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Once Upon A time in the West(1968)

Fifty years ago, director Sergio Leone was looking to put Westerns behind him when Paramount offered him a large budget and access to his favorite actor, Henry Fonda. The result was an epic Western now regarded as one of the masterpieces of the genre. With help from Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento crafting the story, Leone took moments from classic Westerns and made them edgier, starting with the decision to cast Fonda as the film’s villain. Fonda stars as a gunman out to gain control of a ranch that controls the only water near a future railroad stop. He kills the owner and his children only to find the rancher had just married a New Orleans prostitute (Claudia Cardinale), who intends to make her fortune off the land. She enlists gunmen Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and Harmonica (Charles Bronson) to hold him off. As the first of Leone’s Westerns with a prominent female character, the picture captured the conflicts that would lead to the West’s domestication. The picture is also famous for Tonino Delli Colli’s stunning Techniscope visuals, which differed from CinemaScope because it allowed for a less distorted image from Leone’s famous tight close-ups. Likewise, Ennio Morricone’s influential score has remained as one of the film’s legacy, which Leone requested before filming so he could shoot scenes to the music’s rhythm. (d. Sergio Leone, 164m, Digital)

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