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5.0 out of 5 stars THE BIG EURO WESTERN, December 23, 2013
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This review is from: The Big Gundown (Blu-ray + DVD + CD) Combo (Blu-ray)
This Grindhouse 4-disc package is terrific and includes both a Blu-ray Disc and DVD of the English language 95minute version of The Sergio Sollima written/directed film, THE BIG GUNDOWN (1968) and the Blu-ray complete 110 minute directors' cut, LA RESA DEI CONTI (presented in Italian with English subtitles,) as well as a CD of the original music soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. The 2.40:1 widescreen transfer is gorgeous. Up until now, this amazing film had only been available in crudely abridged 85-95 minute English language versions which cut out early and middle sections of the chase, including the brilliantly constructed showdown at the opening of the film where star, Lee Van Cleef's character shoots three robbers at his campsite. Thankfully, now the story in its entirety can be enjoyed in a beautiful looking transfer on a format playable on typical American Blu-Ray players. A comparison of the differences between the edited film and the original European version can be found in the audio commentary on the Blu-ray English-language version and in a section of the liner notes (booklet.) Other extras include an in depth interview with the director/writer of the film, Sergio Sollima, actor Thomas Milan and Sergi Donati and extensive still galleries, TV advertisements, and trailers.

THE BIG GUNDOWN is a fascinating story about a freelance bounty hunter, (Lee Van Cleef) who is hired by a rich railroad tycoon to find a wily Mexican outlaw (Thomas Milan,) with knife throwing skills who has supposedly raped and murdered a 12yr-old white girl. Each time Cleef is is about to capture him he is outwitted by Milan who always manages to get away. Their adventure follows the two across the West as the renegade hides out with a group of Mormons and then a sadistic female rancher who rules with a whip, after that a monastery in Mexico and eventually his hometown where he meets up with his wife. It is in his hometown that the Mexican outlaw finds himself pursued by not only Cleef but also an Austrian henchmen, the railroad tycoon's son-in-law, and a posse of Mexican rancheros who flush him out of a sugar cane field and corner him in the desert. It is at this point that the real culprit of the 12yr-old girl's murder and rape is revealed and a climactic gunfight ensues.

The driving force behind Sergio Sollima's gun-slinging epic is the inter-relationship between two men. The two incompatible characters i.e., the white American bounty hunter (Van Cleef) and the Mexican thief (Milan) at first are in opposition but through the course of their adventure empathy develops as similarities between themselves are revealed. Milan's nonconformity clashes with and compliments Van Cleefs' rigid sense of justice. Both have killed men but usually in self-defense and never in cold blood. Both men are products of their backgrounds and reflect their social status. Both are quick, Milan like an alert wild animal, Van Cleef like a well-trained militant.

With themes that condem racisim, class bias, abuses of the law, and opposing characters that learn they are less different then they seem, THE BIG GUNDOWN is a fascinating story filled with action that is definitely worth watching and thanks to the impressive 2K digital transfer and stunning bonus features it is more pleasurable than ever.

*** IF YOU WANT THE 110 min. DIRECTOR'S CUT IN ENGLISH... ***
Unfortunately, for some, the 110 minute director's cut on the incredible Grindhouse, limited 4-disc package is only available in Italian-Language with English subtitles. If this is a problem for you, maybe because you hate reading movies, an English language version of the directors' cut is available. I own a German released, 3-disc Blu-Ray & DVD Combo by Explosive Media, DER GEHETZTE DER SIERRA MADRE (now also available on Amazon) which is similar but the 110minute Blu-Ray version is presented with English-Language audio throughout (except for a few scenes that were never overdubbed in English.) Although both Blu-Ray and DVD are listed as Region B, on the Explosive Media release, the Blu-Ray (despite what the package says) will play on any American Blu-Ray equipment however, the 2 other DVDs; one with Bonus Material and the other with a 106 minute version of the movie, will not. This too is an excellent and worthwhile release. BTW: If you're a fan of Euro-westerns, as I am, you may want to consider purchasing an all-regions player. It's worth the small investment since many of the best releases of Euro-westerns are in non-American formats.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 24, 2013 12:00:47 AM PST
The Explosive Media release has many sequences in Italian with English subtitiles (it's doubtful if they have ever existed with English dialogue), so the language may switch back and forth from English to Italian in the middle of a scene. It's a bona fide release but don't expect a 110-minute English-language dialogue soundtrack. It should be produced "posthumously" as the one for the expanded The Good, The Bad and The Ugly re-release.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2013 10:19:28 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2013 11:06:04 AM PST
That's true. I don't mind a few subtitles here and there since English overdubs were never recorded for certain parts of the film. It would be pretty cool, like you said, if someone produced a version with English overdubs in the restored version. Especially if they used the original actors the way they did with "The Good, The Bad, etc" Not sure which actors from The Big Gundown are still around. Although it's kind of funny on the new "complete" English-language version of "The Good, The Bad, etc" (which is spectacular) Eli Wallach's newly recorded overdubbed voice sounds a lot older and different than it did when he first had the role. Thus, there's a large obvious contrast in those parts. But I'm glad they used his voice.
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