Also directed by Sergio Corbucci, The Great Silence is considered his greatest achievement. While Sergio Leone portrayed the Old West as a gritty place filled with morally ambivalent figures, Corbucci's Old West was a darker dog-eat-dog world.
Once again, spaghetti westerns were known for taking the myth out of the romantic west. The next spaghetti western on this list strays so far from regular western conventions that it's often called an “anti-western.”
Taking place in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains of Utah, The Great Silence is a tale about the evils of capitalism with tragic heroes fighting against unstoppable forces. Here, we see a cold west where common people have become outlaws. It has become a bounty hunter's picnic, and the corpses are piling up all around the town of Snow Hill. But then, somewhere in the mountains, there rides another man, and wherever he goes, the silence of death follows. French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant plays the satirically-mute gunslinger Silence, who hunts down, not outlaws, but bounty hunters, whom he provokes so he can claim self-defense.
But the character who steals the show is antagonistic bounty killer Loco (played by out-of-control German actor Klaus Kinski). Like Silence, a trail of death follows him. This man's obsession for profit grows so large that the bodies start to include innocent bystanders and law enforcement. And when Sheriff Gideon Burnett starts bringing law and order, which puts bounty hunters out of business, nights in the town of Snow Hill get even darker.
Controversial for its bleak tone and graphic violence, The Great Silence received praise for its acting, the utilization of the snowbound landscapes, its tragic musical score by Ennio Morricone, and its subversion of western conventions. But the most infamous part of The Great Silence is its shocking ending. Corbucci was forced by film producers to shoot another more "happy” ending for the North African markets.
Sadly, Corbucci didn't have much of a happy ending himself. After the spaghetti phase died down, he switched over to comedies, which were not commercially successful. Corbucci soon faded into obscurity and for many years after his death, he was merely considered an exploitation director. However, his cult status continues to grow every year, and his spaghetti westerns, with their sadistic antiheroes and scenes of brutality, have been cited as setting a new level of violence in westerns.
Of all his pictures, The Great Silence is considered his magnum opus. It is worthy to stand out among other spaghetti westerns for its complete anti-approach to the western tale.
Trivia: Unlike most spaghetti westerns, which were filmed in the Almeria province of Spain, The Great Silence was filmed in Italy, primarily near ski resorts of the Italian Dolomites. Yet, for scenes involving the town of Snow Hill, not much snow was around. So Corbucci and his crew used shaving cream. Many scenes were filmed at night, or with fog in the background during the day, in order to cover up the green countryside.
Editor's note: The next section will be followed sometime next week.