• Great Silence, The

    Released by: Film Movement
    Released on: June 5th, 2018.
    Director: Sergio Corbucci
    Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Luigi Pistilli, Vonetta McGee
    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 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.


    The Great Silence was previously released on DVD from Fantoma years back and then got a Japanese Blu-ray release in 2013 from TC Entertainment. The DVD release is obviously an older format (and it was non-anamorphic) but that TC Entertainment disc? We reviewed it here and it was awful. This new restored release from Film Movement is, thankfully, a substantial improvement even if it has a few quirks of its own. Detail is pretty strong here and while colors do look a little flat in spots, much of that has to do with the bleak scheme that Corbucci and company opted for. Black levels are strong, if a stop or two away from reference quality, while skin tones look nice and lifelike. The image is very clean, free of all but the tiniest bits of print damage, the 50GB disc offering lots of breathing room (the feature takes up just over 28GBs of space) yet minor compression artifacts do show up here and there. It does look like maybe some light DNR has been applied, this is hardly a wax-fest but things do look a tad smooth in spots, but this is still a pretty strong transfer. The weirdest thing is there are moments in the movie where a sort of checkered pattern is visible, mostly against darker clothing - likely caused by some sort of filter applied to the camera. This doesn’t happen all the time, but during the conversation around the six-minute mark it definitely is, you can see it in this screen cap. It's more noticeable here than it was on past editions.

    Audio options are provided in both Dolby Digital Mono English and LPCM Mono Italian tracks. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The subtitles are not a direct translation of the English dialogue, they appear to be proper subtitles rather than dubtitles (without being able to speak Italian I can’t say for sure but it stands to reason). The fact that the English track is lossy will be an annoyance for some and there was more than enough room left on the disc to give it an LPCM option, but the film does play quite a bit better in Italian. The English track sounds fine for what it is but it is a bit on the thin side whereas the Italian mix does have more to it, particularly when it comes to how it handles Morricone’s excellent score. Both tracks are clean, free of any hiss or distortion, and properly balanced.

    In the fifteen-minute Cox on Corbucci, filmmaker and author Alex Cox gives us an overview of Sergio Corbucci’s career – with the proper outfit on, of course – putting him into context along the other Sergio’s, they being Leone and Solima. He notes how Corbucci and Leone were friends, how they were both influenced by Yojimbo resulting in For A Fistful Of Dollars and then Corbucci’s own westerns which (sometimes) got better as they went along, eventually culminating with Django, which was obviously a huge hit. From there, Cox goes on to express his thoughts on The Great Silence, what makes it work, it’s infamous ending, why there were two alternate endings made, and the film’s spotty distribution. Cox then discusses the pictures that Corbucci made after this one, some of which were good and others… not so good. Cox is always a lot of fun to listen to, he’s very well-versed in Spaghetti Westerns and he knows what he’s talking about but he’s able to deliver his thoughts in an articulate style and with a sense of humor.

    Up next, the thirty-eight minute Western, Italian Style, a 1968 documentary by Lars Bloch on Italian westerns that is highlighted by some great behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of The Great Silence. Aside from that, the piece talks about how Eastwood’s involvement in Italian westerns became a big marketing tactic, how and why Italian names were changed to anglicized names and then, sometimes, back again once the movies took off. There’s talk of the popularity of the Ringo films, why westerns are popular in Italy and abroad. A young Enzo G. Castellari shows up here, talking about how the public dictates a film’s success or failure and how westerns provide enjoyable escapism. Still, the highlights here are the clips and interviews shot on the set of The Great Silence, where most of the key cast and crew members are featured.

    From there, we get two alternate endings – some spoilers will follow. The first features an optional commentary from Alex Cox and runs two-minutes in length. This is basically a ‘happy ending’ where Silence makes it out alive thanks to his armor plated hand. The second one runs just over four-minutes. Here Silence confronts Loco and his gang who are holding a bunch of people hostage and it doesn’t end well for him.

    The disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer as well as the 2018 re-release trailer, bonus trailers for a host of other Film Movement properties, menus and chapter selection. Included inside the case is an insert booklet that contains a new essay about the film penned by film critic Simon Abrams.

    The Final Word:

    The Great Silence remains one of the finest Spaghetti Westerns ever made, a grim and unflinching picture, one that paints a pretty grim picture of the world but which is masterfully told. Film Movement’s Blu-ray release offers up a good way to see it with some solid extras thrown in for good measure.

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