once upon a time in the west -wtf?

I’ve watched parts of this movie three times and never understood the point. I got bored at the beginning twice and the last time last night I watched the last 20-30 min totally clueless.

Can someone give me an idea of what this movie was about? I know the Charles Bronson character kills Henry Fonda because of what Fonda did to Bronson and his brother with the harmonica.

But thats about it. Who was the woman and what was her point. Didn’t a lot of people get shot up by Bronson earlier in the movie? Why? Why were there people trying to kill Fonday and why did Bronson save him?

Been bugging me for years. I don’t need a two page summary, but probably more than 3 sentences would be necessary to clue me in.

It’s rather long-winded, but there is a full synopsis of the story at IMDb:

It’s not too complicated. Jill owns property that the railroad wants, and Frank (Fonda) is a hired gun who massacres her family and tries to intimidate her to sell. Harmonica (Bronson) and Cheyenne (Jason Robards) come to her aid. At some point, Frank turns on his employer (Morton, the crippled RR tycoon), who tries to buy the loyalty of some of Frank’s men to have him killed (because he’s tired of Frank’s ruthless tactics). Because Harmonica wants his own personal revenge, he doesn’t allow them to succeed, helping Frank so he can have his own moment of payback. He eventually does, and Jill retains the property and assumes a role in the growth of the town nearby.

Well I’ll be… I’d only caught bits and pieces before too including, apparently, part of the same broadcast Sigene caught last night. Thanks for the summaries. Now all of a sudden those disparate pieces make sense.

Why was it RR Baron Morton wanted that particular piece of property? Was it strategic, vast or is that an inconsequential detail that lags behind the simple fact that he just wanted it?

In the old days, railroads ran on steam power, which meant it was essential to have places where trains could stop to get water (sidebar: a “jerkwater” town used to be a tiny town where trains stopped solely to get water). Jill’s husband had found a vast quantity of water on his property, which he knew would make the land valuable. He expected Morton’s railroad to pay him a lot of money. Instead, Morton sent Frank and his goons to intimidate him.

Frank and his men went way beyond their orders, and massacred the family (Morton tells Frank, “I just wanted you to scare them,” and Frank answers, “People scare better when they’re dying.”).

Water, which was scarce along that expanse of desert and would have been critical in the development of a train station (for which Jill’s late husband had ordered all the materials to build already) and town.

Bronson “saves” Frank only so that he can kill Frank himself, later.

I don’t know if you saw the scene, but Jill angrily screams at Harmonica, “You saved him.” Harmonica snaps back, “I didn’t let THEM kill him. That’s not the same thing.”

Thanks. I couldn’t help but marvel last night at how this film as much as any other I’ve seen in awhile provided a captivating study of the faces of the cast. Jack Elam, unshaved and dirty, as he’s bothered by the fly and then listens to it in his pistol barrel. Woody Strobe, his expression changing when walking off he hears the harmonica behind him. Henry Fonda, with dark beard growth and eyes harder than in any other film I can remember. Most fascinating though was Charlie Bronson. Tan, pocked, and worn with eyes that pierced everything as if they already knew and were simply waiting for an expected response. The close ups of these faces, sometimes filling the entire screen, were simply fascinating, enough so I’m still marveling at them a day later.

This film is in my top 25 or so of all time. It really is worth watching from beginning to end.

Frank’s plan was to originally leave one survivor in the McBain family, hence his crew’s “disguise” of the dusters which were the trademark of Cheyenne’s gang (Cheyenne’s gang would get the blame and no one would suspect the railroad or Frank). When one of his underlings says his name in front of little boy who was meant to survive, he has no choice but to finish off the family. Frank would assume that the property would go up for sale and the railroad would be able to get it on the cheap. He didn’t know that Mr. McBain had already married Jill while in New Orleans (they had kept it a secret and had planned to do a ceremony for his friends and neighbors and family when she arrived) and that she’d be the legal owner of the property.
The Gene Autry Museum in LA had an amazing exhibit on Leonne and his films. There was an extensive study of this film that detailed the insane amount of homages to classic westerns that are peppered throughout the film.