There are two kinds of Western films. Those that came before Sergio Leone and those that came afterward. With only six films to really speak of the Italian director who made Clint Eastwood a superstar left behind a spellbinding body of work that capitalzes mainly on the mythology surrounding the old American West. Throughout his films the themes of violence, treachery, and ways of life meeting their end are consistently explored like in Once Upon a Time in the West where the outlaw is soon becoming a thing of the past with the coming of the railroad and Once Upon a Time in America where the gangster is slowly being forced to reform or risk being gunned down. There is something unique about the experience gained from watching each of Leone's movies. The characters are often amoral and sometimes don't even have names, however, somehow despite their surreal life stories they feel all too genuine, striking a nerve in viewers that has lasted decades. Love or hate Leone, if for this reason only the man was a genius. Leone's lifelong friend and screenwriter Sergio Donati shared in an interview for the special features of Duck You Sucker that Leone, "had a sort of David Lean complex." The man was never satisfied with doing something smaller than he had already done before, each film had to bigger than the last. After the Dollars Trilogy, the director sort of graduated from the hard school of Italian industry spaghetti westerns and came to America to direct Once Upon a Time in the West. Later he would be wrangled into directing a western one last time with Duck You Sucker. His last film, Once Upon a Time in America, was over four hours long and came out in 1984. The studios about keeled over when Leone handed them the overlong movie about Jewish gangsters growing up in New York. They cut the film down to two hours and the results was of course very mixed reviews from the audience and a very upset Sergio. Hurt by the criticism and the destruction of his movie Leone never directed again. He died five years later from a heart attack at age 60 while planning a film about the Russian front in WWII. The Italian director was like Stanley Kubrick in that he too spent vast amounts of time in constructing one film. He was once quoted for saying, "Every film I make takes off five years of my life." Being a huge Leone fan can immediately say a lot about a person, such as they are an enthusiast for gritty action and don't not mind vulgar characters who sweat a lot, however, the specific film that inspires them the greatest can say significantly much more. Most people would probably quote one the Dollars Trilogy films and certainly The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly to be their favorite Leone film. Yet there are quite a few who appreciate Once Upon a Time in the West more and even fewer still who might say Duck You Sucker. If any of the others (including Once Upon a Time in America) is your favorite Leone film it begs the question if you've ever seen his other movies or not. You either don't particularly care for westerns or are a very rare individual.
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