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post #1 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Once Upon a Time in America Director's Cut (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review



Check out our review of Sergio Leone's infamous classic Once Upon A Time In America, as it is released in the closest form it has ever been to his original uncut vision. Clocking in at a mere 4 hours and 11 minutes, fans will be treated to 22 minutes of never seen before footage as well as a new 4k re-master.



The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

79



Details:

Studio and Year: Ladd Company - 1984
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 251 Minutes
Genre: Drama, Crime

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Robert DeNiro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams
Directed by: Sergio Leone
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Written by: Harry Gray (Novel "The Hoods"), Sergio Leone, Leonardo Benvenuti, Peiro De Bernardi, Erico Medioli, Franco Arcali, Franco Ferrini


Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 30th, 2014



"As boys, they said they would die for each other. As men, they did."


My Take:

Once Upon A Time in America is one of my favorite films. Having see it in both its 229m version as well as the despicable 139m theatrical cut, I was excited to see more of Sergio Leone's vision. After breezing through 4 hours of film this past weekend, I realized that this is one of the easiest films for me to take in .It is almost hypnotic with its non-linear structure, amazing score, acting and look. I for one wish to be able to see his intended 6 hour film one day (Leone really wanted a 6 hour cut, released in 2 parts), thought I know it will never happen-- Leone did film over 10 hours of footage.

The 139m theatrical cut takes the films 3 times, the 1920s, 30s and 60s and make a linear timeline out of it. This was done against Leone's wishes and ruined the film for american audiences. Doing that as well as cutting over 90 mins of exposition make the film stale, confusing makes the characters less likable, the plot becomes less deep and almost unintelligible, as well as really kills the feel that Leone molded. For those who have only seen this version, you have not seen Once Upon A Time In America. Even film critics in 1984 that panned this cut usually footnoted their review with the travesty this cut was over the "Cannes" cut that was originally shown.

Ironically, describing the plot is much easier in linear fashion. It is the story of a gang of Jewish kids from NYC, and focuses on Noodles (played by Robert DeNiro in the 30s and 60s scenes) as he and his friends who become gangsters thanks to prohibition, dedication to each other as well as the smarts of megalomaniac Max (James Woods). These are not good kids, they are ruthless criminals and still we have a strange affinity for them. We see them grow and become powerful. We witness their rise and fall , but what the film really is about is friendship, loyalty, betrayal, Love, revenge and forgiveness. The film is a mystery as we don't know who is pulling the strings as the older Noodles, after 30 years alone in hiding, is being pulled into a job that he has no clue about. We are treated to flashbacks that are weaved in so well that the film just breathes and flows in and out of decades with a lulling grace. We learn that after prohibition the boys get their hands into the union and politics as Max's reach for power spirals out of control.

Even after many viewings over many years, I am still rewarded to a film experience that is unlike any other. There are so many iconic scenes that keep coming for the full runtime that i just don't get bored. When it comes to the newly added footage, none of it is essential, it just adds to the build-up, and unlike many films with added footage, besides its lesser A/V quality, it seems to fit in ever so smoothly. Enjoy.


*Addendum* (by Ralph Potts):

It should be noted that on September 30th 2014 Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is also releasing Once Upon a Time in America Extended Director’s Cut Collector’s Edition which includes both the theatrical and extended Director’s Cut (on separate discs) as well as a new 32-page book with rare photos and insightful notes that chronicle the movie’s production history. The book also includes a letter written by Martin Scorsese. He noted, “At long last, materials for some of these missing sections have been found and re-inserted into the picture under the supervision of Leone’s family and surviving collaborators. The work has been completed by the magnificent team at Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata, with generous funding from Gucci, and it has been wonderful to witness this enlargement of Leone’s vision, step by precious step.”

I am a fan of this film (and agree with Lee’s rating) also and absolutely prefer the extended DC over the theatrical version. I am pleased that Warner has released it in such a way that it gives fans the option as to which they would like to own. As for the quality of the video restoration I would probably rate it a little higher than Lee especially given that the quality of the re-introduced source elements is directly related to the problems of note and comes down to making do with what they had. At its heart what is truly relevant lies in the material (meaning the film itself) and it’s best to simply get lost in what a really good movie Once upon a time in America is. The 32 page book is a bound hardcover type that makes for an informative and attractive keepsake that fits nicely into amaray case sized slipcover along with the chubby Blu-ray case. Below is a beauty shot of the set. Enjoy!




