Once Upon a Time in the West
Director Sergio Leone's sublime spaghetti Western has been a long time coming on DVD, and now fans who have never seen the film in glorious widescreen will finally have the opportunity to do so thanks to this fine Paramount Pictures release. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Once Upon a Time in the West has simply never looked this good on the small screen. The film's blistering landscapes, as well as Leone's trademark close-ups, all look near flawless thanks to a clean print that shows little signs of digital artifacting or debris. Leone's films have always suffered due to small-screen pan-and-scan practices, and it's great to see this film get the treatment it so deserves. The sound as presented on this release is also a treat for fans of the film. In addition to including an original mono track (available in both French and English), Paramount has also seen fit to include a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track that fills the room with the ominous sounds of harmonicas and ear-splitting gunshots. When the train rips through the screen following Henry Fonda's legendary introduction, viewers will feel it deep in their bones. Both English tracks are closed-captioned in addition to the optional English subtitles offered on the disc. Since Leone himself could not record a commentary track, the producers of this disc did the next best thing. Featuring contributions by such noted Leone fans as John Carpenter, John Milius, Alex Cox, Sir Christopher Frayling (Leone's biographer), Dr. Sheldon Hall, and various members of the cast and crew, the fragmented commentary track is always interesting, despite being a bit dry from time to time. Highlights include Carpenter's discussion of Leone's stylistic choices and star Claudia Cardinale's amusing recollection of her love scene with Fonda. Once Upon a Time in the West is a film that not only made cinematic history, but has also been constructed from a substantial amount of history (both cinematic and otherwise), a fact that makes the inclusion of three informative featurettes a welcome addition. In ''Opera of Violence," interviewees (including Leone himself) discuss everything from the director's childhood to his interpretation of American Western standards. "Wages of Sin" discusses the allure of Monument Valley and shooting conditions, and "Something to Do With Death" addresses Leone and composer Ennio Morricone's enduring collaboration, the use of sound in the film, original reactions to the film, and comments on how it has aged. Rounding out the featurettes, "Railroad: Revolutionizing the West" discusses the film's depiction of westward expansion via railroad by delving into the history of the subject. As for galleries, Locations Then and Now juxtaposes contemporary images of the film's locations with pictures taken during the production, and production stills are nicely presented in black-and-white. Cast profiles and a theatrical trailer round out the extra features, making this disc well worth the money for anyone considering purchasing it.