DVD - Image B+ Sound A- Extras C+
BD - Image A- Sound A- Extras C+
starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld
screenplay by Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Franco Arcalli, Franco Ferrini, Sergio Leone & Stuart Kaminsky, based on the novel The Hoods by Howard Grey
directed by Sergio Leone
by Bill Chambers Such is the level of cinematic sophistication in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America that all of the miserable things that happen in the picture make you giddy, filling you with the joy that is basking in an artist's command of a medium. At first, the powers-that-be didn't get it: Warner Bros. took Leone's non-linear vision and straightened it out, and the result was a picture that, though chronologically told, made no sense. This was a fascinating lesson in syntax--films are composed of "meanwhile"s, not "and then"s, perhaps none more so than Once Upon a Time in America, which is about the co-existence of past, present, and future tenses. (It's like an extrapolation of the riddle of the Sphinx: what walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?) Luckily, the studio saw the error of its ways and reissued Once Upon a Time in America a year after its butchered American release in its longer, knottier international form, and to illustrate the dramatic disparity between the 139-minute domestic and 227-minute global versions, critic Sheila Benson labelled the former the worst movie of 1984 and the latter the best movie of the 1980s. Pauline Kael wrote, "I don't believe I've ever seen a worse case of mutilation."