A mute gunfighter defends a young widow and a group of outlaws against a gang of bounty killers in the winter of 1898, and a grim, tense struggle unfolds.A mute gunfighter defends a young widow and a group of outlaws against a gang of bounty killers in the winter of 1898, and a grim, tense struggle unfolds.A mute gunfighter defends a young widow and a group of outlaws against a gang of bounty killers in the winter of 1898, and a grim, tense struggle unfolds.
The circumstances leading up to this showdown should, in a more conventional western, be pretty clean-cut. But what's impressive, if almost a little circumstantial, is that Corbucci puts in little unconventional markers along the way: the high-drama scene where Silence gets his hand burnt by a goon as foreshadowing for the ominous bounty hunter massacre, and for those little moments when life seems so easily killed off, particularly at the start. Silence, like in a Leone film, does have something of a gimmick as a killer, as he shoots off the thumbs of his targets. But Corbucci's drama isn't keened on incredible suspense sequences in operatic form or gallows humor. Even a sex scene for Corbucci has a tenderness to it that feels the work of someone trying to break out of squarely B-movie extremities and trying for something more. If it isn't altogether successful it's attributable to flaws scattered around: random 'soft-lighting' in the last act that is very distracting, a couple of plot points not totally clear even by the end, and Kinski looking sometimes like a pretty boy as much as a sadistic bounty hunter, plus Corbucci's tendencies to favor close-ups for more formulaic means as opposed to drawing out deeper emotions through a more keen system.
But even with Corbucci not being a 'great' director, he has a keen eye for Utah (if it is Utah, which it probably isn't), and the vast vistas of snow and fields in a plain sight that contrasts the sort of void sucking the characters in with the hopeless center of bounty hunters without the strongest opponent. And Morricone, as if it was like breathing, fleshes out scenes so well with his beautiful score, only slightly below the magnificence of a Leone picture. You may feel by the end that it's not the prettiest western you've ever seen, but it has that possibility in its low-budget blood-stained manner to stay with you long after it's over.
- Jul 5, 2007