Once Upon a Time in America

For years, this film has grown in stature after being a passing failure in 1984. The reason is simple, the version that played in the U.S. was a butchered cut of the original vision of Director Sergio Leone. The widely hailed original cut that played in Cannes that year was also a truncated version since Leone had originally seen this as being two films of nearly three hours each. Very much like “Blade Runner”, “Once Upon a Time in America” actually has several variations that people have seen and commented on. There is apparently a version that was assembled and released in Italy two years ago that includes at least one scene with Louise Fletcher who is nowhere to be seen in any of the versions publicly shown prior to 2012.


In 1984, for some reason, I never saw the 139 minute version that the American studio distributed. It was originally released June 1 in the U.S. , and I would be preoccupied by Star Trek, Streets of Fire and the next week, Ghostbusters and Gremlins. I was also in the process of applying for a teaching position and interviewing [I did not get the job until the second time I applied the next year], so I was pretty busy. By the fall however, things were more calm and I saw in my hometown paper that the acclaimed version of this movie that had received rapturous reviews at Cannes before the disastrous opening in the U.S. , would be playing at the Century City  Fox Theater for two weeks. I can’t remember all of the people who went but I had a distinct memory of my pal Steve Holland and a guy who had been on the USC Speech team when Steve and I were coaching as graduate students, Matt Chappa, both being there. I also know that it was the original version because the only way I have ever seen this film is in the non-sequential manner in which Leone had planned it.

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Against All Odds

A successful L.A. mystery/romance that features two incredibly beautiful people in a mixed up love triangle. “Against All Odds” is probably best remembered for the title song than the lush Mexican scenery from the first hour or the typical real estate driven plot in the second.  It comes from a time when L.A. had three professional football teams playing and the Go Go Eighties were in full swing. against_all_odds

My wife and I saw this opening night on a Friday in 1984, the next day some friends of ours wanted to see it so I returned with them and my wife stayed home. It was after the group of us got back to our apartment that my wife told me she had received a phone call while we were gone and it concerned a friend of mine. He had been murdered and his body was just recovered weeks after the crime. My friend had been involved in some shady business and his partners basically took him for a ride. This movie had so much of that L.A. crime world aura around it, and there is a scene towards the end where one of the characters has basically been told he will not be returning from the car ride that everyone is making. I can never watch this film without thinking of my friend and the wrong turn he took in his life. One of the reasons that it still resonates is that the movie perfectly captures so much about the L.A. scene at the time. The fashions and hairstyles are not obtrusive and the locations have changed only slightly in the thirty years since. “Against All Odds” is a neo noir that still holds up today with only a couple of reservations. Continue reading