The Big Gundown (1966)

Comments Off on The Big Gundown (1966) 09 February 2014


Studio: Grindhouse Releasing

Theatrical Release: August 21, 1968 (USA)

Blu Ray Release: December 10, 2013

Director: Sergio Sollima

Not Rated

Review by Travis North

What helps to separate one of the hundreds of Spaghetti Westerns from the pack?  With The Big Gundown, it’s certainly not the plot.  The differentiation comes from Lee Van Cleef, yet another score from the indefatigable Ennio Morricone, and above average direction from Sergio Sollima.

Big Gundown

Jonathan Corbett (Lee Van Cleef) has quite the reputation for bringing in fugitive outlaws in post Civil War Texas, not caring much if it is dead or alive.  He doesn’t do it for the reward; he does it more in the name of justice.  This makes him popular enough to run for the Senate.   To run for office isn’t cheap and Corbett will need money.  This is helpfully offered by a rich individual (Walter Barnes) who just happens to have an aristocratic Austrian bodyguard known for his quick draw….non-subtle foreshadowing.  Almost as soon as the deal is made, a few ruffians show up claiming a dirty Mexican called Manuel Sanchez (Tomas Milian) has raped and killed a 12-year-old girl.  Corbett doesn’t doubt this for a second, and vows to bring the guilty in to face his crime.  What follows is a protracted cat and mouse game crossing many interesting but intimately pointless side characters.  Since Corbett doesn’t put one bullet in Sanchez’s balls and one in his brain at their first meeting makes you easily guess where the story is headed.

The Big Gundown

Cleef is always great, a remnant of masculine cinema that is sorely lacking today.  I’ll buy a wiry, thinning-gray-haired Cleef as a tough guy over some former model slab of beef whose tries to project toughness but instead just looks as confused as a monkey trying to read.  This does have a decent amount of blood for a Western made before The Wild Bunch, but doesn’t go so far as to include any nudity.

Big Gun 4

Morricone’s music certainly screams Western, but is changed enough from some of his more famous scores while still remaining very memorable.  I have to say I was impressed with Sollima’s framing and direction.  Even made in 1966 there are plenty of interesting shots and set pieces that I could see Tarantino trying to steal for his next overly talky pile of crap.  One in particular was in the original Italian 110 minute Blu Ray director’s cut but was not on the “expanded” cut (so sorry, no screencap).  Which lead me to the release overall.

Big Gun 3

The original domestic release had trimmed and tightened the movie up, losing lots of extraneous scenes but also losing some cool content.  I watched the 110 minute version, which looks great, which represents a second cut of the film.  The “expanded” cut starts with the domestic version and adds back in a few but not all scenes for a third version.  The DVD-ROM content claims to have a Video Watchdog like breakdown of the versions for those that are interested in knowing the exact changes.  Including the score on a separate isolated track is a great touch, and something I wish more movies included.  If that’s not good enough for you, this includes a CD of the soundtrack as well.  There are liner notes included which includes plenty of the great old painted movie posters for this film.  Other extras include audio commentaries, stills, trailers, TV spots, and interviews that round out this release nicely.  This is a comprehensive and great job by Grindhouse Releasing.

Big Gun 5

Big Gun 6

Movie Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★★


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