Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Great Silence (1968)

Director: Sergio Corbucci

Starring: Jean-Lous Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff

More Info: IMDB

Plot: A mute gunslinger faces off against a gang of bounty hunters in the great blizzard of 1899, and a grim, tense struggle unfolds.

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, yeah!

#121 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

Stunning. One of the all-time great Spaghetti Westerns. It's easily one of the bleakest. As with many Spags, the "good guy" isn't necessarily a good man. Often there's some grey area. On the other hand, the "bad guy" is just about always REALLY bad. In this one the two roles are only separated by a slender thread of conscience but their methods are the same. Silence (Trintignant) won't draw unless drawn upon. So he goads his soon-to-be-victims into drawing first. Loco (Kinski) does the same but when everyone's backs are turned he'll just as soon shoot you in the back for the reward.

The performances are very good with a standout performance by Frank Wolff as Sheriff Burnett, the good man sent to bring order to the town. He's tough and does his job but it seems like he's annoyed by the bad bounty hunters that have swarmed the town.

Loco: Can't a man provide for his old age?
Sheriff Burnett: I don't think you're gonna make it.

One unusual aspect about this Spag is that it's entirely set during a blizzard with the snow being almost another character. The deep white snow permeates the picture giving you an added sense of isolation and danger making this a very unique entry into the genre.

Behind the camera we have the director Sergio Corbucci, a Spag staple with a nice catalog of great films including DJANGO (1966), NAVAJO JOE (1966), THE HELLBENDERS (1967), THE MERCENARY (1968), THE SPECIALIST (1969), COMPANEROS (1970) and SONNY AND JED (1972) to name a few; all of which are among many Spaghetti Western fans' top 20 lists.

And then there's the genius of composer Ennio Morricone. His Spag scores are legendary and nearly all of them are the best of the SW genre. This one is no exception. It's beautiful, lyrical and sad. It's not a hero's score. It conveys the beauty of the landscape, the hope that good will win over evil and the certainty that it often will not. It's haunting and one of his best.

And it's nice to have a very tasteful and tender love scene in a SW. Although it is a stretch to find the VERY recently widowed Pauline (Vonetta McGee) fall for another man so quickly, Corbucci handles the build-up with such craftsmanship that you can easily suspend your disbelief and accept that she really does love Silence regardless of the reasons.

The ending is easily one of my favorite of all-time and that's saying something. It sticks to you well after the film has ended. This is one of the most mature Spaghetti Westerns out there and if you should ever only see a few of them, make room for THE GREAT SILENCE. It will literally leave you speechless.

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