Once Upon a Time in the West
#1
I watched Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" for the first time today. I had very high expectations, given that I enjoy Leone's Clint Eastwood films, and I'd read snippets here and there about "West" being Leone's greatest film, as well as suggestions that it was the greatest western ever.

I think I'm missing something, because I really just don't get the film. I found it poorly paced, and tedious to watch. It didn't really get going until somewhere around the two hour mark.

***SPOILERS BELOW IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THE FILM***

The film has everything going for it, too. I like Charles Bronson as the harmonica playing hero, but we don't find out anything about him until the very end of the film. Why couldn't Leone spell out Harmonica's motivations as the film moved on?

Henry Fonda is good, too, but what drives him? Ok, he's psychotic, but why? Why did he hang Harmonica's brother way back when? How did he hook up with the railroad guy as a hired gun?

The character of Cheyenne just doesn't work real well. He's way too nice for a wanted bandit with a $5000 bounty on his head. After he escapes near the beginning of the film, there's apparently zero effort to bring him back in. Bronson turns him in later to collect the bounty, but he escapes quickly, even though we're never shown how, he just turns up again.

Claudia Cardinale is super hot, which is nice, but I don't understand why she auctioned off the property if they were going to build the town anyway and she apparently stays there? The property would have been hers if the station was built, which it was.

Now, maybe I'm just dumb or was too tired while I was watching it, or a little of both, but it seems like a very unclear, poorly executed movie, which is too bad, because it has some nice parts.

It's just too slow, though. "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" is long and slow at parts, too, but never like this.
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#2
OMG - sooooo long since I've seen this movie.

But three cheers for this recent old-movie craze you're on! :hellohands:
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#3
For sure. I honestly enjoy older films more. I suspect that most people my age would be bored to tears with them, but for whatever reason I love them.

I watched some westerns I'd never seen this weekend, including "Two Mules for Sister Sara" and "Joe Kidd." Not too bad.

The local Borders was having a 40% off sale on some of their DVDs, and I was all excited when I saw a James Cagney box set was one of them. I've been wanting to see some of his gangster movies like White Heat, The Public Enemy, and Angels With Dirty Faces. Unfortunately, it's a set of some of his best non-gangster work, and I already had one of the films from the set, Captains of the Clouds, anyway, so I didn't get it.

I got the Errol Flynn Westerns box set last week, and I enjoyed all of those, even Montana, which I found was the weakest of the bunch, more than Once Upon a Time in the West. Go figure.

Still haven't found King of Hearts locally, though. I may have to get it cheap online if I want to watch it.
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#4
Those Cagney movies are all extraordinary - Angels w/ Dirty Faces remains one of my favorite movies of all time, and its final 2 minutes are among the most powerful I have ever seen. Plus you get Bogart, Pat O'Brien, Ann Sheridan and the Dead End Kids! :clap: "Hiya, Fodda - whattaya hear, whataya say?" Paulie used to use that line on The Sopranos. Trailer here.With Michael Curtiz directing, and by now you've figured out that he directed about half the Warner Bros. films ever made. :bg: Our buddy Josh Becker noted that Curtiz's career stretched almost 50 years, from silents in Hungary to directing Elvis. :laugh:

So what were some of the others you saw?
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#5
That was it for this weekend. I did get "The Magnificent Seven," which I've never watched, I may start that later tonight. I'm looking forward to watching how Steve McQueen stole the scenes from Yul Brenner--that's something I've heard about quite a bit.

That Eastwood set I got included "Mules," "Kidd," and "High Plains Drifter," but I've seen "Drifter" many, many times already. Easily my favorite Eastwood movie, but "Pale Rider" is a very close second.

Michael Curtiz's career is amazing, I don't think there's any contemporary director that even comes close to matching his track record for great films. Perhaps the studio system was a good thing, artistically speaking.

I haven't seen much Bogart other than "Casablanca" and "The Maltese Falcon," so I'd like to see his other big films.

As far as other classic leading men go, I've seen virtually nothing from Clarke Gable, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, or Gregory Peck. Anything noteworthy in there that I should check out? I've wanted to see "North by Northwest" for a long time, and I suppose I should see "Gone With the Wind," sometime, huh? :bg:
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#6
Boomstick Wrote:***SPOILERS BELOW IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THE FILM***

The film has everything going for it, too. I like Charles Bronson as the harmonica playing hero, but we don't find out anything about him until the very end of the film. Why couldn't Leone spell out Harmonica's motivations as the film moved on?

Because he's meant to be mysterious. Frank can't understand his motivations until the end and the viewer is meant to feel the same way.

Quote:Henry Fonda is good, too, but what drives him? Ok, he's psychotic, but why? Why did he hang Harmonica's brother way back when? How did he hook up with the railroad guy as a hired gun?

