Silence Comes to Snow Hill
As a child Gordon (Jean-Louis Trintignant) had his throat cut by the men who were paid by corrupt official Henry Pollicut (Luigi Pistilli) to kill his parents. Now many years later and unable to speak Gordon is known as Silence and is well known as a gun for hire that kills those who draw on him first, antagonizing men to do just that. But Pollicut is still up to no good as heavy snow in and around the town of Snow Hill has caused a shortage of food which he is trying to capitalise on, causing the locals to turn outlaw to steal to survive. That in turn has seen Pollicut hire a group of bounty killers lead by Loco (Klaus Kinski) who is ruthless enough to kill his own men if he feels they have betrayed him. When the wife (Vonetta McGee) of one of his victims contacts Silence it quickly brings the situation to a head as Silence comes to Snow Hill.
It is said that when Darryl F. Zanuck watched "The Great Silence" to see whether the movie could be released in the States he was so offended by the ending that some say he swallowed his cigar. It is that ending which director Sergio Corbucci was also forced to change for another continent of Spaghetti Western fans who loved a more traditional ending to their Spaghetti Westerns. Now I won't tell you what happens at the end of "The Great Silence" because part of the movie's power comes from the way it ends, although I have to say that watched almost 50 years after it was released it isn't as different as it once was.
But the ending is not all there is to make "The Great Silence" worth watching for fans of spaghetti westerns as it often features some stylish cinematography whilst also featuring a strong female character in Pauline who not only hires Silence to avenge her husband's murder but stands up to Pollicut who wants her physically for his own. It is a good performance from Vonetta McGee as Pauline and an equally good performance from Jean-Louis Trintignant who delivers a strong character without uttering a word as Silence. Plus of course there is Klaus Kinski who it has to be said delivers bad guys with such ease but Here makes Loco a sinister figure without being over the top.
Now I have watched a good number of spaghetti westerns and "The Great Silence" whilst not the most graphic certainly has plenty of violence from shootings to beatings as well as rape. But what gives this an extra edge is dependent on what ending you watch as one will certainly leave you numb by what happens.
What this all boils down to is that "The Great Silence" whilst lacking some of the finesse and scale of those hugely popular spaghetti westerns still is impressive thanks to a twist on the familiar and a strong style to make it memorable.