Linear Version of Once Upon A Time In America

Hi guys,

I just wandered if anyone in this forum has ever seen the infamous 2h linear edit (unapproved by Leone) US Cinema release of Once Upon A Time In America.
Anyone have any memories of this?
Would love to hear peoples opinions and memories of this. Thanks. I’ve seen Siskel and Eberts review video on youtube, where they discuss both versions. Their opinions of both are in complete contrast to each other.


Apologies, with one eye on the forum and one eye on the Star Trek movie I’m watching at present I inadvertently read this as a Once Upon a Time in the West thread and I closed it/merged it with our existing thread on that movie before spotting my clumsy error. Re-opened now. D’oh! :grin:

Never seen this cut, nor do I need to … I maybe in a minority, but I find this movie a hugely over rated, badly acted bore - Always been a massive fan of Leone, and I’ve seen this film on it’s original release in '84 and many times since on VHS and DVD etc … but I really can’t like it.

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I really have a soft spot for this film as I saw it at a young and impressionable age. The cinematography and the music made a HUGE impact on me.
And I can fully understand why many are not a fan of this film. It is very niche and indulgent.
Its obviously all based around Sergio Leones passions. (thats why I like it) but it does not translate well to everyone.
It certainly does not have the same mass appeal of similar gangster film like The GodFather 1&2, Scarface or Goodfellas.

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I’d love to watch the linear cut just out of curiosity even though I know it’s going to be a travesty. They probably should have offered it as an option on the Blu-rays.

It’s on a tie with The Godfather for me.

I’m with you on that. And for me it is my favourite gangster film. It tops The Godfather. I have more appreciation of it, knowing now how much effort Sergio Leone put in to making it.

Not so sure if this is true.

The first Godfather film was of course a pretty big success, the 2nd already much less, and would have made not much money without being the sequel to a smash hit.

In Germany the uncut version had way more success than Goodfellas or Godfather III or Scarface (10 times as much), and was similar successful than FaFDM. But in a decade with much less sold tickets compared to the 60s.
But the first Godfather sold twice as much tickets.

I wouldn’t rank it as high as The Godfather part I, but that’s because it’s the greatest American movie ever in my humble. …America is deffo on par with or even better than part II though without doubt.

I’ve always been curious of the bullshit linear version, I’d like to check it out eventually. Literally the only thing I don’t like in this film is the rape scene in the car.

Personally I’m not interested in the linear version at all. In my opinion it doesn’t deserve any consideration as it is completely separate from the actual creative process behind the film. I don’t think Leone would approve of anyone watching it either :grinning:

Not even close for me. Leone is in a class of his own here. Having said that, it’s not as good as Once Upon a Time in the West…

Giuseppe Tornatore is the only one for me who comes close to Leone in terms of visual composition. Then again, that ignores the cutting process when Sam Peckinpah then slides ahead. But even then, Leone still wins with the transitions between scenes in Once Upon a Time in America which are often brilliant.

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Have you seen the extended cut? It was interesting to see those new scenes but I think the longer version lost something because some of the great transitions were gone.

I have a big problem with this too … it goes way beyond what is necessary to establish that ‘Noodles’, who we’re supposed to empathise with as a cheeky street smart kid, is really just a moronic sociopathic thug. The rape sequence, intended as a shock and turn around in events, that the main character can do this to the love of his life, becomes a voyeuristic up the skirt peep show, which from the director’s point of view seems to validate 'Noodle’s actions.

In the scenes with the gang as young boys, we’re supposed to find their scams charming and amusing (emphasised by the light comedic music) … this happens again as adults when they exchange the I.D. tags in the maternity ward, in order to blackmail the chief of police into meeting their demands … more musical direction for the audience, to let us know they’re just lovable rogues. Except they’re not lovable or even remotely likeable - That’s just one of the many problems for me.

As kids they’re apprentice crooks, as adults they’re a ruthless group of dimwits, lead by the paranoid Max … and the stoic and suspicious Noodles.

Simply put … there are no characters here that I give a damn about … the film may look great in places, but that doesn’t compensate for exhaustingly long pauses and meaningful looks. It’s a weak story pumped up to look like an epic.

