Author Topic: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019  (Read 776 times)

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #50 on: March 10, 2019, 02:44:34 PM »
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 90/100 – If I only had to rate the first hour and fifteen minutes, plus the final fifteen minutes, I would be hard pressed not to give it a perfect score.
I would apply this to Once Upon a Time in the West. The section where Harmonica meets with Jill and Frank is on the train looking at the painting is where Leone slows his film down even further. There's still a lot of good stuff in the middle, but that's where it could've benefitted from some tightening.

I did notice the vast difference in the added vocal tracks of Eli Wallach & Clint Eastwood, on the re-inserted scenes which found their way on the cutting room floor, for the American release.
I guess this restore Leone's original cut, but I despise the additions.
You know the scene with Tuco's brother is one of these added scenes, right?

The bridge sequence is the one that's worn thin on me over time as well. Again, there's good stuff, but putting it between the shoot-out against The Bad's men and the finale is a break in the action I don't need.

Antares

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #51 on: March 10, 2019, 04:13:57 PM »
I would apply this to Once Upon a Time in the West. The section where Harmonica meets with Jill and Frank is on the train looking at the painting is where Leone slows his film down even further. There's still a lot of good stuff in the middle, but that's where it could've benefitted from some tightening.

Agreed, but for some reason, it doesn't bother me as much.

You know the scene with Tuco's brother is one of these added scenes, right?

Are you sure it's the whole scene? According to Wikipedia...

Tuco, transporting a dehydrated Blondie, finds a Confederate camp whose occupants tell him that Father Ramirez's monastery is nearby.

Tuco and Blondie discuss their plans when departing in a wagon from Father Ramirez's monastery.


Kind of makes it sound like just the beginning and end of the scene were re-inserted.

The bridge sequence is the one that's worn thin on me over time as well. Again, there's good stuff, but putting it between the shoot-out against The Bad's men and the finale is a break in the action I don't need.

Agreed

I still really like the film, but I don't LOVE it anymore. I dropped it another 5 points on Criticker after this viewing.

smirnoff

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #52 on: March 10, 2019, 06:10:26 PM »
The second scene, is probably one of the favorite scenes for most viewers, but has always made me yawn, the bridge. First, Blondie and Tuco get off their horses, and Tuco looks at his tattered map, proclaiming that they only need to cross the river, to get to their destination. It’s quiet; they start to walk a few paces and are then halted by Union soldiers. They are then taken a few more steps, past a small tree to the left, and the shot opens up to reveal an entire army of soldiers and artillery over the expansive vista of the river. They’ve taken maybe twenty steps from the dismounting of the horses, to this spot, and should have been able to see the army ahead of them. They’ve both just spent time in a Union prisoner of war camp, they know the Union army is nearby, and they don’t tread warily at this point?

Heh, that was a very silly bit that stood out. They literally could have seen the entire battlefield had they simply looked far enough forward. You certainly would have heard and or smelt it also.

Not the first time in there trilogy we've seen that kind of thing. The scene in Few Dollars More where Eastwood and Van Cleef are staking out the bank and Eastwood is "hiding" under this staircase next to a building... from the camera's perspective Eastwoods face cannot be seen by Indio's men, but in reality his entire body would be clearly visible. Not to mention his horse is tied up right next to him. There is no way they would not spot him there, and he would look super suspicious.

I still really like the film, but I don't LOVE it anymore. I dropped it another 5 points on Criticker after this viewing.

That's exactly how I feel about it.

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #53 on: March 10, 2019, 08:21:25 PM »

Woman They Almost Lynched (1940)

Alan Dwan was not a good director, but great material often ended up in his work pile. This is a perfect example, a Western where the main characters are female and the men are largely too cowardly to get involved. Joan Leslie (Yankee Doodle Dandy) stars as a city girl who arrives at a Civil War neutral city to meet her brother, whom she hasn't seen in years. He doesn't recognize her, so begins sexually harassing her. (The material mashes down some buttons without fear.)

Quickly following this first exposure to the lawless west, she runs up against the town mayor, who's also a woman and sees the sister as morally loose by association. There's also Quantrill and his raiders - Dependable jerk Brian Donlevy has played this character before - but the meanest snake in the barrel is Quantrill's wife, played by Noir bad girl Audrey Totter. Totter can be excellent and she can be terrible and here she's a bit of both. Leslie looks like she's never held a gun in her life, even though the character is a secret crackshot.

