The year after Sergio Leone made the first really sucessful Italian Western, the stylised and distinctive Fistful of Dollars (1964), his friend Sergio Corbucci directed Massacre at Grand Canyon. 1965 was a defining year for the genre - producers had realised the
potential for shooting Westerns in Europe, but audiences had not come
to accept it yet and filmmakers were wary of doing anything to mark
their film out as a European production, so the ambience and storylines
remained the same as the Classic American Westerns, actors and
directors names were changed to make them look more American and
actors were imported from the States to get a marquee name on the
back in his hometown after a lengthy absence, Wes Evans (James Mitchum)
discovers that a feud has broken out between two families, the
Whitmores and the Dancers, with the town caught in the middle. He is
shocked to discover that his childhood sweetheart, thinking him dead,
has married one of the Dancer clan. A group of the townsmen head up to
attack the Dancer ranch, and get caught in a shootout in a canyon - it
is up to Wes to try and keep the peace and save Nancy...
In keeping with the Classic American Western feel of the film, the
storyline is very basic - a man (not a pure hero but not quite an anti-hero) trying to keep
the peace between two quarrelsome factions and trying to save the
woman, with the usual family ties in there as well. There are some
hints of what Corbucci was to do next - the lead character is
enigmatic, a great shot and interested in keeping the peace over any
loyalty to factions, but don't expect any big twists, politics or moral
debates in this film, its just straight forward Western. Pacing is
pretty standard, although there are big gaps between the shootouts that
might bore the action junkies. The film builds to a dramatic, but
ultimately predictable conclusion.
with the storyline, Corbucci directs this film in a pretty standard
way, his trademark 'look under the rim of a hat' shot and distinctive
gunfight angles are missing but he does go in for some good handheld
shooting during a fist-fight sequence. Ultimately this film is your
standard Western with some decent looking sets, a well mounted
climactic gun battle and some good location
shoots - most interesting is the fact that the film was shot in
Jugoslavia, which at the time was being used by various German film
crews shooting the popular Karl May Westerns, but would rarely be used
by the Italian Westerns. The soundtrack from composer Gianni Ferrio is
European and American influences, with a Spaghetti-style opening song
but a standard American Western soundtrack for the rest of the picture.
was common at the time, helping the film to masquerade as
American production, Sergio Corbucci is credited as Stanley
and an American Western actor is brought in for the lead role - James
Mitchum (son of legendary actor Robert Mitchum) gives a competent but
rather flat performance here. Betraying its European roots is the
selection of familiar character actors including George Ardisson (star
of Mario Bava's Viking adventure Gli Invasori
(1961)) in a rare bad-guy role that he really seems to relish, and
Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (who appeared in Mario Bava's horror film Kill, Baby, Kill
(1966)) as the town sheriff, while fans of the Karl May Westerns should
recognise Vladimir Medar who plays the leader of the Whitmore gang.
Massacre at Grand Canyon
is a very average Western with little to distinguish it - only the
familar character actors give away the film's European roots - but it
solidly produced and rarely dull, and should entertain most Western
fans looking for films of the quality of his later productions will be probably be
Anyone famous in it?
James Mitchum - son of actor Robert and star of little known war film Ambush Bay (1966) and a few Westerns.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Sergio Corbucci one of the best directors of the Spaghetti Western era who also shot the iconic Django (1966) and the political/comic masterpiece Companeros (1970).
Who is it for?
Western fans should find it somewhat enjoyable but very different to most Cobucci and Spaghetti Westerns.
1.85:1 non-anamorphic wide-screen. Colour. Most
of the print is strong, with good colour and detail but some notable
speckles. In one short scene the print quality is much lower, VHS
English and German tracks - mono. (English track is not specified on the DVD case) Both tracks sound fine, some hiss and crackling. The German track has a different musical soundtrack of stock themes (suggesting it was probably dubbed later).
Main feature - 1hr 25m 38s
The disc includes:
Original Trailer. English language. Very low print quality (3m 31s)
Poster/pressbook gallery - automatic scrolling with music - 4 images (0m 56s)
Still photo gallery (modern photos of the locations used in the film) - automatic scrolling with music (1m 10s)
German release. DVD Title: Keinen Cent für Ringos Kopf
Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
film is believed to be fully uncut. Print used is Italian, with Italian
language credits and title, although the German title has been
digitally (and rather shoddily) added to the opening credit sequence.
A very average film with solid
production but nothing that stands out. With many better SWs out there,
this is not particularly recommended.
A mostly strong print with a decent English track. Non-anamorphic and light on features.