Minnesota Clay is a 1965 western directed by Sergio Corbucci, his second western, before his classics Django and The Great Silence. Corbucci was still learning his chops in this one as it had neither the look or feel of the spaghetti genre. It more closely resembled what Hollywood was doing.
Some of the actors went on to feature roles in a number of later westerns. Georges Riviere as “Five Aces” Fox, Fernando Sanchez as bandit leader Ortiz, and Ethel Rojo as the scheming Estella. The star in the lead role is Cameron Mitchell.
Minnesota Clay is not your typical spaghetti anti-hero. He doesn’t have that slight touch of “evil” that most do. He’s an honest man that was wrongly imprisoned for killing two brothers that had come after him in self defense. The only witness that could clear him of murder, Fox, never came forward. Clay simply wants to clear his name.
He gets his chance to escape when he saves a drowning man at a labor camp and carries him to the doctor’s tent. The doctor seems sympathetic and, as they talk, we learn that Clay’s eyesight is slowly fading(physical ailments were prominent in Corbucci westerns). He’s warned to avoid fights as a blow to the head could accelerate the process.
Once he grabs a gun to kill a snake about to bite the doctor, he uses it and the doctor as a hostage to escape.
Returning to his hometown, he learns that Fox, who he now suspects sent the two brothers after him, has succeeded him as Sheriff. He was hired to protect the town from Ortiz and his gang, but,along with his band of five, has taken over, extracting “protection” money from the merchants.
Caught up between the two factions(Fox wants him to work for him, Ortiz wants him to kill Fox), he ends up rescuing the school marm, Nancy, when her buggy horse is tartled by gunfire and bolts. We learn in short order that Nancy is actually his daughter, a fact she doesn’t know. Her uncle had told her her father was dead.
The scheming Estella sets up Clay, then Ortiz, and finally Fox until by the final showdown between a blind Clay and Fox’s five men. It’s at night which helps Clay and we know how these things work.
It’s at that final showdown we learn the reason for all the machinations. Fox is pissed because Nancy’s mother chose Clay over him.
A nice little western, though not up to the later Django or The great Silence. Or even the later Companeros or The Mercenary.