Part of Weekend Classics.
In what is widely regarded as director Sergio Leone’s masterpiece, Henry Fonda is Frank, a gunslinger hired by the powerful owner of a railroad conglomerate to kill anyone who derails the project. But Frank contends with the wrong person when he murders Brett (Frank Wolff), a landowner. After his death, Brett’s wife (Claudia Cardinale) demands revenge, hiring two renegades (Charles Bronson and Jason Robards) to go after Frank, setting into motion what Leone called the “ballet of the dead.”
“Over the years, I've found something more to appreciate every time I've seen ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. But every time, it leaves me feeling like an awestruck 10-year-old. It has something to do with the scale of Leone's gloriously excessive 1968 Western. Every dusty street is a football field's width. Every grizzled face, shot in screen-filling close-up, looms like a head on Mount Rushmore. Every gunfight is a duel of the gods. A viewer becomes an HO-scale brakeman walking through a regular-sized trainyard… Each frame has a painterly precision and clarity, as if the director had somehow eliminated anything standing between the screen and the image he had in his head. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is the kind of movie whose total intoxication with moviemaking can lead to a lifetime's love.” —Jim Ridley, Nashville Scene (Aug 27, 2009)