The Big Gundown – Grindhouse Releasing (Blu-ray/DVD/CD Combo)
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
Release Date: December 10th, 2013
Approximate Running Times: 94 Minutes 56 Seconds (Expanded U.S. Cut), 110 Minutes 18 Seconds (Director’s Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (Both Versions)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Expanded U.S. Cut), DTS-HD Mono Italian (Director’s Cut)
Subtitles: English (Director’s Cut)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $44.95
"The legendary Lee Van Cleef stars as a relentless bounty hunter on the trail of Cuchillo (Euro-film superstar Tomas Milian), a savage Mexican outlaw accused of the rape and murder of a twelve-year-old girl." - synopsis provided by the distributor
Video: 4.75/5 (Expanded U.S. Cut, Director’s Cut)
Here’s the information provided about this release's transfers, "spectacular new 2K digital restoration of the original uncensored English language version, newly expanded with three additional scenes."
The Big Gundown expanded U.S. cut comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 44.3 GB
Feature: 25.1 GB
The Big Gundown director’s cut comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 22.7 GB
Feature: 17.8 GB
The transfers for both versions included as part of this release have been sourced from a brand new 2K restoration. The source is in excellent shape. Colors look nicely saturated and accurate; flesh tones look healthy; and black and contrast levels look consistently great throughout. Details look crisp, especially in close-up shots, which often look razor sharp. Also, compression is solid, and grain remains intact.
Audio: 4.25/5 (Expanded U.S. Cut, Director’s Cut)
The expanded U.S. cut comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English.
The director's cut comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian, and included are removable English subtitles.
Both audio mixes sound great. Dialog always comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. Ambient sounds and the score are well-represented.
Extras on Blu-ray disc one (Expanded U.S. Cut) include still galleries: production stills (20 images), U.S. promotional material (41 images), Italian promotional material (10 images), French promotional material (30 images), and various promotional material (20 images), TV spot A (1 minute 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot X (12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot Y (12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot 1 (22 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot 2 (18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer A (2 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer B (2 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Italian theatrical trailer (3 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital mono with Italian text, no subtitles), an archival interview with director Sergio Sollima titled Sergio Sollima Remembers The Big Gundown (29 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Tomas Milian titled Acting on Instinct (29 minutes 48 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with screenwriter Sergio Donati titled Tagliatelle in Los Angeles (12 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Sergio Sollima titled Struggle Against Genre (27 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Sergio Donati titled Bonus Interview (11 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles), a music and effects isolated track, and an audio commentary with Western Film Experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke. This disc has an Easter egg, a trailer for Run, Man, Run (3 minutes 41 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian, no subtitles).
Extras on Blu-ray disc two (Director’s Cut) include an isolated music track for Ennio Morricone’s score, a music commentary subtitle track, and trailers for other titles also available from Grindhouse Releasing.
Disc three is a dual-layer DVD that includes all of the contents that are present on Blu-ray disc one of this set, and DVD-Rom contains a text essay about the differences between the two versions of The Big Gundown.
Disc four is a CD that has Ennio Morricone’s 25-track score for The Big Gundown.
Other extras include reversible cover art, a slipcover, and a twenty-four page booklet with an essay titled Sergio Sollima’s Political Gundown written by C. Courtney Joyner, an essay titled Cutting to the Chase - The Tale of Two Gundowns written by Gergely Hubai, an essay titled Six Shooter Symphony - the music of The Big Gundown written by Gergely Hubai, an text piece titled Cover Art, and track listing for Ennio Morricone’s score.
Lee Van Cleef (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) takes everything he has learned working with Sergio Leone and incorporates it into his role as Jonathan Corbett. The character is well defined and has a lot of depth, due mostly in part to Lee Van Cleef’s dead-on portrayal of a thinking man’s bounty hunter who never becomes victim to a quick trigger finger. His role in The Big Gundown is similar in many ways to Clint Eastwood’s role in The Man With No Name Trilogy, as he is a man who lets his actions do most of the talking. The Big Gundown is one of Lee Van Cleef’s defining roles as an actor.
Tomas Milian plays Cuchillo, a Mexican bandito who is also a master knife thrower. Cuchillo has a knack for getting himself out of some sticky situations, and his knife-throwing skills help him time and again. Tomas Milian has made a career out of playing eccentric characters like Cuchillo, who in many ways might just be the bastard cousin of Eli Wallach's "Tuco" from the monumental spaghetti western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. An interesting scene that immediately comes to mind when I think of the Cuchillo character is the scene where he is forced into the ring with a wild bull and has nothing but his bare hands to defend himself from the bull. It is this scene that perfectly captures the essence of the Cuchillo character and his fearlessness even against insurmountable odds.
Nieves Navarro (Death Walks at Midnight), known to most Euro-cult fans as Susan Scott, who starred in several key giallo films during the early 1970s, stars in The Big Gundown as a widow who runs a ranch in the middle of nowhere. Her character is all about being in control, and she uses her body to get the men on the ranch to do whatever she wants them to do. There is an interesting clash in the film when Cuchillo and Corbett both spurn the advances of this black widow-like woman. Both men have other objectives that are more important to them than satisfying this woman’s carnal lust. Cuchillo also uses her power over the men who work for her against her, as he makes them jealous that Corbett is spending some quality one-on-one time with her while they have to wait outside and guard Cuchillo. Sex is prevalent and runs throughout the film as the main thread that connects the story, whether it's the widow's sexual frustration or Cuchillo, who is wanted for raping a 12-year-old girl. Director Sergio Sollima handles this subject with grace and dignity, as he never makes it salacious.
Spaghetti westerns are known for their use of beautiful landscapes, and The Big Gundown is a movie that is always on the run as it moves from one picturesque locale to another. The cat and mouse game between Corbett and Cuchillo is very effective, and Sollima manages to build just enough tension with each near capture and escape.
The Big Gundown is an expertly crafted story that was co-scripted by Sergio Donati, who was a frequent collaborator of director Sergio Leone. Some of the feel of the story echoes Leone’s previous spaghetti westerns that were made before The Big Gundown. Ultimately, despite being the most traditional of the three westerns that Sollima directed, The Big Gundown is still easily one of the genre’s stronger efforts.
The Big Gundown gets an exceptional release from Grindhouse Releasing that comes with two versions of the film and a wealth of insightful extras, highly recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer