Sergio Leone reimagined the American Western genre with Once Upon a Time in the West, in which two mysterious strangers join forces to defend a widow after a sinister hired gun murders her family in a bid to grab their land for the railroad. Unlike the well-groomed characters depicted in traditional studio Westerns, the inhabitants of Leone’s frontier are dusty, sweaty, and grimy. Leone also cast good-guy icon Henry Fonda radically against type as the darkest of villains, and brought the European stylistic reinterpretations perfected in his low-budget spaghetti Westerns to the quintessential cowboy movie location—John Ford’s iconic Monument Valley.
Since it was shot in the Techniscope format—which hasn’t been in use since the early 1970s—restoration of the film required that an interpositive be printed from the original negative to create a new preservation internegative. As a result, the new prints offer a sharper image and finer grain than even the original prints. In addition, the color was completely restored to capture the rich earth tones of the original photography, and the audio for both the Italian and English soundtracks was restored from magnetic masters, significantly improving upon the original optical soundtracks.
Organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film. This presentation is a collaboration between the Tribeca Film Festival and the Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art. The restoration was made possible with support by The Film Foundation and The Rome Film Festival in association with Sergio Leone Productions and Paramount Pictures.