C'Era una Volta il West (1968, ITA/USA) C-177m. SCOPE **** D: Sergio Leone. Starring Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Paolo Stoppa, Woody Strode, Jack Elam, Keenan Wynn, Frank Wolff, Lionel Stander, Frank Brana, Aldo Sambrell, Fabio Testi. Legendary western masterpiece is the follow-up to Leone's DOLLAR-trilogy and marks the highpoint in the director's œuvre. Elegiac and melancholic in tone, this portrait of a dying West creates a languid mood that remains unmatched - in any genre. The arrival of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica (Bronson) coincides with that of beautiful Cardinale, who must learn that the man who married her in New Orleans was just killed in a ruthless assault. It turns out he bought land soon to be crossed by the railroad, much to tycoon Ferzetti and his henchman Fonda's displeasure. What will Cardinale do with the land, and why is the man with the harmonica looking for Fonda? Story (concocted by none other than Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci and director Leone) takes second chair to incredibly beautiful staging, brilliant color widescreen cinematography by Tonino delli Colli, and a haunting, unforgettable score by Ennio Morricone, probably his best. An awe-inspiring achievement, not to be missed. The best spaghetti western, and generally one of the best westerns of all time. Fonda is an especially brilliant villain. Shot in Spain and the U.S. (Monument Valley). Leone followed this with GIU LA TESTA (1971). Released in the U.S. at 140m. Regular print runs 165m., though several longer versions are in existence (extending scenes rather than adding new ones). English title: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

© Ron Altman