‘The Great Silence’ (1967)

Spaghetti Western director Sergio Corbucci (Navajo Joe) returned to the genre with 1967’s The Great Silence, a downbeat but powerful film now available from Greenwich Library on DVD & Hoopla.  Here’s the original European trailer for the film:

Set in a snowbound Utah in the year 1898, Silence focuses on the title character, a mute gunslinger (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who’s hired to bring to justice the sadistic bounty hunter Loco (Klaus Kinski).  Loco and his band take pleasure in killing outlaws wanted dead or alive, but after they murder the husband of Pauline (Vonetta McGee), she hired Silence.  Aside from being mute, however, Silence is also renowned for never firing the first shot in a gunfight, preferring to goad others to fire first.  He’s also got revenge of his own in mind, against the corrupt town boss Policut (Luigi Pistilli, who looks like a cranky Stephen Colbert), whose thumbs Silence shot off years before in exchange for Pollicut’s part in the murder of his (Silence’s) parents. But things take an abrupt turn once Loco figures out just how to (mild spoiler alert) take down Silence.

Remember all those great westerns where Clint Eastwood or somebody else would just ride into town & fix everything? Sure they might pocket some change for their work, but the audience knew the protagonist would wipe out the evil villains. Well, The Great Silence never gives its audience that kind of anticipated assurance.  Here, bounty hunters are ruthless killers who enjoy their work, the townspeople are (unjustly) fugitives from the law, the new local sheriff (Frank Wolff) is sympathetic but useless, and Silence himself, with his need to play fair, winds up tragically outmatched.  Even the brief romance between Silence and Pauline offers no escape from the horrors of Loco and a law enforcement system that’s stacked against any decent person.

Compelling but heartbreaking, with good performances, a great musical score by Ennio Morricone, and some dazzling photography by Silvano Ippoliti (who makes the frozen surroundings look bleak as hell), The Great Silence is must view!

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