• Great Silence, The (Blu-ray)

    Great Silence, The
    Released by: TC Entertainment
    Released on: February 6, 2013.
    Director: Sergio Corbucci
    Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Luigi Pistilli, Vonetta McGee
    Year: 1968

    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 underappreciated with The Great Silence. A bleak and sometimes depressing film, it remains a powerful viewing experience, the sort that should be enhanced by a quality Blu-ray presentation. More on that in a few paragraphs.

    In the film, French leading man 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. The leader of this gang is the despicable and racist Loco, played by Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu, Agguire – The Wrath of God), a bastard of a man with a penchant, even a talent, for cruelty. Shortly after his arrival in town, Silence gets involved with a woman named Pauline (Vonetta McGee), a beautiful woman whose husband was murdered by Loco and who is more than happy to pay Silence whatever she can if he can provide her with justice.

    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 and they don’t intend to let a good thing end so easily. When Silence gets caught in between the two parties, things turn ugly and get a lot more complicated. As one thing leads to another, 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 with this film than with 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, which in turns helps the audience to realize just how bleak and remote the setting is for the film.

    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 it’s hard to imagine that the role would have been better served by his frequent outbursts and tantrums. Trintignant on the other hand gives one 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 all look, both have an impressive naturalness to their work in this picture that makes it entirely believable. Neither one of them ever seems strained or out of character 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.


    Hopes were understandably high amongst Spaghetti Western fans when word got out that a Japanese company would be releasing it on Blu-ray. The older domestic DVD release from Fantoma looked okay for its day but it was a non-anamorphic release and the film is one that definitely deserved a nice high definition upgrade. Unfortunately this release from TC Entertainment isn’t it. While the movie is presented in its proper aspect ratio of 1.66.1 it’s presented in 1080i AVC encoded high definition, not full 1080p. While this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for some (the interlacing is much more pronounced in the screen caps than it is in when the image is in motion), insult is added to injury when we see the actual picture quality itself, which doesn’t offer much of an upgrade over that older DVD release at all. Colors are washed out and muddy and while this isn’t a very bright film in the first place, they’re definitely faded here. Detail and texture are surprisingly poor and the whole thing looks waxy and poorly defined. Faces have no pores, fur coats look like they’re made out of plastic and there are compression artifacts and other encoding anomalies noticeable from start to finish. It would have been one thing if this had been an unrestored transfer of battered materials that retained some semblance of film like quality but the screen caps give you a pretty good idea of how this all turned out, and as you can see, it isn’t pretty.

    Audio options are provided in Italian (which is the track the disc defaults to), English and Japanese in DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles provided in Japanese only – which means you’re basically stuck with the English track here unless you speak Japanese or Italian. The audio doesn’t sound vastly improved over the DVD release but it’s fine for what it is. Levels are properly balanced and whatever hiss or distortion does creep into the mix is pretty easy to get past. Ennio Morricone’s score sounds good, though you can’t help but wonder how it might have sounded if it had been given a nicely mastered DTS-HD 5.1 mix. That didn’t happen but the mono track, as unremarkable as it is, is fine.

    There are some extras of note here, the first of which is the infamous alternate ‘happy ending’ that fans of the film will have seen before. Its inclusion here is important as an example of how the film could have been – the ending on the feature is far more appropriate but this is a great curiosity item. We also get some English language opening credits, an English language theatrical trailer and a German theatrical trailer and a text scrawl explaining some background information on the bounty killers. Also included is a still gallery of promotional art and a 5:39 interview with Nori Corbucci, Sergio’s widow. It’s presented in Italian with Japanese subtitles, and as such isn’t English friendly. Menus and chapter stops are included and all of the extras on the disc are presented in standard definition. Inside the admittedly very nice packaging for this release is an insert booklet containing some art and text relating to the film, but not surprisingly it too is all in Japanese.

    The Final Word:

    One of the finest and bleakest Spaghetti Westerns ever made, The Great Silence really does deserve better treatment than it’s received on this Blu-ray from TC Entertainment. The movie itself holds up nicely and you can’t fault a Japanese disc for not subtitling the extras in English but the transfer, which for most will be the main reason to want this disc in the first place, is pretty dire. Hopefully the film is given better treatment by a studio able to give it the proper high definition treatment that it deserves, because this isn’t it.

    Special thanks to Horace Cordier for supplying the Blu-ray for review.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I really like this movie. Those caps don't look very good, though.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I'll stick with the Eureka DVD: it's anamorphic and has English subtitles for the Italian track. The English dub isn't terrible, but I think the film works much better in its Italian version (the fanaticism of Tigrero/Kinski is made more prominent in the Italian version, making him a fairly clear cypher for Italy's fascist past) - and so, for me, the inclusion of English subtitles for the Italian track will pretty much be a 'deal breaker' for any Blu release of this film. It's a beautiful film, though - not just one of my favourite Italian Westerns, but also one of my favourite films ever made.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Paul, agreed. Love this movie way too much. It needs a proper Blu-ray release and this isn't it. Not worth the money if you have a past DVD release. If you don't... then maybe as some of the older versions are OOP. Eureka should step up to the plate with this one. I have three Blu's from them and each one is of very nice quality.
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      Excellent review as usual, Ian. It's been noted and linked to at the SWDB forum. What a bitter disappointment this disc is, and for me, ONE SILVER DOLLAR even more so as it's one of my all time favs. Morricone's score for SILENCE is one of the most beautiful things he ever did, not just in the sw genre but covering his entire body of work. I just hope that one day some company will do this film justice on BD.
    1. Horace Cordier's Avatar
      Horace Cordier -
      I plunked out for it and while I don't exactly regret it I would NOT recommend this release for anyone other than the hardest of the hardcore. I'm less disappointed in the DAY OF ANGER due to its unavailability for less than crazy money even used and the fact that Wild East's DVD isn't even anamorphic.