Why do you need to know? It's not important why the situation came about, only that it did.

Quote:The character of Cheyenne just doesn't work real well. He's way too nice for a wanted bandit with a $5000 bounty on his head. After he escapes near the beginning of the film, there's apparently zero effort to bring him back in.

Because he's far too dangerous for anyone to go for. And since the time of the gunslinger is dying, there are few able to take him on. And he maybe too nice but that cliche is hardly unique to this film.

Quote:Bronson turns him in later to collect the bounty, but he escapes quickly, even though we're never shown how, he just turns up again.

It would have been nice to see, but did you really need to see it happen to follow the story? Not really.

Quote:Claudia Cardinale is super hot, which is nice, but I don't understand why she auctioned off the property if they were going to build the town anyway and she apparently stays there? The property would have been hers if the station was built, which it was.

I think Frank intended to buy the land through a rigged auction so he could legitimise his claim (Frank wanted to become a respected businessman after all) and so forced her to sell. But Harmonica scuppered that by outbidding him and allowing Claudia to keep the land.

The film is slow, but in a good way - it is not about the plot it's more about the atmosphere of despair that pervades the film. Personally I wasn't bored once during the film and I think it is the greatest western I've ever seen.
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#7
Thanks for the insight, Zagor, your comments did help clear things up a little bit, especially the part regarding the land sale. I guess I need things spelled out for me all the time.

I don't feel he did enough to communicate the fact that the times were changing, though. I don't think that's immediately evident to the viewer, especially with all the henchmen running around, it looks like goons are thriving, not dying out. A couple lines of dialogue could have accomplished that, surely he could have sacrificed a few minutes of the opening scene where the one guy is having an epic battle with the fly crawling around on his face. Huh
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#8
Boomstick Wrote:That was it for this weekend. I did get "The Magnificent Seven," which I've never watched, I may start that later tonight. I'm looking forward to watching how Steve McQueen stole the scenes from Yul Brenner--that's something I've heard about quite a bit.

I've never heard this, but I guess that could be true. Brenner does have the "lead" role, if such can be said of an ensemble cast like this (and what a cast it is!). McQueen has some of the better lines, but usually they're played off Brenner lines. I think they both work great together and the movie is just a gem (based on Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai). That and Eli Wallach is such a great bad guy. He's better in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but he's still as magnificent as the Magnificent Seven.

Quote:That Eastwood set I got included "Mules," "Kidd," and "High Plains Drifter," but I've seen "Drifter" many, many times already. Easily my favorite Eastwood movie, but "Pale Rider" is a very close second.

Have you seen The Outlaw Josie Wales? It sorta falls apart in the final act, but everything leading up to that point is pure gold. The writing is solid, the action is fantastic (both figuratively and literally), and Eastwood shines.

Quote:I haven't seen much Bogart other than "Casablanca" and "The Maltese Falcon," so I'd like to see his other big films.

Might I suggest The Big Sleep, which ties as my favorite with Casablanca. Then Sahara, Dead Reckoning, Key Largo and Beat the Devil. For a few laughs, catch We're No Angels. Treasure of the Sierra Madre is an ok movie, and showed that Bogart had range, but I prefer my Bogart large (of medium small height) and semi-in-charge. Although it does have that oft-quoted line regarding "stinking badgers". Big Grin

Quote:As far as other classic leading men go, I've seen virtually nothing from Clarke Gable, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, or Gregory Peck. Anything noteworthy in there that I should check out? I've wanted to see "North by Northwest" for a long time, and I suppose I should see "Gone With the Wind," sometime, huh? :bg:

I don't like Clark Gable, so I can't help you too much there. I loathe Gone with the Wind. But I did see It Happened One Night, where Gable's character was apparently the inspiration for Bugs Bunny (and I love Bugs Bunny). There's the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty, and Run Silent, Run Deep. The Misfits pairs Gable in his last role with Marilyn Monroe in her last (released) movie.

Gary Cooper is easier: High Noon is a must. As is Meet John Doe, Seagent York, The Pride of the Yankees, and The Springfield Rifle.

James "Jimmy" Stewart is fun too. The guy had range, even though he's more known as the hayseed with the country wisdom. I suggest The Flight of the Phoenix (note: have a large jug of ice-water ready when viewing) Destry Rides Again, The Philedelphia Story, Pot 'O Gold, Winchester '73, Bend of the River, and The Naked Spur. You might also throw in Hitchcock's classic, but kinna slow, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo. For a John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart fest get ahold of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and then The Shootist; both are classics.

Gregory Peck must watch is To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Yearling, Roman Holiday, The Guns of Navarone and both versions of Moby Dick (1956 and 1998). You can throw in The Omen, The Sea Wolves, and round out with Twelve O'Clock High.

