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Moorman

The Great Silence (1968)

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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...

 

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The Great Silence (Snowy Terrain)

 

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I saw this film a couple months ago.  It took me quite awhile to obtain a copy of it.  The one they had on Youtube at the time did not have an English translation.  Anyhow what a great film!The setting, the score the story.  The actors were terrific--Jean-Louis  Trintignant, Klaus Kinski and Frank Wolff.  This film really got me interested in spaghetti westerns.  A whole lot of new stars--Leonard Mann Franco Nero, Robert Woods , Giuliano Gemma, George Hilton and  Gianni Garko to name a few.

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1 hour ago, don96 said:

I saw this film a couple months ago.  It took me quite awhile to obtain a copy of it.  The one they had on Youtube at the time did not have an English translation.  Anyhow what a great film!The setting, the score the story.  The actors were terrific--Jean-Louis  Trintignant, Klaus Kinski and Frank Wolff.  This film really got me interested in spaghetti westerns.  A whole lot of new stars--Leonard Mann Franco Nero, Robert Woods , Giuliano Gemma, George Hilton and  Gianni Garko to name a few.

Like I said in my post, I feel its the greatest western ever made.  Before I saw it I felt the best was Once Upon A Time in the West,  Leone's final western masterpiece.  After I saw The Great Silence, I changed my mind and gave it the edge. Sergio Corbucci created a masterpiece here thats unrivaled in its gritty rawness.  Film Movement has a excellent restoration of the film that can be purchased either from their website or other online retailers including Amazon.

As far as other sphagetti westerns go, Django by Sergio Corbucci is pretty good.  The other sphagetti westerns I like are a few of the Lee Van Cleef films:  Death Rides a Horse, The Big Gun Down,  Day of Anger and The Grand Duel.  I feel the rest of the sphagetti western in general are too over the top.  Sabata is OK.  Its another Van Cleef sphagetti western but ventures into being over the top. 

I saw the original of a series called the " Sartana" series, featuring the character Sartana, played by Gianna Garko ( that you mentioned).  Its OK but is a blatant redoing of the 3 Leone westerns with Eastwood.  The rest of the series goes into the over the top stuff that most of the sphagetti westerns are known for.  You might like it though, its a subjective thing.

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21 hours ago, Moorman said:

Like I said in my post, I feel its the greatest western ever made.  Before I saw it I felt the best was Once Upon A Time in the West,  Leone's final western masterpiece.  After I saw The Great Silence, I changed my mind and gave it the edge. Sergio Corbucci created a masterpiece here thats unrivaled in its gritty rawness.  Film Movement has a excellent restoration of the film that can be purchased either from their website or other online retailers including Amazon.

As far as other sphagetti westerns go, Django by Sergio Corbucci is pretty good.  The other sphagetti westerns I like are a few of the Lee Van Cleef films:  Death Rides a Horse, The Big Gun Down,  Day of Anger and The Grand Duel.  I feel the rest of the sphagetti western in general are too over the top.  Sabata is OK.  Its another Van Cleef sphagetti western but ventures into being over the top. 

I saw the original of a series called the " Sartana" series, featuring the character Sartana, played by Gianna Garko ( that you mentioned).  Its OK but is a blatant redoing of the 3 Leone westerns with Eastwood.  The rest of the series goes into the over the top stuff that most of the sphagetti westerns are known for.  You might like it though, its a subjective thing.

Check out Run Man Run, A Bullet For the General, Tepepa, Keoma, Face to Face, Cemetery Without Crosses, and maybe The Four of the Apocalypse..., to round out your viewing of Spaghetti Westerns also El Condor and Barquero (two other Van Cleef Westerns), Villa Rides, and 100 Rifles are pretty good. If you haven't seen them. 😎

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3 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Check out Run Man Run, A Bullet For the General, Tepepa, Keoma, Face to Face, Cemetery Without Crosses, and maybe The Four of the Apocalypse..., to round out your viewing of Spaghetti Westerns also El Condor and Barquero (two other Van Cleef Westerns), Villa Rides, and 100 Rifles are pretty good. If you haven't seen them. 😎

I've seen A Bullet for the General, Face to Face,  and Barquero.  I liked Face to Face and Barquero. I will look into the others. Barquero was actually pretty good and I feel its underrated. Its a American western though from what I remember about it...

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6 hours ago, Moorman said:

Its a American western though from what I remember about it...

