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Once Upon a Time in America

Comparison:

  • Theatrical Version
  • Extended Edition
Release: Dec 11, 2012 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: DaxRider123 - external link: IMDB
This is a comparison between the Theatrial Version and the Extended Edition (included on the Italian Blu-ray).


- 6 Extensions
- Difference: 1251.4 sec (= 20:51 min)

A lot of difference in time results from framecuts in the Extended Edition; all of these are shorter than 0.5 seonds which is why they won't be listed in this report. The additional screens explaining how the digital enhancement was made were not included either.



Background


Sergio Leone's furious finale of the Once Upon A Time...-trilogy started it's European theatrial success with a runtime of 229 minutes. Originally, Leone planned to release two movies with a runtime of three hours; however, supposedly because of the commerial disaster that was Bertolucci's two-parter 1900, the producers told him to forget about that idea. The first 269 minutes versionwas trimmed down by Leone himself - 40 minutes of footage were cut out.

Except for another American version, that was trimmed down in a way that the meaning and story was lost (it was 139 minutes long; luckily enough, the European theatrical version finally made it overseas) as well as slightly shortened versions - that were censored due to certain restrictions - it seemed that there was no hope for the missing footage to be released, especially after Leone's death in 1989. Even though his kids apparently found the missing footage, there were several copyright issues that had to be solved which made it impossible to use the footage for years.
In 2011 came a surprising announcement by The Film Foundation. By order of Martin Scorsese (chairman of "The Film Foundation") and in collaboration with (among others) Andrea Leone Films and L'Immagine Ritrovata (who are well-known for restoring Murnau's classic vampire movie Nosferatu as well as several Italian classics) they are trying to release a 4K-restoration of the movie which also uses previously unknown footage.

In 2012, this version was shown to the audience of the Cannes festival. On the 4th of september 2012 this version was released on Blu-Ray as an "Edizione Estesa" (i.e. "Extended Edition"). Unfortunately, this version is - so far - only available in Italy, since there still are copyright issues that need to be solved for an international release. Additionally, there exist a few reports that speculate that there might be some more restoration work which could result in another extended version which would be released in 2013. However, since these claims are just rumors one should treat them with caution.

Anyway: the Italian Blu-Ray has no bonus material and includes the movie with Italian and English audio (some scenes are in English for both audio selections, though).



The Extended Version


First of all: since this version has a runtime of 251 minutes, it is probably not the complete first version by Leone, which was mentioned above. Additionally, the runtime which is displayed on the cover (246 minutes) is not correct. In comparison to the European theatrical version the extended version is "only" 22 minutes longer (one minute originates from additional credits regarding the restoration). There's a sticker on the Italian DVD which says "include 26 Minute inediti" - another thing that is simply wrong. One could have expected that a few scenes from the theatrical version were cut out, especially the short flashback of Noddles at the end of the movie before he makes his decision, since it was rumored that Leone was not satisfied with the scene. This is not the case, the movie simply follows the original course of the theatrical version which now has 6 additional (blocks of) scenes.

Before we talk about the content it has to be mentioned that the image quality of the material is pretty bad in comparison to the rest of the movie. Overall, the 4K-master looks great and much better than the old Blu-Ray (even though the compression of the Italian Blu-Ray is problematic at times and one could be bothered by the different coloring which you can see in the image comparison at the end of this report), however, the new material might pull you out of all the "beauty" while watching the movie. This might remind you of Metropolis, where the new footage looked worse than the rest of the movie, however, fans were just happy to finally see it. Then again, since Once Upon A Time in America is not as old as Metropolis, one might have expected more.

The additional scenes enhance and support the plot of the epic movie. Of special interest is the additional scene of noodles during the second half of the movie where we get a better insight into his problematic relationship with Deborah. The additional scene with "Senator Bailey" towards the end of the flick fits in nicely with the surrounding footage and thus put a different complexion on the entire seuqence. Even the additional conversation with the chauffeur who later interrupts the rape in the car gives a meaningful and deeper insight into the characters.
Apart from that, there are quite a few nice scenes which are of (plot-wise) debatable relevance. We see Deborah performing Cleopatra in the theatre and two scenes of Noodles inquiring the graveyard which was built on his behalf. The latter scenes already show the garbage truck which also appears at the end of the movie, thus giving us a foretaste of "Senator Bailey". The Cleopatra scene with its zoom to Noodles' face could be interpreted as a reference to the scene towards the beginning where he surreptitiously watches Deborah practicing her role.


Regardless of the new footage it's hard to say whether or not one should immediately buy the Italian Blu-Ray. Apart from any missing bonus footage, the pixelation can be annoying at times, especially concerning the capabilities of the 4K-master. Maybe one should wait for another release (maybe in the USA) which then might also use the material in a better way.
Further screenshots of the Blu-Ray can be found in this review.



Time designations are given as follows:
Theatrical Version Blu-ray / Extended Edition Blu-ray



Since the regular size of the screenshots make it impossible to read it, we show you the Italian text from the beginning of the movie (there is no English version for this) in a slightly bigger resolution. It mainly talks about the worse image quality of the new material and explains that they were trying to stick to Leone's original visions.