And I just realized that my mispent youth most revolved around watching old movies.
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#9
RobRoy Wrote:I've never heard this, but I guess that could be true. Brenner does have the "lead" role, if such can be said of an ensemble cast like this (and what a cast it is!). McQueen has some of the better lines, but usually they're played off Brenner lines. I think they both work great together and the movie is just a gem (based on Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai). That and Eli Wallach is such a great bad guy. He's better in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but he's still as magnificent as the Magnificent Seven.
I watched it this week, and I think it's awesome. I now have to say it ranks right up there with the rest of my favorite westerns. McQueen's performance is pretty even throughout, so he was "stealing" the movie from everyone, not just Brynner. It works very well for his character, though. Unfortunate about all the tension between them, because he makes a fantastic team with Brynner in the film, IMO.

It's talked about quite a bit on one of the special features, and Robert Vaughn says all the actors were trying to make the most of their parts, but McQueen was just the most ambitious. Not surprising if you know about McQueen, he was a very competitive guy.

One person claimed that Brynner (we were misspelling it, apparently) knew darn well what was going on and threatened McQueen that if he went too far, he'd begin taking his hat off in the scenes they shared, and his bald head would become the centre of attention, rather than McQueen! :laugh:

Quote:Have you seen The Outlaw Josie Wales? It sorta falls apart in the final act, but everything leading up to that point is pure gold. The writing is solid, the action is fantastic (both figuratively and literally), and Eastwood shines.
Funny you should mention it, I just picked it up tonight as I was milling about the bargain bin seeing if they had Return of the Magnificent Seven by chance. I figured I wouldn't regret buying an Eastwood film for $7. I'll probably watch it this weekend.

Thanks for the other suggestions. I should note that I have seen To Kill a Mockingbird.
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#10
Boomstick Wrote:One person claimed that Brynner (we were misspelling it, apparently) knew darn well what was going on and threatened McQueen that if he went too far, he'd begin taking his hat off in the scenes they shared, and his bald head would become the centre of attention, rather than McQueen! :laugh:

Oh, that's Hollywood gold! It's funny to think, from this perspective, that any of these guys would try to pull stuff like that. But of course, at that time, it was make or break from their point of view. You could carve a career, or lose one, from a single role.

Quote:Funny you should mention it, I just picked it up tonight as I was milling about the bargain bin seeing if they had Return of the Magnificent Seven by chance. I figured I wouldn't regret buying an Eastwood film for $7. I'll probably watch it this weekend.

That's a great price for the film, and well worth it. Let me know what you think.

Quote:Thanks for the other suggestions. I should note that I have seen To Kill a Mockingbird.

Still scares me a bit that I was able to pull out so many titles like that. :crazy:
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#11
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#12
Whoa! Thanks for taking the time to make all the suggestions, August! I'd like to see all of those. Netflix would probably be my best option at this point!
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#13
I caught a pretty decent western this weekend that I hadn't seen before called Five Card Stud. I was going to add it because I had thought Gregory Peck was in it, but I had misidentified Robert Mitchum. Memory is the second thing to go.

Anyhow, this had Dean Martin is a gambler who tries to prevent a lynching headed up by, Roddy McDowell. Yes, you heard that right. Roddy McDowell in a western and essentially the bad guy. Then the participants of the lynching start turning up dead, asphyxiated in one way or another. It has some pretty good dialogue, and Dean Martin is always fun to watch in westerns (Sons of Katie Elder and Rio Brave with John Wayne).
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#14
That's funny, I always would confuse Robert Mitchum with Dean Martin!

Roddy McDowell as a bad guy in a western, huh? I can just see Cornielius riding into town, six-guns a'blazin! :laugh:
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#15
Boomstick Wrote:That's funny, I always would confuse Robert Mitchum with Dean Martin!

I can see that too. For the first couple of scenes, I wasn't certain it was Dean Martin at all.

Quote:Roddy McDowell as a bad guy in a western, huh? I can just see Cornielius riding into town, six-guns a'blazin! :laugh:

It took me a minute to be certain, but you just can't miss that voice.
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#16
Boomstick Wrote:Whoa! Thanks for taking the time to make all the suggestions, August!

:lol: My pleasure. My youth was just as misspent as RR's. Plus for a couple of years, before I was old enough to go out on school nights, our local CBS affiliate actually pre-empted their primetime Thursday schedule from 9-11 PM (re-scheduling presumably to a couple of other nights at 7 PM) and instead ran classic movies, either Warner Brothers or RKO. (Hence my great familiarity w/ Flynn, Bogart, Cagney, etc. but almost none with Gable.) Plus they'd run more on Sunday afternoons, especially in the summer when there was no major pro sports going on, and it used to rain a lot here in the summer, so again I was stuck inside.

Boomstick Wrote:That's funny, I always would confuse Robert Mitchum with Dean Martin!

