Italian genre director SERGIO CORBUCCI directed several spaghetti westerns from the mid to late 60s including the seminal and often imitated DJANGO (1966) which earned huge amounts of money across Europe and spawned 50 unofficial sequels though proving too violent for American audiences. Other CORBUCCI westerns of note from the time include MINNESOTA CLAY, THE HELLBENDERS, and COMPANEROS but my favorite and the film to receive the most critical acclaim was 1968s "IL GRANDE SILENZIO".
Set sometime in the late 19th century in the mountains of Utah before Mormons were allowed to do their thing in peace and living as outlaws in the hills eating whatever they can find, like horses. KLAUS KINSKI is an evil bounty hunter killing Mormons for the price on their heads and collecting the bounty. The Mormons hire "Silence" a gun for hire played by great French actor JEAN-LOUIS TRINTIGNANT for payback. Silence has had his vocal cords slit as a child so he couldn't identify the bandits that slaughtered his family in front of him. So Silence shows up in town and all sorts of nastiness ensues. One of the things that make this western stand aside from the rest is that the whole thing takes place in the snow and I can't recall seeing a spaghetti with a bleaker more depressing atmosphere. Italian westerns were known for turning conventional western stereotypes on their tails but the GREAT SILENCE takes the cake for having one of the most brutal, unexpected, and downer endings I have seen in a film.....ever!
TRINTIGNANT shows why he became one of Frances most revered actors by showing an incredible range of emotions without opening his mouth once during the whole film. KINSKI of course is insane as a sadistic mass murdering sociopath. Its funny that most people know KINSKI from the the 5 films he did with WERNER HERZOG even though he acted in over 500 films, mostly westerns, I must have seen at least 30 spaghetti's with Kinski in all sorts of rolls.
What I really love about spaghetti westerns is that you have all the politics of the era creeping into the films. The communist and student movements in Italy were very strong in the 6os and you can find class politics in almost all the arthouse and genre cinema of the time, 70s crime films or "polizioteschi" are especially ripe with class warfare, and the same themes exist from the highest art (Pasolini, Antonioni) to the lowest common denominator sleaze and exploitation movies , of which no one did better than the Italians.