Before we see the logos of Regency and The Ladd Company as well as the regular credits, the Extended Edition (which we will call "EE" from now on) first talks about the restoration.

This does not count for the overall difference in time.

66.9 sec




93:47 / 94:49-98:20

After Noodles looked at the sign inside the memorial and the camera zoomed to his name, the scene continues in the EE. We see a conversation between Noodles and the directress (Louise Fletcher) where the former tries to get more information about the building of the memorial. At the same time he recognizes a car nearby, from which he is being watched. He is able to write down the license plate.

Noodles goes away from the sign. Suddenly, a woman appears.
Directress: "Hello. May I help you?"
Noodles: "I was just looking."
Directress: "I'm the director of Riverdale."
Noodles: "I've never seen a tomb like this."
Directress: "We like to call them 'havens', we find it more comforting."
Noodles: " 'Erected to their everlasting memory by their friend and brother David Aaronson, 1967.' Is it a new building?"
Directress: "Yes. Do you know Mr. Aaronson, Mr. ...? Sorry."
Noodles: "Mr. Williams."
Directress: "Mr. Williams. An interest like yours is a compliment to our architects, Mr. Williams. After you."
He goes outside where they continue talking, while at the same time a car drives in parallel with them nearby.
Directress: "I think the beauty of the interior equals that of the exterior. Don't you agree, Mr. Williams? We wanted to do it in the style of the 30s, which is when our young friends said farewell."
Noodles: "Was it Mr. Aaronson's idea?"
Directress: "Actually he left the whole thing up to us. I had... we had carte blanche. All he suggested was the inscription. 'Your youngest and strongest will fall by the sword.' "
Noodles: "What about this music?"
Directress: "And the music..."
Noodles: "That was exactly his suggestion?"
Directress: "Yes. We received a tape. You seem to know him so well. I'd like you to tell him how much you like the 'haven' when you see him. Could you do that?"
Noodles: "Sure. I've been away for quite a long time and I lost the address. Maybe you... You must have signed a bill or something."
Directress: "Uhm, the bank handled it. Through a foreign bank. I wish I could be of more assistance to you, Mr. Williams. Have you ever thought of building your own haven?"
They are standing near crossroads and the car is just a few metres away from them. Noodles walks towards it when it suddenly drives away. At least he is able to write down the license plate.
Directress: "Think about it."

211.3 sec (= 3:31 min)




122:54 / 127:26-130:32

In between the car falling into the water and the scene where the old Noodles watches a report about another attempt on Senator Bailey's life on a TV in a cafe the EE includes two new scenes.

At first we see the boys (connected to the previous scene) fooling around in the water a little longer. There's a freighter nearby and the people are scared for Noodles' life because of the freighter's shovel which constantly aims at the water.
With a nice transition (from inside the shovel to the inside of a garbage truck in front of the estate) we see old Noodles paying the adress which he found out after writing down the license plate in the first EE-exclusive scene. It's Senator Bailey's residence. Here we immediately see the car which was following Noodles and the latter watches it. What follows is an explosion, thus Noodles couldn't get any further information to what the pursuit was all about. Exactly this explosion can be seen during the following report on TV.

186 sec (= 3:06 min)




146:21 / 153:57-155:06

After Noodles came out the door, you in the EE see him talking to the chauffeur. The chauffeur criticizes Noodles' lifestyle which gives us a reason to why he interferes during the rape. Noodles counters with the financial benefits.

Noodles: "They make you dress like those lunatics going around Germany burning down all those Jewish stores."
Chauffeur: "Those lunatics burned our home, sir, and made us go to America."
Noodles: "I'm Jewish, too."
Chauffeur: "I know, sir. Everybody knows."
Noodles: "Knows what?"
Chauffeur: "Everybody knows who you are, sir."
Noodles: "And what do you think?"
Chauffeur: "I don't think. It's your business, sir."
Noodles: "No, you think. You think it's a disgrace, don't you?"
Chauffeur, nach kurzem Zögern: "We Jews, Sir, don't have to be like the Italians who look up to the lawbreakers. We have enough enemies without becoming gangsters, sir."
Noodles: "How much money do you make a week?"
Chauffeur: "Not everybody tips like you, sir. I make enough to go to school and learn for my degree."
Noodles: "Good for you. So maybe by the time you are 60, you'll make enough, but then you won't be able to get it up anymore."

69.6 sec (= 1:10 min)




159:21 / 168:06-173:53

The movie fades to a scene where Noodles (due to the rape) was left alone on the street. He's drunk and inside a bar a prostitute comes to him. After a short dialogue he gives her some money and has sex with her during which he is allowed to call her Deborah. Subsequently we see the “real” Deborah disappointedly walking out of a restaurant.

