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Author Topic: The Great Silence / Il grande silenzio (Sergio Corbucci 1968)  (Read 15911 times)

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GREAT SILENCE, THE 1968- IL GRANDE SILENZIO

Jean Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Vonetta McGee, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli

Sergio Corbucci’s best, IMO about a mysterious gunfighter named Silence who is after a gang of ruthless bounty hunters using the law as a means to masquerade their murder sprees.

One of the most downbeat and depressing cinematic experiences you’re ever likely to see. Even knowing how the film ends still does not prepare you for its power to shock you into a numbing state of doubt at what you have seen. Frank Wolff plays the law abiding sheriff and the only character outside of Silence who could be a foil for the bad guys.

Klaus Kinski in his greatest western performance as the lead heavy shows what he can do as the psychotic killer Loco (El Tigrero in the Italian version). He dominates the film and nearly succeeds in making it HIS film. Kinski is a deceitful and deceptive man who uses the notion of bounties for the good of the law as a means to cover up his gleefully murderous tendencies. He uses tricks to lure out his prey and even tortures some before killing to gain information. He is a sadistic killer with a free roaming license for mass slaughter with a personality that cries out for a bounty to be (rightfully) placed on his own head. But his character is calculating and cunning biding his time before the more difficult kills. Never is Loco's true villainous side more apparent than in the scene where the sheriff sees him for what he is and attempts to transfer Loco to prison. Only Loco has other plans for the sheriff.

There really isn't a lot to say for Trintignant. He is fine in the role which doesn't require him to speak but he is a memorable presence when he is in his imposing garb and brandishing his unusual pistol. The only times that Silence is brutally effective is when his gun is in his hand. Outside of this, he is a very vulnerable hero. Again, the finale involving Silence and his fateful appointment with Loco is one of the most emotionally powerful sequences I've ever seen. Even to reveal what happens doesn't do the scene justice.

A ferocious and callous film that goes against the grain refusing to allow good to triumph over evil. A bonafide gothic horror western similar in look to Mario Bava’s ‘Wurdulak’ segment in his THREE FACES OF FEAR. From the costuming to the overall sense of fear and dread. It certainly seems likely that Corbucci may have channeled Bava's classic during the shoot.

The first Italian western to be shot entirely in a snow bound location, this adds to the desolate and isolated feeling of hopelessness the film forces upon you. The scenes shot on studio sets utilizing fake snow lend the film a fairy tale quality that does not deviate from the atmosphere of dread brought on by the expansive scenes of the elements pounding the characters into madness or death.

At the behest of nervous producers, Corbucci was asked to shoot an alternate ending for other markets that would not tolerate such a brutal finish. According to Howard Hughes exhaustive book ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE ITALIAN WEST, there was a rumor that Clint Eastwood was going to remake the film but nothing ever came of it. The film failed in Italy but was successful in Germany and France but could not secure US distribution.

During the production of the film, Kinski had an ongoing affair with the lead actress Vonetta McGee whom, according to his autobiography, was also lusted after (but to no avail) by Marlon Brando during the same time.

Also of note considering the popularity of Italo westerns in Japan, there was a TV show in Japan in 1973 entitled THE MUTE SAMURAI that ran for 26 episodes which is EXTREMELY similar in tone to the film THE GREAT SILENCE. An incredibly violent and bleak series with a similar storyline to SILENCE. It's also amazing what the Japanese can get away with on television. This show is also recommended if you are a fan of samurai cinema.

THE GREAT SILENCE has FINALLY, after so many years, been making the rounds on US cable television being seen on IFC and reportedly, the Encore Western Channel. Simply the highest recommendation.
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Jonny

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I'm pretty certain that I heard that Trintignant's character wasn't originally supposed to be a mute and that it was written into the screenplay due to Trintignant having difficulty with the language barrier, he couldn't speak English or Italian. Anyone heard this before?
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LANZETTA

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I'm pretty certain that I heard that Trintignant's character wasn't originally supposed to be a mute and that it was written into the screenplay due to Trintignant having difficulty with the language barrier, he couldn't speak English or Italian. Anyone heard this before?
That story sounds familiar.I'll see if there's anything mentioned about this in Howard Hughes ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE ITALIAN WEST.
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R-T-C Tim

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I wouldn't have thought that would be a problem, everyone was post-dubbed anyway.

I love the film, ranking it as one of my favourite Spaghetti Westerns (although not one you want to watch too often). The British DVD is best (amazingly), with the superior Italian soundtrack alongside the English one. (My DVD review - The Great Silence).

If you watch the SW documentary Westerns Italian Style, there is some great behind the scenes footage of this film - it is on the Blue Underground USA "Run, Man, Run" DVD or the Koch Media Germany "Spara, Gringo, Spara" DVD.
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Jonny

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I wouldn't have thought that would be a problem, everyone was post-dubbed anyway.

