Monday, July 18, 2011

Once Upon A Time In The West Blu Ray Review


Sergio Leone's epic masterpiece makes the journey into high definition with Paramount's blu ray release. Featuring the 165 minute theatrical version previously released on dvd and a restored version that runs 1 minute longer.

Cutting straight to the chase, the image quality is stunning, this release is what I hoped blu ray could and would be. The 1968 film looks completely unmolested by digital processing methods and the result is an image that has a wonderfully healthy and natural looking grain that looks truly film like. The colours are rich and warm, with solid black levels and excellent shadow detail. The image is a little soft, certainly compared with most modern films released on the format but this has always been the case with this film due to the technical choices made when originally shooting the film.

The sound is available as either a restored mono dolby digital track or as a fantastic sounding DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix. The DTS track was my preferred choice, with a huge sound field to match the movie's magnificent widescreen vistas. The result is a mix that manages to perfectly juggle the use of ambient sound, dialogue and Ennio Morricone's superlative score.


All of the extras from the dvd release are ported over to the blu ray, with the film's trailer receiving a bump up to high definition resolution. The highlight is a documentary split into three parts that runs for around an hour altogether, this covers just about every aspect of the film. I would have liked it to have been a little more in depth though, in particular more about the score would have been good.

A near perfect film gets a near perfect treatment on this blu ray release, an excellent example of how to release a catalogue title. I hope some of the other companies follow Paramount's example with this title in treating older films with the respect they deserve. An absolute must buy and my choice for release of the year so far.

7 comments:

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

I agree that this is an absolute must buy. I was also very pleased with Warner's BR of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Bereft of much in the way of supplementary material, but one couldn't fault the price. I believe the Dollars trilogy are also getting single disc BR releases in the not too distant future in the UK. My release of the year so far is Optimum's BR of CROSS OF IRON.

A hero never dies said...

I have the America disc and the Dollars trilogy, and I'd heard the Cross of Iron disc is excellent. I haven't seen the film for almost twenty years so I must pick that up too. Thanks for the rec.

Wes M said...

I must admit I hated Once Upon A Time In the West when I first saw it on VHS, I thought it was incomprehensible, but in retrospect it was most likely a truncated version I saw... It's a giant among films though, its one of those perfect films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eraserhead, Seven Samurai, Annie Hall, Deep Red, Solaris - that if someone from another galaxy asked you What is Cinema ? this is what you would show them...

Video Watchdog #110 has a fascinating article on the many versions of the film, a saga as complex as the movie itself...

But having said all that I still prefer The Good The Bad and The Ugly !

venoms5 said...

Great film and one of my all time favorites. Truly a visual experience and a film that could be easily followed without any dialog. Did they fix the ending 'Finale' theme as it's supposed to play over the entire end credit crawl?

A hero never dies said...

Wes, it's a mood thing for me, TGTBATU is more fun for the most part, but it's also a little disjointed. Where as OUATITW is a much more focused beast. Both are magnificent pieces of cinema and I regularly watch both of them.

A hero never dies said...

Brian, I was boring my wife to tears after we finished the movie about how you could watch the movie without the dialogue. It really needs the score though for me, it enriches the characters so much. I'm surprised they haven't done one of those isolated score tracks, with all the cues in the right places but no dialogue. I'd love to see it that way.

The music switches to the Cheyenne theme during the credit crawl, I didn't realise this wasn't right! although I did think the other piece was more fitting!

venoms5 said...

Yes, it's a wonderful score. I don't own the complete score, but have a suite of it on a Morricone compilation.

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