The film's heavy feminist slant is radical, much more so than Johnny Guitar, which came out a year later. From Totter's men's clothes to the climactic showdown being between the two women, this one bends the genders without the lesbian overtones of Guitar. Too bad it's also not very well made. Dwan's direction doesn't know what to focus on, so there are messy action scenes, side characters with stories that go nowhere and two ballads that grind the film to a halt like few halt-grinders I've ever heard. Too bad, because this has the raw materials of something really special.
RATING: ★ ★ ½

Antares

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #54 on: March 10, 2019, 08:22:33 PM »
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 100/100 – This film is perfection for me. I’ve watched it at least ten times in my life, and this time, because I watched it on an ultra 4K television, was the best. This is where Leone hit his high water mark in his directorial canon, be it story, dialog or cinematography. There are so many outstanding shots in this epic, that if you blink, you might miss them. One of my favorites is this shot, showing Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) heading out by horse carriage to Sweetwater, and the family that awaits her.



As of yet, she doesn’t know the tragedy that has befallen that family, and what that tragedy portends for her future. In the above shot, you see the famous Twin Mitten buttes, plus another butte to the right. All three buttes are cast in shadow, with the one on the right, with just a touch of sunshine on top, and her carriage is basked in brilliant sunshine. Now either this was one of the luckiest coincidences in film history or Leone was such a gifted artist, that he waited for this shot to materialize. From an allegorical viewpoint, you could see this as Jill heading into the darkness of her future. She will meet three larger than life men, who will alter her destiny. All three are dark, mysterious, foreboding and ominous in scope. The small amount of sunshine on the third butte could also signify that that only one man will survive by the end of the film, which is what happens. I’ve only heard this shot described as Leone paying homage to John Ford and his famous trilogy of westerns with John Wayne. But I’d like to think that what I see in this frame is what Leone intended.

I think the reason that this film resonates more strongly to me, as opposed to its predecessor, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is that GBU plays out solely like an action western. Once Upon a Time in the West is the closest any western ever came to an operatic experience. It’s Wagner’s Die Walküre with guns and horses, or Bizet’s Carmen in a desert train station. And it works because you finally have a strong female lead as one of the major roles in the story. It’s what is lacking in GBU, and what makes this the much more rounded film in Leone’s canon. And you can tell that Leone knows it’s probably his last western, and he meticulously crafts every scene like it’s a portrait, leaving no one a chance to surpass his brilliance. At times, I was reminded of the famous Remington paintings, depicting the west in all its sagebrush glory.

If I could change one moment, one small thing, it would be in the closing moments, after the final duel. Frank turns away from Harmonica after he is mortally wounded. He drops to his knees as he realizes he’s going to die. Harmonica walks over, and Franks falls slightly to his left side, leaning on the ground as he looks up at Harmonica. In my change, Frank stays on his knees as Harmonica wheels around him to look him squarely in the face. Then he stuffs the harmonica into Frank’s mouth, just as Frank had done to the younger Harmonica, all those years ago. It would have bled irony, and given more time for Frank to realize who Harmonica was, as he fell forward into the dust of eternal darkness.

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #55 on: March 10, 2019, 08:40:53 PM »
Here is a post from 10 years ago where I talk about the way Leone uses the clouds and blue sky to make frames in the finale.

Antares

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #56 on: March 10, 2019, 08:48:44 PM »
Here is a post from 10 years ago where I talk about the way Leone uses the clouds and blue sky to make frames in the finale.

Damn, I didn't notice that. I may have to take the DVD back out of its folder, and re-watch that scene. That is brilliant!

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #57 on: March 10, 2019, 11:46:31 PM »
A Pistol For Ringo (1965)
★ ★
“God created all men equal. The Colt made them different”
Johnny Ringo is one of the biggest financial successes of the Spaghetti Western. Like Django, the name found itself attached to dozens of unrelated films hoping to cash in. Ringo was devised to be the opposite of Eastwood's "Man With No Name": clean-shaven, classically handsome and always talking. The film is mostly a comedy, which is my big problem with it because I find Italian comedies to be broad and largely unfunny.