Not such a stretch - they often played similar roles. In fact, Dean's tipsy cowboy in Rio Bravo became Mitchum's alcoholic sheriff in the darker remake El Dorado.

Boomstick Wrote:I can just see Cornielius riding into town, six-guns a'blazin!

Well, Cornelius might not have, but Caesar certainly would! :hellohands: (Especially if ape killed ape...)
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#17
august Wrote:Not such a stretch - they often played similar roles. In fact, Dean's tipsy cowboy in Rio Bravo became Mitchum's alcoholic sheriff in the darker remake El Dorado.

Isn't saying "Dean Martin" and "tipsy" in the same sentence a redundancy? :jester:
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#18
august Wrote::lol: My pleasure. My youth was just as misspent as RR's. Plus for a couple of years, before I was old enough to go out on school nights, our local CBS affiliate actually pre-empted their primetime Thursday schedule from 9-11 PM (re-scheduling presumably to a couple of other nights at 7 PM) and instead ran classic movies, either Warner Brothers or RKO.

Any reason for the pre-empting? That's probably unheard in present times, although I seem to recall our local NBC station didn't air a certain mini series that was on a few years ago--the affiliate is WNDU, (Notre Dame University), so I always assumed it was related to the fact that the University is Catholic. Who knows, though.
Quote:Not such a stretch - they often played similar roles. In fact, Dean's tipsy cowboy in Rio Bravo became Mitchum's alcoholic sheriff in the darker remake El Dorado.

Ah, yes! That's the source of it, in fact! The first time I saw Rio Bravo I confused Mitchum for Dean. My favorite John Wayne movie, BTW.

RobRoy Wrote:Isn't saying "Dean Martin" and "tipsy" in the same sentence a redundancy? :jester:

Exactly. :laugh:
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#19
Boomstick Wrote:Any reason for the pre-empting? That's probably unheard in present times

They just really really wanted to air old movies. Possibly they'd gotten a good deal on a package or something. They did it up big-time, with the local news anchor in a big leather seat and a smoking jacket as the host, and a local film teacher as the co-host. I don't recall what was on CBS at the time, but presumably it wasn't anything big. And then on Saturday nights at 11:30 PM they'd run the old Universal horror classics, with some idiot wearing a mad scientist Halloween rubber mask as the host.


Quote:Ah, yes! That's the source of it, in fact! The first time I saw Rio Bravo I confused Mitchum for Dean. My favorite John Wayne movie, BTW.

Well naw it's the other way around - if you saw Rio Bravo, that was Martin. It was really weird - same director (my fave, Howard Hawks) same basic plot.... and then just seven years later, Hawks remade it as El Dorado. The latter was even based on a different source, a book that provided some of the set-up for the first 20 minutes (as opposed to Rio Bravo, which solely focuses on the siege at the jail, which is the second half of El Dorado.) Interesting note: future Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Leigh Brackett did the screenplay for El Dorado.

My guess is that halfway through development, Hawks and Wayne realized how similar the story was anyway, and just decided to go all out. Except instead of wholesome singing Ricky Nelson as the kid named after a stae (Colorado) you get the edgier non-singing James Caan as Mississippi, instead of singing Dino you get slurring staggering Mitchum, instead of comical Walter Brennan as the wise old deputy you get lesser-known (but equally as cantankerous) Arthur Hunnicut, and here Wayne becomes the gunfighter instead of the Sheriff. And a young Ed Asner as the villain.

I like both, but LOVE El Dorado. Classic tough guy lines from Wayne, like when the tomboy babe thinks she's killed him by shooting him in the back, but he's playing possum, and manages to capture her. She's shocked, since she had a clear shot, and couldn't have missed. He just reaches behind his back, draws back his hand covered in blood, and says flatly "You didn't miss."

Or when Wayne gets the drop on some other gunfighters, including one who's as notorious as he is.

Other gunfighter: There's only three me I know of who're that fast. One's dead... one's me.... one's Cole Thornton.
Wayne: There's a fourth. (Referring to Mitchum.)
Gunfighter: Well which one are you?
Wayne: I guess I'm Cole Thornton. :jester:

Now on the tipsy Dino thing, he was quite sober, on screen anyway, in most of his movies with Jerry Lewis. Smile
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#20
august Wrote:I like both, but LOVE El Dorado. Classic tough guy lines from Wayne, like when the tomboy babe thinks she's killed him by shooting him in the back, but he's playing possum, and manages to capture her. She's shocked, since she had a clear shot, and couldn't have missed. He just reaches behind his back, draws back his hand covered in blood, and says flatly "You didn't miss."

And wipes it on her shirt, giving her an unfriendly shove.

Quote:Now on the tipsy Dino thing, he was quite sober, on screen anyway, in most of his movies with Jerry lewis. Smile

Joke, august. Hence the smilie. :deadhorse:
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It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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