Once Upon a Time in the West ★★★★★

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2018 Cult Movie Challenge Week 11 - Spaghetti Western Week

Everyone knows the opening scene from Once Upon a Time in the West, the best part of 15 minutes with barely a word of dialogue spoken until it's conclusion. But knowing it doesn't make it any the less brilliant. No dialogue, but that doesn't mean it's silent, there's still plenty of sound, creaking doors and chairs, the squeaking of the slowly turning windmill, dripping water and the buzz of an annoying fly and of course the music, which when it comes in drowns out all else. Right from the start you know that what's on the soundtrack is just as important as what's on the screen and it's every bit as immaculate as those perfectly framed visuals.

Because above all this is a match made in heaven, Leone and Morricone, they did it before and after this film, but for me this is the one where the two are in perfect harmony. This score might never have garnered a single award, but for me it's his finest, whenever the main theme fires up it sends a shiver down the spine and brings a lump to the throat.

Following on from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, it's the story of another trio of men, Frank (Henry Fonda), the sadistic killer working for the railroad, Cheyenne (Jason Robards), the outlaw who is being framed by Frank for the killings he's committing and Harmonica (Charles Bronson) who wants nothing but to revenge himself against Frank for the death of his brother.

But just as importantly it's the story of one woman, Jill (Claudia Cardinale) whose new family have been massacred by Frank for the land that they will not give up to the coming railroad.

You can't really say that the story really rates the epic length of the film, but you don't feel that length, it's pace is beautifully measured in such a way that you just don't feel it because it all looks as great as it sounds. Leone knows how to set up a shot and let the action play out within the frame without the need to move the camera, and he loves a close-up, filling the screen with the amazing faces of the four leads.

Not just my favourite Spaghetti, but easily my favourite Western.

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