Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in the West

It seems almost ludicrous to be reviewing a movie that’s over 40 years old in 2009, but I watched it again last night as part of the initiative of going through the “Man with no Name” series, and you can’t help but get to Once Upon a Time. When I first saw this I was 13 years old and it was dubbed in German. It worked well enough for me to walk away at the time and say that this was the best Western of all time, and no more Westerns need be made. The Western had now been done.

I still feel this way today and I have said it to people from time to time when making small talk about movies. I am sure I saw it once or twice  more through the years, but it’s been a long time and there was much detail I had forgotten about.

Ennio Morricone’s music in this movie is one of my favorite movie scores. I can’t name another one that comes even close. Ennio’s work contributes just as much to this genre as Sergio’s does. When I reviewed The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and I talked about how unrealistic the story was, a person by the name of Ennio commented and set me straight.

The story in this movie is of course also unrealistic, but so is every other movie, so that by itself is not the problem. But here it comes to life as you are watching. There is no way to not feel very deeply when Frank kills the little boy. There is no way to not wonder what’s with the harmonica, and when it finally is revealed at the end, to experience an overwhelming rush of emotion in sympathy for the pain of the Harmonica character, another man with no name.

The dialog and script of this movie would fit on a few pages. Not much is being said. But it’s 2 hours and 45 minutes of music, breathtaking scenery and pictorial storytelling and every minute of that time is full.

After 40 years I say it again: There were other Westerns made in the meantime, and many of them have men in long dusters in them doubtlessly taken from Once Upon a Time. Many of those other Westerns are good. But this is the greatest Western of all time.

Rating: ****

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