SRP $26.99 1.85:1(16:9) DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 WARNER

WARNER BROS. has finally released the long-awaited “ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA” on dvd.  While Director Segio Leone’s epic westerns, other than “ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST,” may arguably be overrated, his ability to create unforgettable imagery as well as keeping the interest of audiences, even within lengthy narratives, was proven with “ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.”  There have been so many films revolving around the mob, but only a handfull stand out as great.  “GOODFELLAS,” “THE GODFATHER 1&2,” and “ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA” are among them!

Robert De Niro stars as David Aaronson, better known as “noodles.”  The film brilliantly shows a young “Noodles” and his friends beginning a life of crime, working for various established gangsters. Noodles meets and competes with a kid named Max, and the two become friends, embarking on crime sprees together.   When one of the guys on the crew dies, Noodles is sent away. While behind bars, Max runs the crew’s bootlegging business and builds his reputation.  In time, Noodles is released and the rivalry that always existed in a repressed state begins to surface.

Originally, the film was released to American audiences in an abridged format, running chronologically. The full, uncut version is much longer(though never dull)and uses flashback with great affect throughout the film.

The length is necessary to allow its numerous characters to live and breathe.  All of them have depth, and help make the film one of the most compelling dramas of the last fifty years.  While it’s great seeing De Niro and James Woods, actors like Treat Williams, give performances, reminding us of why these were some of the most promising stars of the ‘80s.

WARNER BROS. has preserved the film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with 16:9 enhancement.  Although colors appear subdued in spots, the overall look of the film is solid, and there’s excellent detail in virtually every scene.  Contrast is excellent, offering deep blacks and grays in darker scenes.  Fleshtones appear natural.

WARNER BROS. has presented a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  There’s little surround use, but plenty of separation for the front soundstage.  Made in 1984, the fidelity is limited in comparison to more recent soundtracks, but is still in good shape. Dialogue is always intelligible and free from distortion.
WARNER BROS. has presented this special edition over two discs.  Film critic Richard Schickel offers a running commentary, which proves to be entertaining, in spite of some long gaps within the nearly four hour film.  Additionally, there is a 20 minute portion of the terrific documentary, “ONCE UPON A TIME: SERGIO LEONE” offered, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.