Leone's masterpiece

'Once Upon A Time in the West', if I've still to convince you, really is a masterpiece of visual storytelling. Each of the opening set pieces is, in it's own right, remarkable and, with the exception of the credit sequence, punctuated always by Morricone's score. These opening scenes run as follows:

- It is notable that, during the first two scenes (and first twenty minutes) of the film, the majority of characters to which we've been introduced are left dead.

At that time, it was normal for Italian film productions to add the sound later in the studio after filming was complete, and without the restriction of sound crew and recording booms, Tonino Delli Colli's camera was able to move freely around the protagonists, limited only by Leone's imagination.

Another great example of this is the final flashback sequence where the camera starts in close up on the face of the young Harmonica. The camera then pulls out and upwards to reveal the horror of his predicament, beautifully framed with Monument Valley in the background.

"Keep your lovin'
brother happy."


















While 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' is probably the most enjoyable of Leone's films in terms of shear fun and exhilaration, and 'For A Few Dollars More' is possibly the best example of a 'Spaghetti Western', with its routes still firmly in the genre, 'Once upon a Time in the West' is, in my opinion, Leone's masterpiece.

The film marks a change in both pace and emotional depth to the 'Dollars Trilogy' and, not helped by studio imposed cuts, it did not achieve the same worldwide commercial success. One exception was in France, where the movie was fully embraced - one theatre showing the uncut version of the film continuously for 48 months. But over time the film has come to receive the critical acclaim that it deserves.