Stanton and I had a little exchange of thoughts (via PM) that might be interesting to others too. Here are the full texts:
Text I - Questions in relation to Once Upon a time in the West
Stanton: You wrote that you saw Once upon a Time in the West in the chopped-up version first (in cinema, I suppose). When did you see this copped-up version?
Scherpschutter: Once upon a Time in the West was released in September 1969 in Holland. It premiered in the three big cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. It arrived later in the second wave cities such as Einhoven, where I saw it. I guess it must have been October ‘69
In which country?
I saw the chopped-up version in the Chicago Theater, Eindhoven, Holland. I’m pretty sure the Harmonica rising scene was in it, because I missed the scene when I saw the uncut version for the first time.
Was it the English language version?
Yes, spaghetti westerns were always shown in the English language version in Holland and Flanders. Until a few years ago, when I bought a couple of discs in Italy (I think 2005) I had never seen a SW in Italian. Italian crime movies, gialli and Chinese chop choy (or whatever) films were also inevitably shown in an English language version.
Have you ever seen the film without the Rising Scene? When did you see the uncut cinema version for the first time (I’m not talking about the alternative cut of the Itlian DVD)?
The full length version was released in Holland in 1975 or 1976, I can’t find the exact year, but it must have been one of these two. I had a weekend job in a cinema in Eindhoven were it was shown. The rising scene was not in it.
I have seen a shorter version much later in Antwerp (about '82-'83), the ‘tavern scene’ when Harmonica and Cheyenne meet for the first time wasn’t in it, but I don’t remember if the rising scene had been re-inserted
Text II – Dutch cinemas
In Holland cinemas had a tight schedule in those days, preferably four showings a day:
14.00 - 16.15 (or 16.30) - 19.00 - 21.15 (or 21.30)
The first part of the programme (before the film started, consisting of the national news, international news, publicity, trailers etc.) lasted some 30 minutes, so it was difficult to press films that were longer than 90 minutes into this programme. Films running longer, were drastically cut. I remember Arizona Colt and The Good, the Bad & the Ugly were cut too). Sometimes there was an annoucement (warning): The film starts shortly after the beginning of the programme. In such a case, the news was skipped. This must have been the case for Once upon a Time in the West
(I never saw the shorter version of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, but a cousin of mine did (he was a lttle older, and the movie had an 18 rating initially) and he said he hardly understood what was going on. They must have cut the film back to two hours (maximum) too.
Longer films were shown twice a day, at 14.00 and 20.00
There was (God only knows why) no three showings schedule
Conclusion: The version I saw (without the tavern scene) in Antwerp, must have been the 145 m version. The first version I saw, might have been even shorter. If it fitted into the above mentioned schedule, it’s impossible that it ran 145 m. I don’t remember if it was shown four or two times a day.