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Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director's [Blu-ray] [US Import]
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Once Upon a Time in America has a chequered history, having been chopped from its original 229-minute director's cut to 139 minutes for its theatrical release. The longer edition presented here benefits from having the complete story (the short version has huge gaps) about turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants in America finding their way into lives of crime, as told in flashback by an ageing Jewish gangster named Noodles (Robert De Niro). On the other hand, it's almost four hours long, and this sometimes-indulgent Sergio Leone film is no Godfather. Still, it is notable for the contrast between Leone's elegiac take on the gangster film and his occasional explosive action, as well as for the mix of the stoic, inexpressive De Niro and the hyperactive James Woods as his lifelong friend and rival. --Marshall Fine --This text refers to an alternate Blu-ray edition.
Sergio Leone's original vision comes to life in this fully restored Extended Director's Cut. Twenty-two minutes of never-before-seen footage have been returned to this chronicle of brutal and passionate underworld history, deepening the characters and enlarging the work of its astonishing cast. Robert De Niro and James Woods play lifelong pals whose rise as crime kingpins unravels in death and corruption. Tuesday Weld, Joe Pesci, Jennifer Connelly, Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams and Louise Fletcher (the latter three showcased in recovered scenes) also star. The newly added 22 minutes of extended scenes bring us closer to Leone's original vision of the film, but due to the limited availability of 35mm work prints, the new inserts could not be restored to the same quality as the rest of the film. --This text refers to an alternate Blu-ray edition.
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This version runs to almost four hours - there's an intermission moment after about 2hrs which is really useful.
The story follows a group of teenage thugs as they develop into booze bootleggers during Prohibition, then flashes forward to the late 1960s. Everything revolves around the relationship between two of the gangsters, Robert de Niro and James Woods - and it is masterfully portrayed. Covers just about every angle of the gangster genre, and then some - with full-on bloody violence, brutality towards women and unflinching fights.
But the core of it is all about loyalty, betrayal and redemption.
It does get a bit confused here and there, because even this version is an edited form of an even longer story. The muscial score feels a bit inappropriate at times, too.
Even so, this is the benchmark to judge all other gangster films against.
I know Sergio Leone had a preferred cut to the one we know and love and I get that his family went to some trouble to get this extended cut released so to show the world his true vision. I have seen it, in one sitting, and I wasn't all that fussed by it, I truly believe the original cut is all you need to see, it didn't make the film worse, it just didn't really add anything necessary to it. Being one of my favorites I of course got a kick out of the extra scenes. I would have preferred an edition where you got this cut, the original release and just for history sake the US TV cut which sounds so awful its intriguing.
This edition was also out of print a few months later as well, something I didn't understand, I guess it was out there for the fans and not for a mainstream audience. The original release is all your gonna need so I would stick with that and certainly don't pay the money they ask for this edition as it isn't worth it, but still a mind tripping journey all the same.
Years later the complete version finally surfaced with little fanfare. This film is one of those that gets better every time you watch it, “if” one takes the time to sit down and really watch and absorb it.
The commentary track is ok but far from Richard Schickel’s best work as a commentator. To me he seems bored and probably lost a bet to someone and begrudgingly did this as a favour. I would much have preferred Sir Christopher Frayling, a Leone expert, to do it justice instead.
Well, I managed it in the end, and thank God that I did – it turned out to be one of the best films that I’ve seen! It’s right up there with The Godfather and Goodfellows imho, - yes, without a doubt.
I just love the jazz age / roaring twenties, the styles, Scott Fitzgerald, flappers, white-walled tyres on the limo’s – it was such a stylistic age.
The first thing that struck me was how good the film quality is (easily HD) and the wardrobe soon had me purring. The cinematography was so atmospheric – just wonderful. I have the non - Bluray version!
We all know now that the film was suicidally cut to ribbons to accommodate the cinema audiences, this led to several things, firstly, the film lost 25 million dollars, but it also cheated it actors and its makers out of numerous Oscars! Thankfully, the only sane way to watch this film now is on DVD!
DeNiro & Wood are both terrific but there are many other very fine performances to enjoy, even if Joe Pesci is limited to just one very brief scene.
There are some superb scenes here and some quite harrowing ones too – the rape scene is particularly difficult to watch. The film has just enough violence and is also quite sexually explicit, but then, this was a very hedonistic period.
When the film was released with scenes restored then it was worthy of standing alongside his Western epics. Sadly, Sergio refused to make another movie and passed away before the full version was released
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