Parental Guide:

Strong violence, sexual content, language drug use rape.



AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**



Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 78
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Once Upon A Time in America comes to Blu-ray disc from Warner Bros. featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 18.2 mbps and a DTS HD-MA 5.1 lossless surround sound that has a average bitrate of 2.8 mbps.

Once Upon A Time in America can be looked at in 2 ways. Lets begin with the newly added material that was taken from a 35mm workprint and [/I] though care was taken, it looks like an obvious sore thumb. Color level is very low, definition poor and black levels should be called grey levels. This was expected, and it didn't kill the experience. What I was more interested in was the 4k restoration of the film itself. The color timing is completely different and has less pop than previous releases, trying to match the depressed and gritty look that I assume Leone was going for. Clarity and fine details fluctuate from impressive to soft, however the film does have a depth to it in which I have never seen before. Black levels crush on occasion and are not always the inky black I hoped for. Thankfully the print was cleaned up very well except a few instances of debris that was left on the transfer.

The 5.1 audio mix is nice, however dialogue seemed overly prioritized in the center channel, not always panning wide. Rears are lightly used and LFE is limited. Still, the track does pull off some moments, especially with the dynamics of Ennio Morricone iconic score, which is almost as important as the dialogue here. I wish there was an option for the films original mono track as I am interested in hearing that mix lossless.





Bonus Features:
  • 32 page collectible book (Collector’s Edition)
  • Includes Theatrical and Extended Director’s Cut (Collector’s Edition)
  • Excerpt from Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone documentary
  • (HD) Trailers


Final Thoughts:

Once Upon A Time In America: Extended Directors Cut comes in 2 flavors. A single disc that is just the new 251m cut and is basically barebones besides that. There is also a 2 disc set that has a 32 page booklet as well as containing the theatrical cut, and UV copy. Fans will enjoy the new scenes, people who have only seen the theatrical cut should see it since it is closer to the director’s vision. I suggest that nay-sayers give it another shot. Highly Recommended.






Lee Weber
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post #2 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 03:32 PM
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I had the former BluRay in my wish list on Amazon. I'm glad I waited. This sounds like a treat.
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post #3 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 04:23 PM
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By all accounts the color timing of the extended version (not just the extra scenes) is way off Leone's vision. It's ashamed as it's mastered from 4K. too.
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post #4 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 04:24 PM
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Greetings,

Thanks Lee..!


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post #5 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 04:51 PM
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:'( on the video.
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post #6 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 06:30 PM
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Thanks, Lee. I honestly didn't know this had been slated for release Stateside; I'm kind of surprised they stuck the theatrical cut in the digibook release, however (even having never seen it, yowch) and not the previous director's cut. WB could have made it a proper 30th Anniversary release, put that cut in here as well, and boom...oh, well. I'm still going to have to make time to grab this, though--I've been curious about this version for over a year now.

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post #7 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 07:17 PM
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Have to agree with the reviewer. Also one of my top 25 movies of all times. As I am European I was able to see the original version when it came out and I was and still am mesmerized by its storytelling, acting and sets.
When the Italian BD came out (which I have) the outcry was loud that the color-timing was way off and the picture quality not too great. Many blamed it on the movie being put on one Disc and hopes were high that the U.S. version would fix that. Too bad that it is not the case. What I did and do: I add a lot of red in my menu to the colors and watch it, enjoy it and then I switch the red back to the old setting.
For all who haven't seen it yet: A must have and a must see.
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Lee, I have the 229 minutes version on Blu; should I get this new director's cut version, in your humble opinion?

* This film is a Masterpiece, and if you say yes I will buy it again, no sweat. ...For 22 minutes more.

EDIT: Oh just nevermind, I'm going to repurchase it again. ...I'm just a true movie lover, and 4K restoration is a good second reason.

