The Great Silence (1969)

a.k.a Il Grande Silenzio
Klaus Kinski and Frank Wolff star in this highly impressive Spaghetti Western from genre stalwart Sergio Corbucci. Eureka UK R0 release.


The Film

A lonely figure rides though the snow, watching him are bounty-hunters; stopping, he watches for a moment and before they have a chance to shoot, all the bounty hunters are dead. A band of outlaws is hiding in the forests each with a bounty on their heads, unable to reach food they called in the victorious gunman, Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant) a mute killer of bounty hunters. In and around the town of Snow Hill, Utah, there are dozens of bounty hunters going after the outlaws, in particular the vicious Tigrero (Klaus Kinski). The state governor plans an amnesty on the outlaws to put an end to the bounty-hunter trade, and sends Sheriff Burnett (Frank Wolff) to the town to keep the peace until then. The angry widow of one of Tigrero's victims calls on Silence to kill him and Burnett has to contend with two killers in town trying to lure their opponent into making a mistake...

The Great Silence is undoubtedly one of the very best films in the Spaghetti Western cycle. Co-written by Sergio Corbucci himself, it harks back to the director's iconic Django (1966) in the way that it twists the genre to offer a completely unique experience. The storyline is slowly paced and offers very little gunplay or action throughout its runtime, prefering instead to build up the main three characters and the background storyline. The storyline is not completely effective, the character of Pollicut could certainly use a little more explanation while the revenge storyline added by the flashbacks could be considered rather unnecessary to the plot. The tone throughout is grim and bordering on purely nihilistic, only a couple of very brief moments could rank as lighthearted and their comedy is certainly dark, the infamous climax and ending really fit in with the style.

As with the storyline, Corbucci has returned to the visual style of Django (1966), shooting in a 1.66:1 frame that gives the film a much closer and more personal feel than the typical scope widescreen westerns. From the opening shot The Great Silence is entirely snow-bound and like the muddy setting of Django (1966) it twists the accepted genre convention of sandy plains and dusty hills. Corbucci's strong direction serves the film well, and several of his trademarks are visible - in particular the furious close-up work during gun-fights and profile shots of the 'hero'. The intense soundtrack is credited to Ennio Morricone, although parts of it certainly sound like they were composed by his partner Bruno Nicholai, the music fits the film very well and in keeping with the dark tone of the production it eschews the jolly songs that accompanied most Spaghetti Westerns in favour of an orchestral score that helps to build tension.

Klaus Kinski was notoriously hard to work with and often found himself cast in minor roles - here he gets a rare chance to play a major character and gives a standout performance as the villaneous Tigrero. In his only Western appearance, French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant is an odd casting as Silence but plays the role very well, managing to convey a menacing presence and a strong anti-heroic air. The tragic Frank Wolff plays the well-meaning sheriff and the rest of the cast are familiar faces with plenty of veteran euro-cinema supporting actors.

Uniquely grim and nihilistic, The Great Silence was often immitated but never bettered and ranks as one of the true masterworks of the Spaghetti Western and Euro-cult cinema in general. It comes highly recommended to fans and newcomers to the Spaghetti Western and is a must see film for any fans of Klaus Kinski or Sergio Corbucci.

In Brief:

Anyone famous in it? Klaus Kinski - The legendary German actor who starred in over 100 cult films including Venus in Furs (1969)
Frank Wolff - An American actor who made his name in Italian cinema from Westerns to Crime films.
Jean-Louis Trintignant - A star of numerous art-house films including A Man and a Woman (1966)
Directed by anyone interesting? Sergio Corbucci one of the best directors of the Spaghetti Western era he produced the iconic Django (1966) as well as the grim Hellbenders (1967)
Any violence/gore? Some very bloody death scenes.
Any sex? A short topless and sex scene.
Good soundtrack?A strong orchestral track from Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicholai.
Who is it for?
Highly recommened to fans of the Spaghetti Westerns, Klaus Kinski or Sergio Corbucci.


Visuals 1.66:1 non-anamorphic wide-screen. Colour.
The print quality varies throughout (see images above), there is minimal grain or print damage but colour and detail levels vary. Never unwatchable.
Audio English and Italian tracks - mono.
Both tracks sound fine although the English has more hiss.
Subtitles English
Note: English titles translate the Italian soundtrack.
Run TimeMain feature - 1hr 41m 00s
Extras The disc includes:
  • Alternate ending to the film, good PQ but no audio  (1m 53s)
  • Original Trailer. VHS print quality (3m 37s)
Region Region 0 (UK) - PAL
Other regions? Various releases of this film:
American Image/Fantoma DVD includes commentary for the alternate ending and liner notes, but no Italian audio track.
French and German DVDs have more features, but no English options.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. Print used is Italian, with Italian language credits and title.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 2nd July 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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