Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 2nd, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1965
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Writers: Adriano Bolzoni, Sergio Corbucci, José Gutiérrez Maesso
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Georges Rivière, Ethel Rojo, Diana Martín, Antonio Roso, Fernando Sancho, Antonio Casas, Gino Pernice, José Canalejas, Ferdinando Poggi
DVD released: 2002
Approximate running time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterboxed Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
Subtitles: Japanese, Italian
DVD Release: SPO
Region Coding: Region 2 NTSC (Japan)
Retail Price: $45.16 (4,800 Yen)
Synopsis: A gunslinger named Minnesota Clay is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Unable to clear his name he escapes from a military prison camp with his only hope of remaining a free man relying on convincing the only witness to come forward. The man who Minnesota Clay has come to town looking for is a man named Fox. Shortly after his arrival in town Minnesota Clay quickly finds himself helping the locales who are being terrorized by Fox and his thugs. Will Minnesota Clay be able to clear his name and help the locales or will he be forced into a confrontation with Fox and his men?
Minnesota Clay is a revenge tale that is more about redemption then it is about greed. Minnesota Clay was directed by Sergio Corbucci who at this point in his career had only directed one other Spaghetti Western, “Massacre at Grand Canyon”. Sergio Leone is the name that is most indentified with the Spaghetti Western genre even though there were other directors like Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima who directed many films which are considered undeniable classics within the genre. One of the distinct trademarks’s that so personifies the visual look of a Spaghetti Western is use of Techniscope’s 2.35:1 frame which lends greatly to the barren and vast landscapes featured in these films. Unlike Sergio Leone his contemporary Sergio Corbucci often shot many Spaghetti Westerns’ in a flat 1.66:1/1.85:1 matted widescreen with end results that are comparable visually to the more expansive 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Visually Minnesota Clay shows that even early on that Sergio Corbucci is a quick study as he already shows signs of greater things to come. There is many great set pieces and perfectly composed shots that are in line with Sergio Corbucci’s best work. The film’s final showdown is a near twenty minute gun battle where the hero of film Minnesota Clay who at this point is nearly blind and outnumbered by a ratio of 1 to 8. The torturing of Minnesota Clay is tame compared to other Spaghetti Westerns that would follow this film from Sergio Corbucci. The pacing is pitch-perfect and the plot is filled with interesting characters many that have intricate back stories. Minnesota Clay features a workman like score from composer Piero Piccioni who other scores include The Tenth Victim and the Italian and Spanish scores for Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt.
The cast features many familiar faces who have worked in many Spaghetti Westerns. In the lead role as the wrongly accused and fastest gun in town Minnesota Clay is Cameron Mitchell. In the 1960’s Cameron Mitchell was one of the more in demand American leading men in Italian cinema frequently working with director Mario Bava. Minnesota Clay ranks near the top of all of his performances while working in Italian cinema. One of the films strongest attributes is Minnesota Clay’s deteriorating eye sight which makes him more vulnerable and not as indestructible like many of the hero’s featured in Spaghetti Westerns. In the role of Minnesota Clay’s nemeses is a French actor named Georges Rivière whose acting credits include The Virgin of Nuremberg and Castle of Blood. Ultimately Minnesota Clay is a solid Spaghetti Western that has plenty of action and an entertaining plot.
Minnesota Clay is presented in a letterboxed widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. For a non anamorphic widescreen the image looks reasonably sharp, colorful and it is free of any major print damage. Overall while the image is not without its flaws the overall quality is surprisingly good.
This release comes with two audio options Italian and English. Both audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The Italian audio sounds cleaner of the two with the English audio exhibiting noticeable hiss throughout. Both audio mixes sounds flat and at times there is some mild instances of distortion. Two subtitles options have been included Japanese and Italian and both are removable and not forced during playback.
Extras for this release include an English language trailer for Minnesota Clay, a poster/stills gallery and a twelve minute interview with composer Piero Piccioni (in Italian, with forced Japanese subtitles). Text related extras cast & crew info and articles about the film (all the text is in Japanese). Rounding out the extras is English language opening and closing titles sequences. Despite the lack of a non anamorphic image this release is one of the better Spaghetti Western release to come out of Japan with its dual language audio option, clean looking transfer and wealth of extra content.
Note: There is a German DVD release of Minnesota Clay that presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen and it can be found here.