Los Angeles Times - 01/02/2003
"...One beautiful image follows another....Throughout, Leone is a master of the expressive gesture in celebration of an Old West that exists more in our imaginations than it ever did in reality..."
USA Today - 12/09/1994
"...Director Sergio Leone's 'spaghetti' masterpiece'..."
Total Film - 11/01/2003
"...Brilliant....Brutal, bloody and poetic, this is, without hyperbole, one of the greatest Westerns ever made..."
Movieline's Hollywood Life - 11/01/2003
"...Bronson and Fonda never looked better..."
Uncut - 01/01/2006 Ranked #18 in Uncut's Best DVDs Of 2005 -- "[I]t's simultaneously an elegy, a critique and a fairytale of the cowboy myth."
Entertainment Weekly - 06/03/2011
"[A] masterpiece....Leone's epic about a trio of outlaws is set during the last death-rattle days of the Old West." -- Grade: A
Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti), the power-hungry owner of a railroad company, hires Frank (Henry Fonda, playing against type), a gunfighter without a conscience, to kill anyone who stands in the way of the completion of the railroad. After Frank murders land owner Brett McBain (Frank Wolff), McBain's widow (Claudia Cardinale) hires two killers of her own to protect her and gain revenge: a mysterious, harmonica-playing desperado (Charles Bronson) and his rogue sidekick (Jason Robards). Using techniques previously unseen in the genre, Sergio Leone utilizes close-ups, color, and Ennio Morricone's trademark score to create a tense and somber meditation on death which is widely considered to be one of the best westerns in cinematic history. Soon-to-be legendary Italian directors Dario Argento (SUSPIRIA) and Bernardo Bertolucci (THE LAST EMPEROR) collaborated with Leone on the screenplay.
Sergio Leone's epic homage to the Hollywood western has become a cinematic classic. Leone plays with the genre's conventions primarily through evocative camerawork and music, and with a minimum of dialogue. The film follows several stories, all centering on greed, murder and revenge. In one, gunmen slaughter an entire family who are awaiting the arrival of their father's new bride. The wife valiantly attempts to hold on to the land she has inherited. But the cold-blooded outlaws who committed the massacre want to complete the job by killing her. There's also a mysterious "Nameless Man" who has his own reasons for hunting down these bandits... and he has murder on his mind.
Essential Cinema |
Old West |
According to Dario Argento, who is credited with co-writing the film's original story, he and Bernardo Bertolucci were on the set during the filming, and both constantly rewrote the script.
Co-produced by Safran and San Marco.
Color by Technicolor; shot in TechniScope on location in Monument Valley, also Spain and Cinecitta Studio in Rome, Italy.
The film has been shown on the AMC Cable Network in Letterbox format, in its original uncut version.
When Henry Fonda first received the script from Leone, he was not impressed with it. But close friend Eli Wallach, who had been in Leone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," convinced him to take the part. Wallach told Fonda that Leone used the script only as an outline for the film, which was improvised as the production went on and strengthened by the addition of evocative music and stylized action. Fonda got hold of the scripts of other Leone films, and then watched the finished products; he quickly realized that what Wallach had told him was true.
Original distributor United Artists refused to release the film with Henry Fonda cast as the cold-hearted, sadistic killer in the lead role, so Leone took the deal to Paramount, who ultimately distributed the film.
The music, composed by Ennio Morricone, is broken up into the following themes and sections: 1. Once Upon a Time in the West 2. As a Judgment 3. Farewell to Cheyenne 4. The Transgression 5. The First Tavern 6. The Second Tavern 7. Man with a Harmonica 8. A Dimly Lit Room 9. Bad Orchestra 10. The Man 11. Jill's America 12. Death's Rattle 13. Finale
Music published by Famous Music. Corp (ASCAP), distributed by BMG Music.