Yes Barquero was Lee Van Cleef's first American Western after all his Spaghetti Westerns. Sort of like Hang 'em High was Eastwood's first American Western after his three Leone Westerns, I included it because of Lee Van Cleef, they even have similar sounding scores by Frontieri. check that part out sometime. El Condor, Villa Rides, and 100 Rifles were "Euro" Westerns international productions shot in Almeria, Spain. Red Sun is another Euro that's pretty good with Charles Bronson and Toshirô Mifune as is Pancho Villa with Telly Savalas, Chuck Connors and Clint Walker.

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5 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Yes Barquero was Lee Van Cleef's first American Western after all his Spaghetti Westerns. Sort of like Hang 'em High was Eastwood's first American Western after his three Leone Westerns, I included it because of Lee Van Cleef, they even have similar sounding scores by Frontieri. check that part out sometime. El Condor, Villa Rides, and 100 Rifles were "Euro" Westerns international productions shot in Almeria, Spain. Red Sun is another Euro that's pretty good with Charles Bronson and Toshirô Mifune as is Pancho Villa with Telly Savalas, Chuck Connors and Clint Walker.

I've seen Villa Rides ( Yul Brenner).  Thats pretty good.  Red Sun and Pancho Villa look interesting.  WHAT is Alain Delon doing in Red Sun? lol  

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I first saw The Great Silence back in 2004, way past the Spaghetti Western era.

As a kid growing up in New York City I saw Leone's For A Few Dollars More on its premier in 66 on the big screen followed by a double bill of it and A Fistfull of Dollars. In 67 out came The Good The Bad And The Ugly. So that was followed by a number of other non Leone Spaghetti Westerns, The Big Gundown, Death Rides A Horse, and I believe Sabata which was marketed all wrong. Sabata was more like The Wild Wild West (WWW) TV program and should have been marketed as a "secret agent' Western, since there was that built in market for WWW to tap into. It wasn't I was expecting something more realistic, I didn't like it the first time I saw it.

Here are my posts upon seeing it for the first time. I had problems with it's script not the visuals. But my thoughts evolved....

I enjoyed seeing Klaus Kinski Frank Wolf and Luigi Pistilli and some of the rest of Leone's character stable. The shots in the snow were great and it reminded me of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, but where it lacked was in its budget. It looked cheap and would have improved with better sets. The town of Snow Hill didn't have any reason to exist. The action shots were good and also the stage in the snow.

The other weak area was in the gang of horseless outlaws that were running around out in the snow they didn't seem to have much of anything not even snowshoes and not much of an explanation of why they were there. There was not a believable story line on the process of the bounty hunting and why would there seem to be more wanted men than townspeople, lol.

Ok here again is an example of buyer beware. I plunked down about $20 for the Great Silence, mostly through researching different boards and accumulating opinions, and for the most part I picked this film based on that.

Now my tastes in westerns run to stories that are believable and plausible. Basically, is it a storyline that could have happened? Once you throw in weird stuff and add jugglers and acrobats and hidden guns in banjos (Sabata for example) you loose me. If I want to see that I'd watch re-runs of the Wild Wild West, lol. 

The Great Silence was a dark and brooding story it had what at that time was some pretty graphic violence and the juxtaposition of blood and snow was good, it had a good flash back sequence a shocking (for that time ending) and music by Morricone. As a Spaghetti Western at face value it delivered, which at the time was what it was created for.

The back story line of Silence and his motives was good.  And the portrayal  of  the character of Loco was done well by Klaus Kinski. 

But the rest was very far fetched. Like I posted before you have a gang of outlaws some with sickles (looking like medieval grim reapers with their hoods and great coats) with no reason to be there, walking easily over the top of deep snow unaided by snow shoes, while at the same time horses are breaking through and struggling.  Its as if it was filmed at a ski resort with packed powder, which it come to think of it probably was, lol.

The town of Snow Hill was way too small and the gang of outlaws and the gang of bounty killers seemed to out number the town. 

This like I said was ok, also, must add that except for Klaus Kinski the dubbing wasn't up to snuff and it was noticeable, but it was very low budget, so get it if you want to see violence more graphic than Leone and very nice western winter snow shots, but check reality at the door. 

 

I was thinking today about how the story may have been made a little more believable. Let's say the "gang of outlaws" who live up in the mountains walk over the top of the snow and feed on dead horses are instead a gang of cannibals who feed on dead travelers (or even kill and eat travelers) who have tried and failed to make it over the passes into Snow Hill. 