I could go on further about the trite Morricone music … the cringe inducing phrase from the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and the completely unconvincing 1960s wardrobe of the extras leaving Fat Moe’s bar … :weary:

In the past I could have forgiven nearly all of my above complaints/criticisms and just enjoyed the Leone-isms for what they are … but the clincher, deal breaker and complete balloon buster is the ridiculous suicide of Max - death by crushing and tearing to bits in the back of garbage truck - All very dramatic, except for the fact that we can see, plain as day the actor running along side the vehicle - How the hell did this escape the director and editor … did they hope no one would notice!? - it just looks clumsy and half assed … and boy does it take a long time to happen.

To me it’s a failed epic … at least he had already made his masterpiece before this final effort.

I have fluctuated constantly between the two. I used to rank it higher than The Godfather but the films are too different from each other for me to make a choice anymore. I think they’re equally as good.

I agree. America used to be my favourite Leone film and then I grew to appreciate Once Upon a Time in the West more and more. Now it’s my favourite film of all time.

I don’t remember losing any of the great transitions but I do remember gaining one with the “Gang in water / Car explosion” sequence. The whole thing is shot and edited beautifully with a wonderful visual transition between the two time periods. Furthermore the introduction of the garbage truck helps with storyline continuity by linking with the end of the film.

I also thought that the “Noodles meets Eve at Moe’s place / Deborah in station cafe” sequence was worthy of inclusion too. The beginning introducing Eve is essential for the storyline; the end with Deborah drinking in the cafe is essential for stylistic continuity and is a really beautiful little shot. However, the sex scene in the middle is unnecessary. After Noodles gets up to leave Moe’s speakeasy with Eve and asks if he can call her Deborah, there should have been a cut directly to Deborah in the cafe. This would have tied together the two of them drinking their sorrows away (Noodles at the bar, Deborah in the cafe) with Noodles’ mention of Deborah allowing a verbal link to accompany the visual. Unfortunately the sex scene between Noodles and Eve between these two scenes does not allow for this continuity.

Of course, that would have been much better.

And that’s the only one of the new scenes which brings something for the film. The others make an already overlong film only longer. The film’s problem is big lack of interesting characters.
For me OuTA is much too long for its substance, and is a minor film compared to OuTW and the Godfather I and II.
But at least far superior to Godfather III. And to Scarface.

For me the ending is an open one. It is not sure that he actually killed himself there. Maybe he just disappeared again, like he once did.
But him, who once faked his death, now being as ex-gangster a publicly known politician, that’s way too illlogical for such a kind of film.

I think there’s no doubt that Max kills himself … it’s almost an apology for having betrayed his former friends, and breaking the pact they made at the train station, as young men. Otherwise why get in touch with Noodles after all those years ?

Ok, so the character is established as crazy … so it could be an open end. But why do we see the feet and legs of the character running along behind the truck? How could this possibly be intentional - it’s like a special effect which hasn’t worked, but they keep it in the final cut anyway ???

I’m all for ambiguity and the optional ending … but this is beneath Sergio’s talents.

The rape scene at the beginning of Giu La Testa is just daft and unnecessary too.

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Agreed … I’d forgotten about that. Seems like bragging about the size of one’s dick is a theme in these two films, come to think about it.

Not really. It is Leone’s commentary on the matter of the so-called “grand glorious heroes of the revolution”, whereby he intends to show that these people were mostly uncouth individuals and petty thieves rather than some noble class-conscious revolutionaries, so to speak. Plenty of them were driven by personal interests rather than lofty principles and that scene is supposed to exhibit and emphasize exactly that. Is it vulgar and somewhat tasteless? Yes, but that is exactly the point, it is supposed to mock the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, which ruffled leftists’ feathers quite a bit at the time of its release. I’ve recently re-watched Duck You Sucker and I was surprised at how good it was. I still get why people have some issues with it, but certain parts and scenes are some of the best filmmaking Leone has ever accomplished in his cinematic career. Suffice to say, the opus works for me perfectly well and it’s my favorite Leone western right after OUATITW and TGTBATU.

As for Once Upon A Time in America, I virulently disliked it after my first viewing, but I absolutely adored it the second time around. I’m completely disinterested in the linear version which is indubitably a complete hack job. The whole movie is heavily reliant on the asymmetrical, transcendental storytelling and rendering the motion picture straightforward is utterly nonsensical and goes against its aesthetic sensibilities.