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post #9 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boguspomp View Post
Have to agree with the reviewer. Also one of my top 25 movies of all times. As I am European I was able to see the original version when it came out and I was and still am mesmerized by its storytelling, acting and sets.
When the Italian BD came out (which I have) the outcry was loud that the color-timing was way off and the picture quality not too great. Many blamed it on the movie being put on one Disc and hopes were high that the U.S. version would fix that. Too bad that it is not the case. What I did and do: I add a lot of red in my menu to the colors and watch it, enjoy it and then I switch the red back to the old setting.
For all who haven't seen it yet: A must have and a must see.
Here in the states the theatrical version was mostly only shown in theaters. When it came to TV the first distributor was Showtime (and their old channel The Movie Channel), and as far as I remember they only showed the 229 minute version.

I think the general consensus even at initial release was that the short version was a complete hack job.

I agree this is a must see. One of my favorite movies as a teenager (before I was technically old enough to be a proper audience for it). I'm not sure I'll rewatch it though; as I've gotten older I tend not to watch things this violent. That's not a condemnation though, just personal preference.
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This is not just one of my favorites....it IS my favorite movie. Can't wait for my 2 disc copy to arrive. Looking forward to the new footage.

They could release a new Bluray edition of this movie every 5 years and I would probably just keep gobbling them up.

For those who haven't seen this movie, it isn't just DeNiro, Woods, etc. that are on top of their game. The actors who portray the gangsters as youngsters are
outstanding, also. The story (one that requires more than one viewing to really grasp), the sets, the mood, the memorable scenes, what a movie!

Good job Mr. Weber and thanks!

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post #11 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 08:55 PM
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Personally I'm glad they included the theatrical cut with the extended, I've never seen it and would like to watch it for morbid curiosity even though I know it's bad. I already have the extended cut as-is.
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I have a real love-hate relationship to this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed all things leading up to the film's most modern time and then it (for me) really falls apart fast as if either they didn't work out the script for the ending or had budget/time constraints. As for the rest of the film, one of my favourites with respect to imagery, lighting, sets, actors (their youth counterparts as well) and the music. It is easy to get absorbed by the movie which is something that many good era pieces do. I saw two releases of this movie in two different regions that had the flashback style and the other was more or less chronological. Either way, a feast for the eyes.

This is one I'll add to my list to buy.

Thanks Lee for the heads up.
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post #13 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 10:26 PM
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I wonder if this is a step up from the Laserdisc I have? Well, at least the cover is nicer.

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I have yet to see this film despite all of the amazing things I've heard. Maybe I will put that in my Netflix queue next.

Sidenote: This is the 2nd time I've heard mono and lossless mentioned in high regard, the 1st being with the Beatles box set. I was always under the impression mono wouldn't sound as good because you aren't getting as much sound as you would over stereo? (Forgive the ignorant question.)


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post #15 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 11:16 PM
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My copy arrived this morning, but I haven't had a chance to watch it yet. The video rating sounds pretty bad.
Mine is a single disc version only the extended cut is on it.

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For people not familiar with Sergio Leone's second film's trilogy (perhaps more - Italian movies),
this is the third in the 'Once Upon A Time' trio of films (his 2nd trilogy, after 'Good, Bad, Ugly' trilogy).

1. 'Once Upon a Time in the West'
2. 'Once Upon a Time the Revolution'
3. 'Once Upon a Time in America'

And this is a Masterpiece trilogy.
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post #17 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 11:32 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thehun View Post
My copy arrived this morning, but I haven't had a chance to watch it yet. The video rating sounds pretty bad.
Mine is a single disc version only the extended cut is on it.
Forget the video rating; get inside the director's vision, get engulfed into the storyline, follow the characters through their life and evolution, go inside the film and be a participant yourself.
And that, is where all the essence is truly is. ...A magnificent accomplishment, a true pure cinema art form.
...A real emotional moving experience. ...Watch the actors/actresses perform, check the cinematography and the cameraman moving with his camera, get behind the director's soul; it is fabulous, enriching, emotionally gripping.
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post #18 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 11:37 PM
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I prefer Once Upon a Time in the West out of this trilogy, best western ever made. I actually haven't seen this since the 80's on TV. Wondering if we should we buy this or just wait for the actual 4K Blu ray?