That would make Klaus Kinski and his band of bounty killers more believable, and it would make the reward offer understandable. The way its portrayed now the outlaws are just pathetic. 

 

I've watched it twice more now and it does grow on you, its a different and a more graphic style for sure, and if you take the raggedy outlaw scenario with a grain of salt, its a good spaghetti. Morricone's music also lingers in your mind. 

It is a great Klaus Kinski part, and if you liked his bit part in FADM you'll get a kick out of him here.

 

Was discussing the massacre at the end and Snow Hill

 

There is no town existing now that's called Snow Hill in Utah, and in the film Frank Wolff was going to take Klaus Kinski to a jail in Tonopah, now Nevada. Now I think Utah Territory included both states, but there is no Snow Hill in Nevada either. 

Actually there were a number of Unionizing Wars and a massacre of striking miners and their families that happened around this time period late 1880''s through 1920 that this may be loosely based on. 

Ludlow Massacre 1914

Near Trinidad, in Southern Colorado the Rockerfeller owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company''s mine workers tried to unionize under the UMWA. The company sent in the Baldwin Felts Dectective Agency (basically hire guns) to break up the organizing activities. They gunned down the union organizer and the mineres went on strike. Since they were striking they were violently evicted from the company homes they were living in. They took to the surrounding hills and set up tent camps. The Baldwin Felts then used an armored car equiped with a Browing Colt (potato digger) machine gun to do a drive by and terrorize the miners, they dug rifle pits inside the tents and continued fighting throught the winter. In the spring Rockerfeller had the Governor send in the state militia. The striking miners at first thought that the militia was there to protect them but the militia took up positions above the tent camps. At the biggest tent camp at Ludlow the militia opened fire with more machine guns an 11 year old boy trying to get water for his family was gun downed. 

A freight train that stopped on a siding between the Militia and the tent camp enabled a lot of the women & children to escape abord the train. An attemp by the miners for a truce was attempted but the negotiator was clubbed and shot as he reached the militia. That evening the militia entered the tent city and set fire to the canvas. By morning it was a smouldering ruin. Two women and eleven children were found dead in a pit under a metal cot. It was known as the Ludlow Massacre in all 66 miners were killed. 

The news of the massacre put pressure on both Rockerfeller (negative publicity), and  Pres. Wilson to send in the regular army to defuse the situation.

It was on Wild West Tech on the History Channel not too long ago.

 

Basically this film was made for Italo/ European audience so I don't think it mattered much to Corbucci to go into a whole explanation of WHY.  To an American audience (like me) that part matters more because we look for some kind of link to something that may have really happened. 

The Spaghetti West is another dimension a twilight zone parallel universe, a place where things just are, distances and time are bent, place names are thrown in weird juxtapositions. It's a tight compact little world where everything especially the small things are exaggerated. 

It's almost as if the great lot of SW directors or their audiences had no clue that the whole vastness of American West  approximately 2,000 by 2,000 miles could not possibly fit in a country the size of Spain or Italy though the films usually don't express these great distances. 

 

Neo Noir Western The Great Silence. You just need tone down your overly inquisitive brain, and watch it's images of the barren snow bound wilderness of 1898 Snow Hill play out, and you'll better enjoy the the sightly off kilter stylistic Neo Noir Western world that Corbucci creates. Corbucci utilizes the bleak alpine landscape to the maximum, creating an atmosphere of desolation and despair that clings and haunts you long after its over. 

The rock, pines, shanties, and blood sharply contrast against the white snow noir-ishly with another Morricone masterpiece of a soudtrack, and one of the bleakest endings of any Western out there.

 

Back to the nature of the "outlaws."

My trouble with that is the old Utah Territory, the surrounding environs of Nevada, Northern Arizona, and Southern Idaho are Mormon-ized so it doesn't quite   make much sense to just hint at it when you could have say tied in some actual historical incidents like the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, passed in a wave of Victorian-era reaction to the perceived immorality of polygamy, or the  Edmunds–Tucker Act on May 19, 1890, that dis-incorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or even the non religious Ludlow Massacre in the snow on April 20, 1914 where workers at Colorado mine went on strike, company guards fired machine guns and killed several men, 2 women and 11 children. 

What we get instead from Corbucci is a total out and out fantasy, with a fake epilogue, when it could have been so much more. 

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