After a week's hiatus, we've returned with reviews for our readers' viewing pleasure. This week, we recommend one of the best---though often least known---of the so-called Spaghetti Westerns, The Big Gundown.
The Big Gundown was filmed in Spain by director Sergio Sollima. It's a deeply engrossing story about a legendary bounty-hunter Jonathan Corbett (played by Lee Van Cleef) and his involvement in a dark plot of murder and political intrigue. The story opens with his invitation to a party hosted by railroad magnate Brockston (played by Walter Barnes). Brockston is interested in Corbett because of his fame---and his potential of being hired as Brockston's Senate candidate.
The party is interrupted by two riders who report that a 12 year-old girl has been raped and brutally murdered. The suspect is a former Mexican revolutionary Manuel 'El Cuchillo' Sanchez (played by Tomas Milian). Brockston hires Corbett to bring the suspect to justice before he reaches the Mexican Border.
Sanchez turns out to be a wily foe, with a talent for escaping and Corbett finds himself up against his most formidable challenge. But during the hunt, he learns several things that make him question whether Sanchez is really guilty---and that things aren't as they appear.
This movie is above average in plot for Westerns of this genre. It was popular enough to launch the film career of Cuban expat Tomas Milian, who gave one of his best performances. It was released in Europe in late 1966, unfortunately in America, the film was edited down from 110 to 80 minutes. If getting this on DVD, the Blue-Ray version currently has the most complete English version available.
Stylistically, The Big Gundown is a perfect blend of action and mystery. There are a lot of threads within the storyline (in between plenty of gunfights and fistfights) that keep the viewer both interested and intrigued, as well as entertained. The story is framed in such a way that keeps the viewer guessing what will happen next. It's even not clear until the end---when Corbett learns the truth---how he will react.
This is one of the best of modern Westerns and had an influence on many of the late 1960's 'thinking-man's Westerns' like Cimarron Strip and The Virginian.
✪✪✪✪ 4 stars for this classic.