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post #19 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 11:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthSky View Post
Forget the video rating; get inside the director's vision, get engulfed into the storyline, follow the characters through their life and evolution, go inside the film and be a participant yourself.
And that, is where all the essence is truly is. ...A magnificent accomplishment, a true pure cinema art form.
...A real emotional moving experience. ...Watch the actors/actresses perform, check the cinematography and the cameraman moving with his camera, get behind the director's soul; it is fabulous, enriching, emotionally gripping.
Umm, this isn't my first rodeo with this film I had owned this on both LD and DVD before. Since Leone died ages ago I'm not sure how this restoration was done, as far as to adhere to his original intentions.

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post #20 of 33 Old 09-30-2014, 11:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthSky View Post
For people not familiar with Sergio Leone's second film's trilogy (perhaps more - Italian movies),
this is the third in the 'Once Upon A Time' trio of films (his 2nd trilogy, after 'Good, Bad, Ugly' trilogy).

1. 'Once Upon a Time in the West'
2. 'Once Upon a Time the Revolution'
3. 'Once Upon a Time in America'

And this is a Masterpiece trilogy.
AKA "Duck you sucker" or "A fistful of dynamite".

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post #21 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 12:07 AM
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I did not even know this was out. Being I have never seen it in any form I ordered a copy. Thanks for the review Lee

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post #22 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 12:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthSky View Post
Forget the video rating; get inside the director's vision, get engulfed into the storyline, follow the characters through their life and evolution, go inside the film and be a participant yourself.
And that, is where all the essence is truly is. ...A magnificent accomplishment, a true pure cinema art form.
...A real emotional moving experience. ...Watch the actors/actresses perform, check the cinematography and the cameraman moving with his camera, get behind the director's soul; it is fabulous, enriching, emotionally gripping.
So basically use the home theater as a theater put in the movie and absorb it. I'm down with that

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post #23 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 08:57 AM
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Greetings,

Please note that I have added an addendum to Lee's review to include information on the Collector's Edition release of Once Upon a Time in America Extended Director's Cut.


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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthSky View Post
For people not familiar with Sergio Leone's second film's trilogy (perhaps more - Italian movies),
this is the third in the 'Once Upon A Time' trio of films (his 2nd trilogy, after 'Good, Bad, Ugly' trilogy).

1. 'Once Upon a Time in the West'
2. 'Once Upon a Time the Revolution'
3. 'Once Upon a Time in America'

And this is a Masterpiece trilogy.
Regarding 'Once Upon a Time in the West,' does anyone know if the current version on BD, is the complete directors cut, or is there a longer version available?

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Originally Posted by coolcat4843 View Post
Regarding 'Once Upon a Time in the West', does anyone know if the current version on BD, is the complete directors cut, or is there a longer version available?
@ 166 minutes I believe so. ...On Blu. ...2D. ...No Dolby Atmos here.
...But you can also goggle around...to find more about this Classic Masterpiece (Western).
...Part of Leone's trilogy (Once Upon a Time ...).
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post #26 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by coolcat4843 View Post
Regarding 'Once Upon a Time in the West,' does anyone know if the current version on BD, is the complete directors cut, or is there a longer version available?
I have the Paramount version and it has both versions on it. DC is 166 minutes and stems from the 2007 Scorsese Film Foundation restoration. Picture is as good as it is possible and very nice. A must have as well.
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post #27 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 12:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by tenthplanet View Post
So basically use the home theater as a theater put in the movie and absorb it. I'm down with that
What is there more to experience?
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post #28 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 12:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by boguspomp View Post
I have the Paramount version and it has both versions on it. DC is 166 minutes and stems from the 2007 Scorsese Film Foundation restoration. Picture is as good as it is possible and very nice. A must have as well.
...And the theatrical version runs @ 165 minutes; one minute shorter.
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post #29 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 01:46 PM
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I competely agree - and let us not forget Sergio's storied relationship with Ennio Morricone's music through all of his films! Two of the greatest talents in Cinema history.
Ralph Potts and M Lo like this.
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post #30 of 33 Old 10-01-2014, 06:21 PM
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Has the video footage in the previous 2011 229min bluray that's included within this cut been altered in anyway to try and match the look of the extra 22mins?
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