The Great Silence

Utah, the Great Blizzard of the winter of 1898 to 1989, the Rocky Mountains turned white save for where blood is splashed upon the snow, the great silence of the state only recently taken into the Union broken by gunshots as an ambush planned by over-ambitious bounty hunters for the mute outlaw known as Silenzio turns ugly, the lone man and his custom pistol taking down his assailants.

The town of Snow Hill awaiting the arrival of Sheriff Gideon Corbett, he is delayed when he too is waylaid on the outskirts, a band of hungry outlaws who are awaiting confirmation of the amnesty from the Governor taking his horse but leaving him unharmed, but Justice of the Peace Henry Pollicut has placed a price on their heads, serving the needs of the ruthless Tigrero and his gang.

The tradition of the Western to portray the dust and sweat of the desert, director Sergio Corbucci had long wished to change the landscape to one of snow; shot in the Italian Dolomites rather than the south of Spain where most “Spaghetti Westerns” were filmed, only one flashback scene of The Great Silence (Il Grande Silenzio) of 1968 is absent the otherwise ubiquitous snow, a cold and unforgiving setting for a tale of greed and revenge, the cruelty and beauty caught by cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti and the ornamentation of Ennio Morricone’s glittering score.

Making its Blu-ray debut as a 2K restoration as part of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema range, The Great Silence sees Jean-Louis Trintignant as the titular Silenzio, a gunman who avoids crossing the law by always provoking his target into drawing first, while cruel Pollicut (Luigi Pistilli) calls the shots, placing bounties on those he wishes gone, Tigrero (Klaus Kinksi) his accomplice who loves the kill as much as the cash, and Vonetta McGee is the widowed Pauline Middleton who appeals to Silenzio to avenge the murder of her husband.

Placing the two protagonists together several times, each seeking advantage before the ultimate showdown, in order to please the producers who were concerned of the appeal of the film as scripted Corbucci shot two endings for the film, both included, the second neither as well executed nor as convincing as the Corbucci’s intended finale which was the one released; also included is a third ending created by selective editing of the existing footage to create a more ambiguous conclusion.

With both Italian and English language versions on the disc, the dialogue often substantially different in phrasing and meaning, The Great Silence is also supported by multiple commentaries, a 1968 documentary on Spaghetti Westerns and interviews with author Austin Fisher who analyses the genre, commenting on the nihilism and bleakness of the feature, and director Alex Cox who discusses Corbucci, the production and legacy of what he regards as “an extraordinary film.”

The Great Silence will be available on Blu-ray from Monday 22nd November from Eureka



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