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Lee Van Cleef,
Cameron Mitchell escapes a prison camp and hunts for the man who withheld vital evidence
"Minnesota Clay" is an early spaghetti western, dating from 1964. According to my list, which is incomplete but representative, there were a few westerns and spaghetti western precursors made in Europe before this time. I list 3 in 1959, 2 in 1960, 7 in 1961, 7 in 1962, 19 in 1963 and 9 in 1964. These years include some German and Spanish entries along the lines of Winnetou, Shatterhand and Zorro pictures, so "Minnesota Clay" really is an early entry.
With an American star, Cameron Mitchell, and straightforward story momentum and direction, but with foreign cast, foreign sights, and spaghetti story elements, it comes across as a mixture of American and Italian westerns. Without the big flourishes or exaggerations that came later and without a big music score, these too make it a toned down effort.
One spaghetti genre characteristic that is present is the hunt for revenge and justice. That occurs later frequently. But the main character is a sympathetic man who has been wrongly sent to a prison camp. He's not ambiguous, and that goes back to American westerns. Another spaghetti genre characteristic is that he's on the threshold of blindness. In fact the major gunfights require him to use his hearing. This sort of thing looks forward to more unusual characters and heroes to come as the genre matured. There's a rough Mexican bandit in here and that too became a spaghetti genre staple. There's the beauteous Mexican girl who has shifting loyalties. This too frequently was to occur subsequently.
Overall, it's a good western, but not an exceptional one or a masterpiece.
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