Spaghetti Westerns, Part 5

The Big Gundown (La Resa dei Conti) (1966)

By way of introduction to this brilliant western from Sergio Sollima, I am going to begin by posting the stylish title sequence, featuring yet more music composed by Ennio Morricone. I cannot express how much I love this spine-tingling sequence, despite its crude and simplistic quality.

Although Zapata westerns are often preoccupied with revolution, there are a number of notable exceptions. The Big Gundown certainly qualifies as a Zapata western, but it carries a message about prejudice which is slightly more subtle than usual.

Tomas Milian is Cuchillo, a Mexican criminal on the run after being accused of the rape and murder of a young girl. Tasked with hunting him down is bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett, played by Lee Van Cleef. The ensuing chase is a cat and mouse game full of dangerous and unexpected turns.

Milian, a stalwart of spaghetti westerns, was often picked to play Mexican parts, despite being Cuban. When watching flims like The Big Gundown it is easy to understand why, as he possesses a likeable quality and his acting is full of energy. Compare his performance in Companeros or The Big Gundown to that of Rod Steiger’s in A Fistful Of Dynamite and you will understand what I mean.

Van Cleef of course requires no introduction, but it is worth commenting he was at the top of his game for The Big Gundown. His hard, aqualine features are perfectly suited for his role as the relentless Corbett. Effortlessly cool, every moment Van Cleef is on screen is a thrill to behold.

I have to be honest, this is one of my very favourite spaghetti westerns and it upsets me that so few people even know the film exists. If you ever have an opportunity to watch The Big Gundown, I promise you will enjoy this remarkable slice of cinema.

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