• Great Silence, The



    Released by: Fantoma
    Released on: September 4, 2001
    Director: Sergio Corbucci
    Cast: Klaus Kinski, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Vonetta McGee, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli
    Year: 1968
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    The Movie:

    While director Sergio Corbucci is probably best remembered for his comic bookish masterpiece Django, he made an equally great film that remains far too under appreciated with The Great Silence.


    Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a mute gunslinger named Silence who finds himself in a remote mountain town under the thumb of a gang of sadistic bounty hunters led by the despicable and racist Loco, played by Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu, Agguire – The Wrath of God).


    The bounty hunters are making a nice living off of picking off the gang of tormented outlaws that are hiding out in the snow-swept mountains surrounding the town. But when Silence gets caught in between the two parties, things turn ugly and get a lot more complicated and he ends up having to make some less than obvious moral choices as the line between right and wrong becomes more and more indecipherable.


    Even more so here than in Django, Corbucci uses the bleak and hopeless surroundings to further his story and drag you into his world. Whereas before it was a muddy, gray, rotten old town, this time it’s a harsh, white winter that takes center stage and almost becomes a character in the movie itself. The cinematography further serves to hammer this home, as each camera movement and setup effectively captures its environment.


    With a great crew of supporting actors including Frank Wolff (McBain from Once Upon A Time In The West), Luigi Pistilli (For A Few Dollars More) and Vonetta McGee (from Alex Cox’s Repo Man and also Shaft In Africa), the cast is quite well rounded, but the film really belongs to Kinski and Trintignant.


    While Kinski is well known for over acting and his insane antics both in front of and behind the camera, he plays it a little more subtly here with a lot less yelling and a lot more menace. And all the better for the film, as I don’t feel that the role would have been better served by his frequent outbursts and tantrums. Trintignant on the other hand gives on of the greatest silent performances in the history of the western, saying more with his solemn eyes and facial expressions than most are capable of with all the dialogue in the world. The amazing thing about these two in this film is how easy they both make it look. Neither one of them ever seems strained or unnatural in their respective positions within the film, all the while adding a grim sense of realism atypical for a Spaghetti Western.


    Climaxing with one of the bleakest and coldest finales ever filmed in the genre, The Great Silence is a masterpiece of foreboding gloom and a fascinating character study of sorts that looks deep into the depths of moral ambiguity and the violence of man.


    Audio/Video/Extras:

    The English Dolby Digital Mono track is pretty decent. For the most part dialogue comes in nice and clear over the sound effects and Morricone’s wonderfully ethereal score. There’s a touch of hiss every now and then, but overall, Fantoma has done a good job on the audio portion of this release.


    For this release Fantoma has created a brand new digital widescreen transfer presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.66.1. While there is a bit of print damage evident, the transfer itself is very crisp and free of the dreaded compression artifacts during the darker scenes, of which there are a few. Contrast and detail are sharp and look to be dead on, which is important considering how much of the film takes place in the snow.


    Included on the disc as supplements are some well-written liner notes from Alex Cox (Straight To Hell, Repo Man), which shed some light on the genesis of the film, and it’s cast and crew. They’re informative and interesting to read. Cox also contributes a nice video interview as well, and although it goes over a little bit of the same information as his liners, is still very much worth watching as there are quite a few new tidbits included here as well.


    The films theatrical trailer is likewise on the disc, but more importantly, Fantoma has included the alternate ‘happy ending’ to the film, that was originally intended to be used for it’s theatrical release in North America and Asia.


    The Final Word:

    Fantoma has done a wonderful job with an unsung classic of the genre. For fans of Spaghetti Westerns, The Great Silence should be a mandatory purchase.