the fresh films reviews

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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Directed by:
Sergio Leone
C'era una Volta il West


Ondt blod i Vesten

166 minutes

Produced by:
Fulvio Morsella
Written by:
Sergio Leone
Sergio Donati
Based on a story by:
Dario Argento
Bernardo Bertolucci
Sergio Leone

Cast includes:

Jill McBain Claudia Cardinale
Frank Henry Fonda
Cheyenne Jason Robards ˝
"Harmonica" Charles Bronson
Mr. Morton Gabriele Ferzetti
Sam, the Coachman Paolo Stoppa -
Sheriff of Flagstone Keenan Wynn -
Brett McBain Frank Wolff -
Knuckles Jack Elam -
Stony Woody Strode -



The most elaborate of Leone’s so-called spaghetti westerns, in many ways an exorbitant culmination of everything he had perfected over the course of the Dollars Trilogy. From the lingering, atmospheric intro to the profound, cathartic ending, Leone dazzles with his compositions and pacing – his camera constantly examining the larger-than-life emotions on his characters’ furrowed faces. When the calmly observant Harmonica (Charles Bronson) wields his instrument and eventually lock eyes with the arrogant but wary villain Frank (Henry Fonda), it encapsulates just about everything the Western genre has always been about, and in an elegantly understated manner. Once Upon a Time in the West is more narratively ambitious than the Dollars Trilogy, it has more layers and more complex characters. What the films still have in common, apart from the theme and setting, is an aesthetic cleanliness. In Once Upon a Time, every image feels momentous, almost to the point of hyperbole. And still you feel the characters' plight and the weight of the land. A wonderful movie with delightful performances from its four principal stars and a fine score from Ennio Morricone, although admittedly not one of his best.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 25.01.2023 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 18.10.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang