The Indicator label in the UK has just released a 2 disc-limited edition of the classic Spaghetti Western The Big Gundown starring Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian and directed by Sergio Sollima.
When bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett (Van Cleef) is hired to track down a Mexican peasant (Tomas Milian, in a career-defining role) who has been accused of an appalling crime, he is initially outwitted by the wily bandit. However, the relationship between the two men soon takes an unexpected turn and they team up to take on railroad baron Brockton (Walter Barnes).
Released the same year as the more well-known The Good The Bad and The Ugly this is a western with a plot that takes many unexpected turns and has a real epic feel to it with its sweeping vista and moody score by the genius Ennio Morricone. Lee Van Cleef really has a great screen presence and dominates the scenes he is in. Tomas Milian was born in Cuba, left to study drama in America and went to Italy to pursue a career in 1965. He became very famous in Italy after the release of this film and went on to star in a string of successful movies including The Ugly Ones(1966) and Run Man Run (1968).
In the film Milian has been accused of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl and when he hears this Corbett (Van Cleef) really wants to track him down and give him what he deserves. But that is not as easy as it seems and he is outsmarted by the Mexican many times. But as the chase goes on Corbett learns that he has not been told the truth and has to rethink his strategy.
There are 3 versions of the film in this set the butchered USA release at 90 minutes, the extended US cut at 95 minutes and the original Italian version at 110 minutes which this review is based on. It really is surprising what was cut out of the original US release as it totally butchers many scenes, especially the opening as well as lots of dialogue which is shortened. Sadly no English dubbed track was recorded for those scenes so it switches to the Italian language with English subtitles for these parts. (Van Cleef’s voice can be heard in all the other sections).
The transfer on this disc is fantastic, with bold colours very clean and stable, a top-notch transfer. Audio has as mentioned, a choice of English, Italian with subtitles or a mix on the longer cut with English where it is available and Italian with subs on the cut scenes.
Tons of extras are included which are as follows –
Audio commentary with writers and film experts Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman on the Italian theatrical version (2022)
Audio commentary with film historians C Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke on the extended US cut (2013)
Spaghetti Western Memories (2012): documentary in which director Sergio Sollima and actor Tomas Milian revisit this much-heralded western
Tomas Milian: Acting on Instinct (2013): the genre-film star revisits The Big Gundown and reveals some of his acting secrets
Stephen Thrower on ‘The Big Gundown’ (2022): the author and musician on the unique qualities of Sollima’s classic
Austin Fisher on ‘The Big Gundown’ (2022): the author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema situates the film in the wider context of the genre
Isolated music & effects tracks
Original US theatrical trailers
Original Italian theatrical trailer
Image galleries: production stills and promotional material
New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with a new essay by Italian cinema expert Roberto Curti, archival interviews with Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian, and Sergio Sollima, extracts from the film’s promotional materials, an examination of the work of co-screenwriter Franco Solinas, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and full film credits
Limited edition exclusive poster
UK premiere on any home video format
Limited edition of 5,000 copies
A fabulous release of a classic western with a brilliant soundtrack, if you have not seen this and are a fan of Italian westerns then do yourself a favour and seek this release out.
FILM – 8 PICTURE – 9 AUDIO -8 EXTRAS – 9