Where do I begin? For years I looked upon Sergio Leone and his westerns as the top of not only the sphagetti western genre but the western genre as a whole. Over at the Sergio Leone Forum and the Sphagetti Western Database I kept seeing mention of a film called " Il Grande Silencio ", " The Great Silence". I knew I had to see this film but it was out of print, at least in the U.S. There were some International versions floating around but at the time I wasn't into subtitles. I finally found a rough copy on Youtube and gave it a watch and then finally watched a proper restoration from Film Movement on Blu Ray.
The film opens with a Lone Rider on horseback struggling thru a massive snow fall on a mountain. Its a long shot and sets you up for what comes next. What comes next is the most gritty, violent, in your face Western ever created. Sergio Leone was two six shooters from the hip. THIS is a gatling gun by director Sergio Corbucci thats on full auto... There are homages to earlier westerns by Leone and American westerns but this sphagetti is served overloaded with hot sauce. A family western this is NOT.
French actor Jean Louis Trintignant plays " Silence" , a bounty hunter who cannot speak and whose calling card is provoking his targets to draw first so that his actions are always in self defense. Klaus Klinski plays " Loco" , also known as " Tigrero" depending on what version of the film you are viewing. Loco is a bounty hunter with a dead or alive missive but prefers the former. Klinski has never been more vile than here and I feel its his best work. The plot centers around a community named Snow Hill in Utah thats pretty much starving and stranded because of a massive blizzard that hit the area. The people resort to stealing in order to eat. Local banker Pollicutt (Luigi Pistilli) takes advantage of the situation by placing bounties on them which attracts Loco to the area. One of the bounties collected by Loco is the husband of Pauline ( Vonetta McGee). Very distraught about the situation and faced with the prospect of losing her home, Pauline ( who has heard about Silence), tracks him down and hires him to take on Loco. While this is going on the governor of Utah hires sheriff Gideon Burnett," Corbett " in Italian ( Frank Wolff) to come to Snow Hill and restore order. Silence receives the message from Pauline and arrives at Snow Hill. What follows is in my opinion, the greatest western ever filmed.
Director Sergio Corbucci, weary of a uneven career up to that point and influenced by the political events of the day, decided to make his masterpiece. Taking inspiration from Andre De Toths " Day of the Outlaw" and John Ford's " Cheyenne Autumn" Corbucci decided to change up the normal western and make his in a snow blizzard. To help achieve this Corbucci filmed some of the scenes on location in the Italian Dolomites. The final piece was bringing in the great Ennio Morricone ( who Corbucci had already done work with) to compose the score for the film. The score ranks as good if not better than anything Morricone did for the Leone Films he scored.
Upon initial release the film didn't do well in Italy because of its rating due to the violence. It performed well in Germany and France but was never released in the United States by its distributor 20th Century Fox because studio head Darryl Zanuck was shocked by it and refused to release it (reports say he actually swallowed his cigar while watching it). Several releases over the years never gave the film its proper due until Film Movement acquired the distribution rights for the film in the United States and did a proper, gorgeous 2k restoration of the film. Any lover of Westerns has to have this in their collection. I rate it a perfect 10 out of 10...