The Return of Ringo (1965)
★ ★ ★ - Okay
The only official sequel features the same writer, director and cast. (The only returning character is Ringo with the rest of the returning cast playing new characters.) This film is much better because it's more recognizable as a Spaghetti Western with the comedy off to the side. As simple and quick as Fistful of Dollars, with a welcome touch of sentiment making the story more personal for Ringo and yellow dust for exploding dynamite to give the action scenes some unusual color.

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #58 on: March 13, 2019, 10:24:51 PM »

Fort Massacre (1958)
"You never stick your neck out, do you?"
"I'm just something that comes with a horse."

The film opens after a battle where Indians killed most of a cavalry troop, including all the officers. The Indians pulled back but they're always close, the handful of men hope to meet up with another troop that may have also been attacked, and the highest ranking officer is a Sergeant (Joel McCrea) whose decisions are questionable because the leadership was forced upon him and he seems motivated most by racial hatred.

This movie makes a lot of smart decisions up front. Starting after the battle puts a cloud of death over the troop's chances. (One of the wounded barely gets a few words out before he falls off his horse, dead.) The supporting cast are familiar Western faces who I've seen appear briefly in some movies and last long in others, so outside of McCrea, there's no telling who will make it. The entire first third is spent on one long sequence that sets up all the internal and external conflicts.

The troop and their horses cannot make it to the fort without water, but the Indians (who outnumber them by about five to one) have set up camp at the only watering hole. It's a lose/lose situation and any more death will certainly be blamed on the Sergeant and his racist behavior. The suicide mission to take the watering hole is drawn out like a suspense sequence, with little dialogue, and the Sergeant's viciousness shows that the men are not wrong. This aspect is as fresh as today, reminding me of that recent story about Liam Neeson, where something from his past is driving him to take it out on an entire race.


"I don't think, I follow orders, like a dog."

I like Joel McCrea in Westerns, though he's often too squeaky clean at the expense of realism. There's little sign of that here. The script tries to justify his behavior, but time and again he takes things a step too far, stopping just short of enjoying the hate crimes. The main reason why this film isn't more widely known is that it came out after The Searchers and probably exists because of that film's success. This doesn't have John Ford's classic approach, it's more of a dirty B-movie and things settle down to become bland right before the climax, but McCrea turn away from his usual persona is more of a surprise than what John Wayne could manage.
RATING: ★ ★ ★ - Good

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #59 on: March 14, 2019, 12:26:32 AM »
Brief thoughts of forgettable films...

The Texans (1938)
★ ★ ½
This one's got the cast, lead by Joan Bennett as a smuggler who can't let go of losing the Civil War. She teams up with Randolph Scott and Walter Brennan to drive cattle. She wants to take them to Mexico, but it's the North that will pay the best price. Western vet Scott is still wet behind the ears (and wearing more visible makeup than Bennett.) Brennan's presence brings comparisons to the definitive cattle drive film, Red River. Robert Cummings also stars.


Valley of the Sun (1942)
★ ★
Three years after Destry Rides Again, director George Marshall helmed this western with such lousy comedic timing it has me questioning why Destry is so Great. Lucille Ball stars, but mostly plays straight to all the wackos around her. Only Billy Gilbert (Destry, His Girl Friday) consistently scores laughs. There's a unexplainably lengthy cowboy vs. Indian decathlon in the middle.


Heaven Only Knows (1947)
★ ★
More bad direction. A clever idea with Robert Cummings playing an angel who drops down to the Wild West to try and save the soul of a crooked saloon owner. Constant jerk Brian Donlevy is perfectly cast for the first part, but has trouble coming off sincere and helpful later on. Verbal jokes are delivered like the actors don't know how to say the punchlines and visual jokes are badly staged. Marjorie Reynolds (Holiday Inn) is a bright spot given too little to do.


The Treasure of Lost Canyon (1952)
★ ★ ½
Unusually frontier Family film with an unusual Western lead, William Powell. I've read a lot of comparison to Walt Disney films, and yeah, it seems to set the playbook before Walt started making this type of film. At first, the way they give life lessons based on incidents reminded me of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, but it soon becomes more middle-of-the-road with its mixture of hard truth and moral uplift. Powell is great. I would've loved to see him make more Westerns.