score recording and some multichannel ambient effects. There's 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. The dated fidelity should not be particularly objectionable in the form of distortion or other artifacts, because overall, the fidelity and dynamics are noticeably improved. 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. An optional original monaural soundtrack is respectable, but the multichannel version is more dramatic. (Gary Reber/Perry Sun)