The prostitute (Eve) walks through the room and spots Noodles.
Eve: "Hi."
Noodles: "Hi."
Eve: "Are you alone?"
Noodles: "No, I'm with you... I hope."
Eve: "Wanna dance?"
Noodles: "No, I'm not up to that. You know what I want? I want to get laid."
Eve: "That's what you are up to? You drink like this every night or it's just a bad night?"
He puts 500 dollars into her hand.
Eve: "Who are you, Mr. Rockefeller?"
Noodles: "No. Why, how much did I give you?"
Eve: "50."
Noodles: "50? What's your name?"
Eve: "Eve."
Noodles: "I'll call you Deborah."
Eve: "I did more complicated things for less."
Cut to the two of them inside the bed.
Noodles: "Deborah... Do you love me?"
Eve: "Yes."
Noodles: "You are so beautiful."
Eve: "Thanks."
He kisses her and suddenly lies down next to her, looking rather exhausted and sleepy.
Noodles: "Your feet are so beautiful... Sandals... The prince's daughter... Deborah..."
Soon, he gets cheerful again: "Now I'll fuck you."
Eve: "Take your time."
Suddenly, Noodles falls asleep.
Cut to the next morning: Noodles finds a note which says that he should give her less money and more work the next time.
Then we see (as was already mentioned) Deborah standing up in a restaurant and leaving it disappointedly.

346.9 sec (= 5:47 min)




193:26 / 207:56-210:12

Before we see Noodles visiting Deborah backstage, the EE shows her performance, which is the death scene of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, her playing Cleopatra. In between we see Noodles in the audience.

Deborah/Cleopatra: "This proves me base. If she first meet the curled Antony, he'll make demand of her and spend that kiss which is my heaven to have. Come thou, mortal wretch with thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate of life at once untie: Poor venomous fool. Be angry, and dispatch. Oh, couldst thou speak, that I might hear thee call, great Caesar 'ass unpolicied'."
Charmian: "O eastern star!"
Cleopatra: "Peace, peace! Dost thou not see my baby at my breast, that sucks the nurse asleep? Oh, break! Oh, break! As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle... Oh, Antony! Nay, I will take thee too. What should I stay..."
Charmian: "In this vile world? So, fare thee well. Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies a lass unparallel'd. Downy windows, close, and golden Phoebus never be beheld of eyes again so royal! Your crown's awry. I'll mend it, and then play."

136.1 sec (= 2:16 min)




204:50 / 221:35-226:37

After Senator Bailey / Max waved his hand to his son you in the EE see how he closes the window to talk to an old business partner (Unionsführer Jimmy O'Donnell). The latter obviously wants to see Bailey dead - all that's left are some last organizational details. Throughout the conversation they again and again talk about political intrigues. At the end of their talk O'Donnell says that it would be best for Bailey to simply kill himself which further dramatizes Bailey's motivation during the following conversation with Noodles.

O'Donnell: "I must admit, this party was a wonderful idea, Mr. Secretary. It's a bit like saying, I'm going up before the Commettee in 5 days, like my conscience is clear. The most important people in New York are my guests. It's going to be a night to remember."
Bailey: "Especially if the house blows up. Where are you putting the next bomb? In the freezer? Or in the toilet?"
O'Donnell: "You can't even think straight anymore. I'll tell you something. There's a waiting list of people who would like to send flowers to your funeral. I can point out ten right now if you like me to."
He points at a monitoring screen and Bailey says: "Yes. But none of them wants to read my obituary in front of the Committee as much as you do. You and your union."
O'Donnell: "We just want to resolve this situation clean."
Bailey: "I've heard that same song from you for 35 fucking years! Who do you think you're talking to? I helped you make a fortune, you and the rest of those parasites!"
O'Donnell: "It was a reasonable arrangement between labour and management."
Bailey: "2% for them and 40% for you. You defend them and you screw them. Come on! It's been the story of your life. Do you think anybody believes you anymore?"
O'Donnell: "Some. But no one believes in you anymore, because you have made mistakes and I haven't. But that's beside the point. The important thing right now is that you and I straighten out these transfers of authority. Now it's all as we have agreed. Have had our lawyers drawn it up. All you have to do is sign."
Bailey hesitates; "My last will?"
O'Donnell: "You are not in a position to exercise your will."
Bailey: "I give up everything."
O'Donnell: "12% would be set aside for your boy. In that way he can be assured of living to a ripe old age."
Bailey: "Or not, if I don't sign?"
Long moment of silence before Bailey signs the paper. His opponent slowly walks to the door.
O'Donnell: "Why don't you take care of this yourself, Max? I'd be very happy for you tonight, if during all the noise of the party I'd hear a shot."
Bailey: "Maybe you will."

301.4 sec (= 5:01 min)




At the end of the movie, only the theatrical version Blu-Ray shows the Warner Bros. Logo.

+ 8.5 sec








As promised, here's a short image comparison of the two versions, which - due to the compressed size of the images - won't serve as a reliable impression of the actual image quality. Still, you cann see the differing colors (the Extended Edition looks more yellow).


Theatrical Version Blu-rayExtended Edition Blu-ray

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