Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams, James Hayden, Joe Pesci, Larry Rapp, Danny Aiello, William Forsythe, Burt Young, Jennifer Connelly
Written by: Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Franco Arcalli, Franco Ferrini, Sergio Leone, Stuart Kaminsky, based on "The Hoods" by Harry Grey
Directed by: Sergio Leone
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, sexual content, language and some drug use [short version]
Running Time: 229
Date: 16/02/1984

Once Upon a Time In America (1984)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Noodling About

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of the greatest films of the 1980s, this final film by Sergio Leone was ten years in the making. Hugely complex, achingly sad and splendidly gorgeous, it hops around to different eras in an opium-induced haze. Robert De Niro and James Woods star as friends and gang members who begin as enemies, become lifelong friends, then turn enemies again. Jennifer Connelly makes her film debut as De Niro's boyhood love. The film was notoriously butchered in its initial U.S. release in 1984, cut from 229 minutes to about 140 minutes. This early version was apparently even more difficult to follow, but as far as I know it's impossible to see now. The only video version is the long, uncut version.

It's great to see such a clean, letterboxed print of this film, but Warner Home Video's set is not without its drawbacks. Coded onto two discs, the film breaks at a shockingly weird spot and not at the natural intermission included in the film. And the extras leave a lot to be desired; they include an excerpt from a documentary on Leone, but not the whole documentary. Film critic Richard Schickel makes up for it with his commentary track. But the film's sheer glory and magnitude make it a must.

In 2011, the film was remastered for Blu-Ray, and a new DVD was issued as well. I only received the DVD, and though it says "remastered" on the cover, it looks to be about the same as the 2003 edition, including the same extras.

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