In fact, The Big Gundown has been floated in some circles as the genre’s best not coming from the genius of Sergio Leone, and Grindhouse Releasing’s superb, four-disc set is like a dare for you to argue otherwise. Clearly, as much love has gone into this package as it went into production of the movie itself.
In a story straight outta the Old West book of dusty myths, a railroad is proposed to connect the United States with Mexico, by way of Texas, where bounty hunter John Corbett (Lee Van Cleef, Leone’s For a Few Dollars More) enjoys the level of popularity afforded Davy Crockett. To make those train tracks a reality, Sen. Brokston (Walter Barnes, Smokey Bites the Dust) calls upon Corbett’s support.
Corbett also is called upon to catch a Mexican hoodlum wanted for the rape and murder of a child. “I want that Mexican liquidated!” orders the senator regarding one Cuchillo Sanchez (Tomas Milian, Django, Kill! [If You Live Shoot!]). Deputized for duty, Corbett is tasked to snare Cuchillo before the foreigner can sneak across the border to the safety of his home country.
Tracking Cuchillo proves simple; containing him is another thing. Naturally, it all leads to a big sundown — and we mean big. Epic in canvas but commercial in all other aspects, The Big Gundown comes fully loaded in action, humor, action, thrills, action and assorted badassery, all well-coordinated by director Sergio Sollima, but really driven by Ennio Morricone’s stellar score — no surprise there.
On that note (no pun intended), whereas other special-edition discs might offer Morricone’s music as an isolated track, Grindhouse Releasing goes several steps better by issuing his soundtrack on its own CD within the box. That alone makes The Big Gundown a no-brainer purchase for the maestro’s legion of obsessive fans, yet the set is packed with so many other extras — interviews, trailers, not to mention two separate cuts of the film — that even the non-Morricone lovers (if they exist) have more than enough reason to splurge. And it more than makes up for An American Hippie in Israel, Grindhouse’s recent rare misstep. —Rod Lott
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