Once Upon A Time in America Release Date: January 11, 2011 Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX" Year: 1983 Rating: R Running Time: 3:49:00 MSRP: $24.98 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1 Standard definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Czech 5.1, Magyar 5.1, Polish 5.1 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, German, Italian, Castellano, Czech, Magyar, Polish, and 17 other languages Same The Feature: 4.5/5 David "Noodles" Aaronson (Robert DeNiro), a Prohibition-era thug and mobster, returns to his old New York City neighborhood after 35 years in hiding. A mysterious letter has alerted him to the fact the people who forced him to flee the city in 1933 still know he's alive and probably have old scores to settle. Revisiting his past haunts brings to mind his childhood and his friendship with "Patsy" Goldberg (James Hayen), "Cockeye" Stein (William Forsythe), and Max Berkovicz (James Woods), with whom he ran a speakeasy and committed various crimes, including extortion and murder. Also never far from his thoughts is Deborah Gelly (Elizabeth McGovern), the girl he loved since he was a kid, though by his own hand he destroyed anything he could have had with her. Though there's little hope for redemption - or even retribution - in Aaronson's return to the city, finding out who's behind the mysterious communication may finally reveal who betrayed him all those years ago, and why. Told in a non-linear fashion, Director Sergio Leone's final directorial work would undoubtedly be more recognized by the general public if the studio hadn't re-edited the film for U.S. theatrical distribution. The disassembling of the director's artful vision into a chronological narrative was ultimately poorly received by both critics and audiences. And it wasn't until the film - in its unaltered form - reached international shores that the film got the recognition it deserved. But of course the damage had been done. Fortunately, the home media market offers the film another chance to be seen in its original form. Running at nearly four hours in length, it's certainly a sizable commitment for any viewer, but ultimately a rewarding one. Appropriately described as an "intimate epic," the film covers a broad range of time and within that time several major exploits, but throughout them is clearly focused on the relationships between its main character and those he loves best. The film is even unabashedly sentimental in moments, going so far as to insert Lennon and McCartney's "Yesterday" into the soundtrack (though it never becomes maudlin, perhaps because of the rather unsentimental nature of the characters' behavior and activities). The ambiguous quality to some of the narrative points, particularly in the final act, also makes the film stand out as more than your usual gangster film, one that ultimately leads the viewer back to the main character's deepest inner workings. Through Leone's masterful hand and vision "Once Upon A Time in America" is a gangster film with a deeply compelling heart and soul. Video Quality: 3.5/5 Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. The image is subject to some haziness in wide shots and mild haloing along high contrast edges. Contrast can be inconsistent, struggling more in the darker scenes, which also fail to have the deepest of blacks. Outside of those more challenging scenes, black level and color depth are quite solid and contrast shows the full range of values with no signs of compression. Fine object detail is decent, but the most consistently problematic aspect of the image is overall sharpness, as with the aforementioned wider compositions. Softness in close ups seems to be more a result of source-originated focusing errors; otherwise skin and clothing show a respectable amount of detail. Finally, grain structure is visible - as is a light amount of noise in shadow areas - with no indications of overused noise reduction tools. Audio Quality: 3/5 Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround activity is minimal, with only some very light support for the film score and some mild localized effects. LFE is non-existent, but the track has sufficient depth and fullness, along with some very good detail in the upper frequencies. Special Features: 2/5 The set of extras is notably spartan, though the included material does offer some solid, fundamental information about the production. Audio Commentary with Richard Schickel: Schickel is a knowledgeable commentator but is prone to scene description and doesn't always offer the keenest insights, particularly for the more ambiguous aspects of the story. His laid back style also may not appeal to many listeners, especially over the film's significant run time. Once Upon A Time: Sergio Leone (19:34, SD): An excerpt from a longer TV biography produced in 2000 by Britain's Film Four Productions, the piece covers the film's development, production and reception and includes interviews with the screenwriters, surviving relatives, and James Woods. Well made and interesting, it would have been nice to have the entirety of the documentary included with the release. Trailer (1:33, SD) Recap The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 3.5/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 2/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5 Warner Home Video turns in a respectable audio and video presentation for Leone's sentimental and compelling gangster epic. The special features are minimal, but offer some solid background information on the production. Given the technical quality of the release, owners of the DVD shouldn't rush to make an upgrade, but given the right price point it's certainly worth considering. Unfortunately, the more substantial packaging of the two-disc DVD edition doesn't make the decision to replace it any easier. For first time purchasers of the title, the Blu-ray is of course the obvious choice.