D.J. Haza presents the next entry in his series of films to watch before you die…
Once Upon a Time in the West (Italian: C’era una volta il West), 1968.
Directed by Sergio Leone.
Starring Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale.
Sergio Leone’s epic Spaghetti Western is widely regarded as a masterpiece. The film follows the story of a battle for ownership of a piece of land in the Old West named Sweetwater. Being the only water source in the region, it is believed to be along the route planned for the new railroad and will bring people, work and money to the land and therefore be very profitable for the owner.
Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) bought the land after he foresaw the huge profits the railroad would bring, but railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) decides he wants the land and all the spoils it brings, so he sends his hired gun Frank (Fonda) to intimidate McBain into moving off the land. Instead Frank kills McBain and his children before planting enough evidence to suggest that local bandit Cheyenne (Robards) was the murderer. When McBain’s new wife Jill (Cardinale) arrives from New Orleans to find her family dead she takes over ownership of the land.
Meanwhile, the unknown harmonica-playing gunman with no name (Bronson) arrives in town pursuing Frank. After killing a handful of Frank’s men sent to kill him he instructs Cheyenne that the men were posing as his own and soon after kills more men sent by Frank to murder Jill. As the man dubbed by Cheyenne as Harmonica battles to keep Frank from taking ownership of the land, a boatload of men die in gun battles until finally Harmonica and Frank are left alone to duel.
As Harmonica draws first and Frank lays bloodied on the ground, the reason for which he has sought Frank is revealed through a flashback. Harmonica was a young boy when Frank hung his older brother by the neck and the young Harmonica had to try and hold the weight of his brother to keep him alive whilst Frank forced a harmonica into his mouth. When Harmonica returns the gesture Frank understands before dying and Harmonica rides off into the sunset.
Once Upon a Time in the West is a film you must see before you die as it is hailed as possibly the greatest Western ever made.