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As a huge lover of Italian Westerns, Sergio Corbucci is one of my favorite directors ever. Corbucci's most famous and influential film is doubtlessly the blood-soaked cult-flick "Django" of 1966, his most brilliant achievement is the dark 1968 masterpiece "Il Grande Silenzio" ("The Great Silence"). But Corbucci enriched the Spaghetti-Western genre by even more masterpieces than the aforementioned two films, such as the Mexican revolutionary Westerns "Il Mercenario" (aka. "The Mercenary", 1968) and "Vamos A Matar, Compañeros" (1970). And even his lesser known films, such as "I Crudeli" ("Hellbenders", 1967) or "Navajo Joe" (1966) stand out as gritty and great Spaghetti Westerns, which makes Corbucci the undisputed number 2 in the genre, right after Sergio Leone. This being said, Corbucci's early Western "Minesota Clay" of 1965 does not live up to his later films in the Genre. While this is by no means a bad film, it is nowhere near as cynical, gritty and memorable as Corbucci's later Westerns were, as it bears more resemblance to the traditional American 'Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys' Westerns than the masterpieces of Corbucci's later career.
The eponymous hero, Minnesota Clay (played by the great Cameron Mitchell) is not really a typical anti-hero, as he is looking partly for revenge, but mainly for justice and for an opportunity to redeem his name. The two rivaling gangs (Mexican vs. American) that control the little town where this is set resemble the premise of "Django" as well as Leone's milestone "Fistful Of Dollars" (both of which were based on Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece "Yojimbo"). Yet, "Minnesota Clay" can not nearly make as much of it as "Fistful..." and "Django". Since the aforementioned films are masterpieces, this is not to say that this film is bad, however. "Minesota Clay" is an entertaining film, without doubt. The film's main fault is probably the lack of a real anti-hero with hardly any morals. If the film had just been a little more 'evil', it could have been way better. Even though a tough guy, Minesota Clay is basically an honest man who is looking for justice, and not nowhere near as immoral as anti-heroes like The Man With No Name or Django. Yet, Cameron Mitchell gives the character a certain greatness. I've been a fan of Mitchell since I first saw Mario Bava's Giallo-milestone "Sei Donne Per L'Assassino" (aka. "Blood And Black Lace", 1964) years ago, and he once again delivers a great performance here. The sexy Ethel Rojo and Diana Martin make a nice-looking female cast and the supporting cast includes Spaghetti Western regulars Antonio Casas ("The Good, The Bad And The Ugly"), Fernando Sancho ("The Big Gundown") and Gino Pernice ("Django"). As mentioned above, this film often resembles a traditional American Western - only with a bit more violence and Spaghetti-style. The locations and photography are great and the score by Piero Piccioni is also quite nice. Overall, I would have probably rated this a 7/10 as such, but I have to detract one star as it is way inferior compared to Corbucci's later films. This is an entertaining film that my fellow Spaghetti-Western-freaks should enjoy, yet I recommend everybody to see some of Corbucci's other films before. Especially "The Great Silence" and "Django" are essential. My opinion on "Minesota Clay": 6.5/10
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