The famous crane shot

A little into the film we have another scene that involves a two hour wait at a station, but quite different to that of the credit sequence.

A woman has arrived a Flagstone station. She walks up and down the platform through the bustling crowd of alighted passengers and workmen who are unloading goods and livestock. She is looking for someone to meet her, but she cannot find them. Time passes - she looks at the station clock - it reads 7:55. When she next looks at her pocket watch it shows 10:10.

We cut to a long shot of
the woman standing beside
cargo unloaded from the train.
The station is now deserted
but for two baggage handlers
that are waiting to assist her.
The film's main theme starts
to play on the soundtrack.






She starts to walk towards
the camera, followed by the baggage handlers.






As she approaches the
camera it begins to move
back in front of her.






She reaches the door to
the station office and
walks inside. The camera
remains outside and pans
right.






The camera continues to pan
onto a window as the woman simultaneously moves into shot inside the building. The camera holds its position on the window
(a frame within a frame) as the woman talks to one of the
station attendants.






He holds open the station
door for her as she leaves.






The camera now cranes
upwards passed the top of
the window.






It continues ascending
passed the roof of the
building ...






... until, in time with the swell
of the music, the busy town of Flagstone is revealed - a town
still in the process of being
built around the railroad.






And we see the woman with
the two baggage handlers,
bottom-centre frame, as she makes her way into town.






This sequence, in one continuous camera take, is Leone's most ambitious, with painstaking attention to timing. The camera movement, the synchronicity to the pre-composed soundtrack and the flow of the actors and extras, as we move from the deserted station to the busy town, must have presented a logistical nightmare.
But it is in such moments that truely great cinema is realised.

Screen captures taken from UK Paramount DVD release of 'Once Upon a Time in the West'