Once Upon a Time in the West / C’era una volta il West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

(scherpschutter) #501

They seemed to have experimeted quite with the plot, the characters, scenes that were or were not inserted, etc. There’s for instance also a scene (that was never part of any version as far as I know, but was nevertheless filmed at a certain moment) of Harmonica being beaten up by the sheriff and his men, because they hold him responsible for the massacre at the McBain farm:

“When Jill tries to leave Sweetwater in the morning after Cheyenne’s visit, she runs into Harmonica. He has a very nasty, coarsely stitched injury in his cheek that is not accounted for, and for which there was no time to be received, stitched, and the stitches removed again. (Special Edition DVD has a deleted scene in which Harmonica is beaten up, which explains the injury, but it is a continuity mistake within the regular movie.)”



I’d love to see that scene as well as the socorro sequence in GBU. I’m glad they’re not in the films as they’d probably ruin the pacing a bit, but they’d be interesting to see regardless. Is there any hope or are the negatives long gone?

(Stanton) #503

This deleted scene isn’t on any DVD. Photos exist which prove that it was filmed, but so far nobody has seen it. Don’t know if it exists in some vault.

I don’t think there was much experimentation. The screenplay was simply much too long, and Leone began to shorten it on the set together with Donati.
This particular scene was one of those which were already filmed (but luckily cut out), while other scripted scenes were never shot. It is incredible that Leone wanted all these not really necessary scenes to be aprt of teh film.

(morgan) #504

Back in 1970 when OUTW was released in Norway, we watched it time and again at the cinema. Every night the same happened: At the end, when Harmonica rode out, on with the lights, people starting to leave the cinema and the film came to a halt (may be the guy in the machine room couldn’t get home to his missus soon enough). But one night it didn’t (may be the guy was in the loo), and the film went on till the end. So you actually saw Harmonica riding out with a dead Cheyenne over the horseback. So rumors started that Harmonica killed Cheyenne at the end of the film, probably for the bounty. Outrageous! At least the long version cleared up that misunderstanding …

(ENNIOO) #505

Ha, ha interesting story.

(Stanton) #506

Long version means in Norway a cut version was released , a version which skips Cheyene’s death scene?

(morgan) #507

Yes, along with the desert cantina scene.

(Stanton) #508

And you got the Rising scene instead?

I assume that more scenes were cut than only these 2, similar to the UK version or the later US version.

Was it a success in that cut version?

(morgan) #509

No, this scene was not in the Norwegian 1970 release either. I have tried to find out the running length of this version, so far without success. But the film was a success, although some of the fans of the dollar films thought it to arty. It was the first film I saw more than ten times in the cinemas (and so far the only one). GBU was not shown in Norway. You had to go to Goteborg to see that one.

(Novecento) #510

So no “rising” scene showing Harmonica getting up and no cantina scene showing him with the bullet wound… basically in Norway at least, Harmonica was a fully-fledged ghost.

(morgan) #511

We didn’t see him as a ghost. We just assumed he had survived the shoot-out with Frank’s men. Norwegians are not as superstitious as Americans. :grinning:

(Stanton) #512

In the UK version according to Frayling 2 more scenes were cut:

  1. Desert Cantina scene (14 min)

  2. Frank and Morton talking at Frank’s hideout in the hills, the one in which Frank kicks away Morton’s crutches (2 min)

  3. When Frank discovers his dead men after Cheyenne’s escape), the part where he walks inside the train is missing (75 sec)

  4. Cheyenne’s death (4 min)

The UK version had a 144 min runtime, and it is puzzling why they left the long riding away ending intact, when most of the cuts only were made to make the film shorter.

In the US version (also 144 min), which was firstly cut a few weeks after it was released uncut, instead of # 3 the scene was missing in which Jill at her first night on the McBain ranch hears Harmonica playing outside and shoots with a shotgun into the dark (1 min). And a short scene from the end was cut, cause it shows Harmonica with the dead Cheyenne. Also the first scene was trimmed by 70 sec, the very same 70 sec which are still missing on all home video versions released by Paramount.
A year later a version appeared, which now contained the Rising scene as explanation for Harminica’s survival and ended earlier with a freeze frame, instead of Harmonica riding away with Cheyenne’s body in the distant.

(morgan) #513

Did they cut this scene and keep Cheyenne’s death scene?

(Stanton) #514

Of course not. In the first cut US version you could still see Harmonica and the dead Cheyenne from far away, while only the earlier part was removed in which both were clearly visible. In the later version they freeze framed the film before we see them again in the background. Maybe some people in the audience had noticed. Beeeg question: Was Harmonica not only a ghost, but did he also kill Cheyenne outside the frame? Well, a ghost may be able to do this without any noise. :wink:

All this information is from the detailed article in Video Watchdog.

I myself had the luck to watch only the uncut theatrical version for many years, which btw was an enormous success in Germany. It is still the # 3 of all films since 1968. Only surpassed by The Jungle Book and Titanic. More admisisions sold than by any Star Wars, any Bond, any Lord of the Rings, any Harry Potter, any Spielberg and also more than Avatar. And closely followed by Trinity Is Still My Name on # 5. That were the days …

(morgan) #515

It is exactly how the Norwegian 1970 release was cut. I’m not sure about running time. But 2 hrs 20 min springs to mind. But as you know, my memory is not completely reliable…


I hope so, I doubt it does but I can hope.

I don’t think that he did necessarily. I think he (like a lot of directors) was like a photographer who takes thousands of photos and only uses about five. I think he just used the very best he had during editing and discarded the rest, or in West’s case just discarded a lot of the script.


Do you think Harmonica was a ghost or not? I’ve never been able to decide but I’ve always wondered. The bullet wound of course implies otherwise, but as you say seems like the soul of a native who won’t rest until he avenges his brothers death and as Frayling points out on the commentary (can’t remember exactly what he said), he seems to have some kind of supernatural control over time and each frame he enters.

(Stanton) #518

Ghosts don’t bleed, and I see there simply Leone’s stylisation of the hero’s movements.

I personally don’t like the idea of him being a ghost. For me it is an idiotic idea, but I have no problems in having a vague ambiguity about it.

I also prefer it that in Django the Bastard, in which the ghost aspect is there on purpose, it is still not 100 % certain, it is left open for interpretation.

(Stanton) #519

I don’t think that he did necessarily. I think he (like a lot of directors) was like a photographer who takes thousands of photos and only uses about five. I think he just used the very best he had during editing and discarded the rest, or in West’s case just discarded a lot of the script.

Leone had definitely a problem in restricting himself to what is necessary for the film. Which leads to film and keep too much scenes, which even when good in themselves, can become a problem for the film’s rhythm.

The pressure by the producers to keep a film in a tolerable runtime was something he needed, without this pressure he would never have ended the films.

(Novecento) #520

I think the vague ambiguity is the point. No-one really thinks he is a ghost, just like no-one really thinks Noodles dreamed the whole of Once Upon a Time in America, but it just adds a little extra level to things and gives people like us something to endlessly muse on.