Written by: George Pacheco on December 19th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Spain / Italy, 1966
Director: Sergio Sollima
Writers: Sergio Donati, Sergio Sollima, Tulio Demicheli, Fernando Morandi, Franco Solinas
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian, Luisa Rivelli, Fernando Sancho, Nieves Navarro
DVD released: December 10th, 2013
Approximate running times: Running Time: 95 minutes (Expanded U.S. Cut), 110 minutes (Director’s Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (Expanded U.S. Cut), Dolby Digital Mono Italian (Director’s Cut)
DVD Release: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Coding: Region Free / NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95
Grindhouse Releasing’s deluxe, expanded Blu-Ray and DVD edition of the film delivers this defining moment for the film, a top tier spaghetti western from director Sergio Sollima, a filmmaker who perfectly melded political and social commentary with the sort of action genre film fans had come to expect from this uniquely Italian export.
The Big Gundown possesses a basic plot, yet the story unfolds marvelous layers of subtext and character development behind two polarizing forces of Jonathan Corbett (Lee Van Cleef) and Cuchillo Sanchez (Tomas Milian). Corbett is a former sheriff and current bounty hunter who is given the task of tracking down the accused child rapist and murderer Cuchillo, even though no formal evidence, other than hearsay, has been applied to the case. Corbett’s journey, then, is one which challenges notions of race, class and morality as the case against Cuchillo is slowly whittled away to one politically motivated set-up.
This Grindhouse release presents the whole, complete story of The Big Gundown for the first time here in North America, amassing a collection of prints which show Sollima’s film as it was truly meant to be seen, as opposed to the original United Artists cut of the film which was dramatically shortened for time and content. One of the biggest boons to this complete version of the film is how each of Sollima’s characters is significantly more developed. For example, the film’s opening scene sees Van Cleef accosted by three bandits who are fleeing a robbery. In the United Artists cut, Van Cleef’s character apparently cuts down the men (one of whom is unarmed) in cold blood, whereas in this complete version, the audience sees that Van Cleef bests two of the men in fair gun battles before shooting the third in self defense. This paints a much more complete portrait of Jonathan Corbett as a character with a moral compass, as opposed to simply a trigger-happy gunfighter.
This is just one of the altered scenes which await fans of The Big Gundown here on Grindhouse’s ultimate package. Two complete versions of the film-the 110 minute Italian version titled La Resa del Conti on Blu-Ray and the expanded 95 minute U.S. cut on both DVD and Blu mediums-are included here together with composer Ennio Morricone’s magnificent score on a bonus CD. This attention to detail truly makes Grindhouse Releasing’s edition of Sergio Sollima’s The Big Gundown a benchmark of quality against which all other home video companies will have to compete.
Grindhouse Releasing presents The Big Gundown in an anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the original aspect ratio of Sollima’s film. The quality of colors and texture here is stunning and makes the best out of its high definition medium, a fact which also applies to the stunning sound, which is further benefited from error-free English subtitles to the original Italian version of the film.
Extras are massive here, as well, including in depth interviews with Sollima, Milian and co-screenwriter Sergio Donati, liner notes and audio commentary from spaghetti western historians Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke. Trailers, T.V. spots, still galleries and a separate audio track for Morricone’s score round out this super-packed collection of discs which celebrate The Big Gundown in all of its epic majesty.