Fair point, I'm just voicing a niggling thought that I had in my head...
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IL COMMISSARIO

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I wouldn't have thought that would be a problem, everyone was post-dubbed anyway.

I love the film, ranking it as one of my favourite Spaghetti Westerns (although not one you want to watch too often). The British DVD is best (amazingly), with the superior Italian soundtrack alongside the English one. (My DVD review - The Great Silence).

If you watch the SW documentary Westerns Italian Style, there is some great behind the scenes footage of this film - it is on the Blue Underground USA "Run, Man, Run" DVD or the Koch Media Germany "Spara, Gringo, Spara" DVD.


A great doc that one! Wasn't Chuck Conners narrating as well? Haven't watched it in some time.
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Mart85

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It was Frank Wolff who narrated it.  Though Chuck Conners does crop up in a interview.
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The Hunchback

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It was Frank Wolff who narrated it.  Though Chuck Conners does crop up in a interview.



which reminds me, I have to see the Chuck Connor's spaghetti western "kill them all and come back alone" directed by Casterllari.
My dvd is hard to watch though. :(
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LANZETTA

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I'm pretty certain that I heard that Trintignant's character wasn't originally supposed to be a mute and that it was written into the screenplay due to Trintignant having difficulty with the language barrier, he couldn't speak English or Italian. Anyone heard this before?
Yes Howard Hughes hints at this story in his book saying about the French production company Les Films Corona wanted Trintignant in the movie,the problem being he couldn't speak English "but Sergio Corbucci hit upon a foolproof idea-a mute hero".

Still if Leone managed to film FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with actors speaking English,German and Italian lines i cannot see why Trintignant only speaking French was a problem. :(
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IL COMMISSARIO

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Also, these movies were always marketed with US audiences in mind which is why the films would often be shot in english and the actors that could not speak the language would fake it even just mumbling the alphabet or mouthing off numbers which would have the english dialog dubbed in later.
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LANZETTA

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Re: The Great Silence/Il grande silenzio (Sergio Corbucci 1968)
« Reply #10 on: 10 Jul 2007 - 12:02 »

This discussions begs the question,did Frenchman Johnny Halliday speak English dialogue in Corbucci's THE SPECIALISTS?

I'd like to know a lot more about Corbucci's lesser known sw's and its about time someone wrote a book about him and his movies. >:(
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Jonny

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Re: The Great Silence/Il Grande Silenzio (Sergio Corbucci 1968)
« Reply #11 on: 10 Jul 2007 - 14:43 »

I'm pretty certain that I heard that Trintignant's character wasn't originally supposed to be a mute and that it was written into the screenplay due to Trintignant having difficulty with the language barrier, he couldn't speak English or Italian. Anyone heard this before?
Yes Howard Hughes hints at this story in his book saying about the French production company Les Films Corona wanted Trintignant in the movie,the problem being he couldn't speak English "but Sergio Corbucci hit upon a foolproof idea-a mute hero".

Result! Thanks for tracking that info down Lanzetta! I knew I hadn't imagined it!
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Mart85

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Re: The Great Silence/Il Grande Silenzio (Sergio Corbucci 1968)
« Reply #12 on: 10 Jul 2007 - 16:09 »

Still if Leone managed to film FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with actors speaking English,German and Italian lines i cannot see why Trintignant only speaking French was a problem. :(

Yeah, on the set of THE GREAT SILENCE he even says himself it isn't a problem in that documentary that's on one of the BU DVDs.  Just gets them to count, he says ''it's all the same.  That's why I hate wetserns''.
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LANZETTA

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Re: The Great Silence/Il Grande Silenzio (Sergio Corbucci 1968)
« Reply #13 on: 10 Jul 2007 - 16:19 »

Yeah, on the set of THE GREAT SILENCE he even says himself it isn't a problem in that documentary that's on one of the BU DVDs.  Just gets them to count, he says ''it's all the same.  That's why I hate wetserns''.
Yes thats on the sw documenaty on the RUN MAN RUN dvd.

Corbucci even imported several  gallons of shaving foam to provide snow in that western town. :-X
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Vito Cipriani

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Re: The Great Silence/Il Grande Silenzio (Sergio Corbucci 1968)
« Reply #14 on: 18 Jan 2008 - 10:47 »

I love the film, ranking it as one of my favourite Spaghetti Westerns (although not one you want to watch too often). The British DVD is best (amazingly), with the superior Italian soundtrack alongside the English one. (My DVD review - The Great Silence).

That British DVD is indeed great, and although I've always loved this film the Italian dub really opened my eyes to just how great IL GRANDE SILENZIO is.

When I first saw the movie, via its screening on Moviedrome in 1989/1990 (or thereabouts) it carried the title THE BIG SILENCE (which I like a little bit more than THE GREAT SILENCE), but aside from the BBC's reshowing of the film in 1996 I haven't seen the film under the title THE BIG SILENCE since then. Does anyone know the story about the two English language titles?
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