Death By Cinema – 15 – The Great Silence

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…


Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 15 – The Great Silence

Today’s a review of a spaghetti or, more accurately and politely, a Euro western. Before anyone asks, yes, these movies are exploitation as they exploit violence and sometimes sex and sensationalize the classic American western. Some of my favorite films have been spaghetti westerns, and most of those directed by Sergio Leone (my favorite film is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, BTW). Today, I’ll look at at film that’s been called one of the best non-Leone spaghettis, Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence (the other probably being The Big Gundown, which I do not own). Corbucci is also the man who created Django, a hero who’s original film was so influential and so popular that the character then ended up in dozens of spaghettis afterwards. Corbucci liked playing with setting. While they were all set in the American west, Django takes place not in a dusty street, but in the mud. Similarly, The Great Silence takes place in the snow and I can count on one hand the number of westerns that do that, which I can think of off the top of my head. This film is notable for one other thing (at least one other thing I’ll mention at the start of the review) and that’s the hero. While Leone’s Man With No Name was tight lipped, he did speak. As the title indicates, the hero of The Great Silence does not speak. He is a mute. It was a risky thing to do for Corbucci, let’s see if it pays off.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
Wow, beautiful cinematography and setting right off. We see a very wide shot of our hero, Silence, played by Jean Louis Trintignant, riding his horse through the snow. He is a small speck of black in the corner of an all snow white frame.
That’s a unique pistol and holster. The holster is a wooden box and a machine pistol. I’m not sure if it’s anachronistic, but it is cool.
The stark red of the blood against the white of the snow is startling.
I like the idea that Silence only shoots in self defense and will try and show mercy. It makes him unique as a spaghetti anti-hero.
I just looked it up, apparently the gun is an “1896 7.63 mm Mauser Broomhandle”.
Ooh, I didn’t know this film had a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone! Great soundtrack, but that’s no surprise.
And there’s the villain, played by Klaus Kinski, of course. Great villain, both on and off the movie screen (seriously, great actor, but a piece of shit human).
I like that we seem to enter the story halfway through. Seriously, we plop down in the middle of Silence already protecting a group of people from bounty killers in Utah.
Man, the Governor of Utah has some killer mutton chops.
Loco, Kinski’s character, lives up to his title. He’s nuts.
Wait, a black character in a spaghetti western NOT played by Woody Strode? Say whaaaaaaa-?
Wow, that guy is eating a chicken in the grossest way possible. Seriously, like a wild boar chowing down on a meerkat (gives a whole new image to Timon and Pumba).
I’m digging the plot of this film. In most spaghettis, the bounty killer is the hero, but in this one, the outlaws are the heroes. The outlaws are all promised amnesty, so they are not bad people. They’re all probably wanted for non-violent crimes, such as not being able to pay their debts. The bounty killers are exploiting the law by collecting their bounties, dead, not alive. Literally, it’s murder for profit.
Actual quote: “Now say “good-bye” to your husband. Always respect the dead. Now pack your husband in the snow. That’ll keep him fresh till I collect his bounty. So don’t you bury him, you hear? What times we live in. Blacks worth as much as a white man.” What a great villain.
Seeing that horse trudge through the snow makes me feel really bad for the horse.
Actual quote: “Once, my husband told me of this man. He avenges our wrongs. And the bounty killers sure do tremble when he appears. They call him “Silence.” Because wherever he goes, the silence of death follows.” Badass.
I love all the extremely wide shots in spaghetti westerns. They’re used particularly well in this film, what with all the blank white of the snow.
I also like the sheriff in this film. He does seem to be all about law and order, but seems sickened by the bounty killers, notably Loco. Loco has four bodies, or bounties, when the sheriff first finds him.
Actual line: Loco: “Can’t a man provide for his old age?” Sheriff Burnett: “I don’t think you’re gonna make it.”
Some of the snow in this film is shaving cream, particularly in this scene with the snow lightly falling, but it is very realistic.
Silence’s throat has been cut, his vocal chords severed and that’s the reason he can’t speak. What are the odds, two movies in a row.
The black girl in this film, Pauline, is very pretty. I just thought I’d mention the fact. Her name apparently was Vonetta McGee.
The banker/general store owner in this film, who is the also is the reason why the citizens have become outlaw and is behind the bounty killers, is a great villain, too.
The silent acting by Trintignant is top notch. Seriously, he’s especially great in this scene with Vonvetta McGee’s character, Pauline, dresses his wounds.
Holy crap, I did not recognize Mario Brega in this film, especially with the loss of his beard.
Loco is so slimy. I love it.
Loco just shot the sheriff into a frozen lake so he and his gang can go to the mountains and hunt down the rest of the outlaws.
Ok, so the banker is going to rape Pauline because Silence shot his thumb off years ago because he was one of the ones who slit Silence’s throat and muted him. Mario Brega’s character is also crippling Silence be putting his hand in the hot fire, so Silence sticks Brega’s face in the fire and shoots the banker. Seriously violent scene.
The outlaws come back into town thinking it’s deserted, but the bounty killers are all there. Silence will have to ride to their rescue.
I don’t know what’s going on with the picture quality, but it’s cloudy and/or overly bright in quite a few of these shots near the end of the film.
The tension buildup to Silence going to the bar (plus the cinematography) is extremely well done and is very engaging.
And they just shot Silence. No preamble, no big defense, no going down in a blaze of glory saving everyone. Loco and his gang just straight up murder him in the streets. And then they shoot Pauline.
Then Loco and his gang shoot the remaining people in the bar knowing they’ll get a reward for all of them. That is a ballsy ending.
Actual quote: “There’s a bounty on each one. We’ll come back and collect on each one. All according to the law.”
To add insult to injury (or death), Loco takes Silence’s pistol and he and the gang rides off.
The film ends with this bit of text flashing across the screen: “The massacres of 1898, year of the Great Blizzard, finally brought forth fierce public condemnation of the bounty killers, who, under the guise of false legality, made violent murder a profitable way of life. For Many years there was a clapboard sign at Snow Hill which carried this legend: MEN’S BOOTS CAN KICK UP THE DUST OF THIS PLACE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS, BUT NOTHING MAN CAN EVER DO WILL WIPE OUT THE BLOOD STAINS OF THE POOR FOLK WHO FELL HERE.” Great ending.

I have a feeling this might be the best movie I watch all month. While I had a lot more fun with My Name is Nobody and They Call Me Trinity as non-Leone spaghettis (Nobody was produced and had once scene directed by Leone, though) and I think Django is an awesome flick, I gotta say, so far, this is the best one I’ve seen (again the best not directed by Leone). The story is engaging throughout, the characters are all interesting, the acting from Trintignant especially is phenomenal, the music is great, and the cinematography is beautiful.

Let me also say, the end makes the film for me, because it’s so surprising. The film ends on the most down note possible, the bad guys win, the good guys lose and die. It is an honest ending that would never have been done in Hollywood, which is a good thing. Apparently, they did shoot a “happy” ending where Burnett survives his murder by Loco, only for him to ride back into town and kill Loco, which gives Silence enough time to kill the rest of the gang. While that ending would have been fine, the unhappy ending and the fact that it turns everything on its head is amazing. I enjoy this quite a bit.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at Gorgo! See you then!


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