The Big Gundown

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The Big Gundown
Italian film poster
Directed by Sergio Sollima
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi [1]
Screenplay by
Story by
Music by Ennio Morricone [1]
CinematographyCarlo Carlini [1]
Edited byGaby Penalba [1]
  • PEA
  • Produzioni Cinematographice Tulio Demicheli [1]
Release date
  • March 1967 (1967-03)(Italy)
  • Italy
  • Spain [1]
Box office1.441 billion ITL (Italy) [2]

The Big Gundown (Italian : La resa dei conti, lit.  'The Settling of Scores') is a Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Sollima, and starring Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian.



Possessing a reputation for bringing criminals to justice, ready-to-retire bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett (Lee Van Cleef) is summoned to a party by a Texas railroad tycoon by the name of Brockston (Walter Barnes), whose daughter is getting married. Brockston plants the seed that Corbett should consider a run for the Senate, but not before doing one last bounty hunt.

Brockston offers Corbett his political backing in exchange for tracking down a 12-year-old girl's accused rapist and murderer, who goes by the name of Cuchillo (Tomas Milian), a Mexican who is fleeing back to his native land. Cuchillo means "knife" in Spanish, which is the rascal’s weapon of choice. Corbett expects it to be easy, even offering to do it as a wedding gift.

Corbett sets out in pursuit of Cuchillo, who is not as dumb as he acts, and who is rather crafty at vexing Corbett at every turn. Corbett pursues Cuchillo into Mexico, where he is arrested when a fight starts in a brothel. Brockston pulls strings to free Corbett from jail and intercepts him, hiring a gang of mercenaries to find Cuchillo. Corbett learns that Cuchillo is innocent and in fact the witness that Brockston's alcoholic son-in-law, Chet Miller (Ángel del Pozo), was the rapist. Corbett misleads the mercenaries to confront Cuchillo with Chet himself. In the final showdown, Corbett provides a knife to Cuchillo to kill Chet, then killing Brockston himself. The two ride together from the scene before parting ways.



The Big Gundown was shot in Almería in late 1966. [3]


The Big Gundown was released in Italy in March 1967 with a running time of 105 minutes. [4] On its release in Spain, the climactic cane-field chase was shortened. [4] In the United States and United Kingdom, the film was released by Columbia Pictures in 1968. Most English-dubbed prints have a runtime of 89 minutes; the cuts therein serve primarily to tighten the film's pacing and remove sequences that do not directly serve the film's plot, although Corbett's character is made to appear more quickly resort to violence compared to his level-headed characterization in the Italian version. [5] Another English version of the film, which runs for 85 minutes, removes all references to the rape and murder which drives the story. [4] The film was a moderate success during its US theatrical run, grossing $2 million. [6]

In December 2013, Grindhouse Releasing, in association with original rights holder Columbia/Sony, re-released the film with two different cuts, the original 110-minute Italian version, and a 95-minute "expanded US cut", which includes three scenes (which also appear in the Italian version) that were prepared for showing on television despite not being present in the original theatrical prints. [5] [7]

Critical reception

In a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "at least this makes for a variation on the familiar solitary superman theme, and the two protagonists are given time to create characters with some personality", noting that "the violence is on the whole less gratuitously excessive than usual; and though the plot tends to ramble, there are several impressively staged sequences to keep interest alive-in particular a manhunt with the wily Mexican pursued through cane fields by dogs and an army of trackers". [8]

In a retrospective review, Stuart Galbraith IV remarked that the film was "unusually fine" noting its "taut, intelligent screenplay" and "Lee Van Cleef's marvelous screen presence" and "especially the outstanding musical score by the great Ennio Morricone.“ [7] Daryl Loomis of DVD Verdict commented: “The story, written by Sergio Donati ( Duck, You Sucker ), is strong, with a darker framing story than one often sees, and a lot of wit and humor throughout... Great performances and some amazing music, combined with strong direction, gorgeous locations, and top-notch camera work (by Carlo Carlini, Death Rides a Horse )... is among the best work of any of the participants' careers... There's no question that, had more people seen The Big Gundown, it would be clearly recognized at the pinnacle of the genre. Luckily, Grindhouse Releasing has graced us with one of the best Blu-ray packages I've seen in a long time... With the extras, the commentaries, and especially the soundtrack CD, this is my pick for Blu-ray release of the year.” [9]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Hughes 2004, p. 146.
  2. Fisher, Austin (2014). Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema. I.B.Tauris. p. 220.
  3. Hughes 2004, p. 149.
  4. 1 2 3 Hughes 2004, p. 154.
  5. 1 2 The Big Gundown (Cutting to the Chase: The Tale of Two Gundowns (Media notes). Los Angeles: Grindhouse Releasing. 2013.
  6. Hughes 2004, p. 157.
  7. 1 2 Galbraith IV, Stuart (December 10, 2013). ""The Big Gundown Blu-ray" review,". DVD Talk . Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  8. "Resa dei Conti, La (The Big Gundown)". Monthly Film Bulletin . Vol. 36 no. 420. 1969. pp. 59–60.
  9. DVD Verdict “The Big Gundown (1966) (Blu-ray) review” DVD Verdict, by Daryl Loomis, December 26th, 2013