Lee Van Cleef plays Jonathan Corbett, sometimes bar owner, sometimes lawman, who has political ambitions in Colorado. While at a party discussing it with a rich man named Brokston, Corbett is introduced to Brokston’s bodyguard, a German named Baron von Schulenberg, a dueling specialist with twenty-three kills to his credit. You just know before the film is over the pair will hook up in a battle for superiority.
Word suddenly comes that a twelve year old girl had been raped and knifed to death by a Mexican named Cuchillo Sanchez(Tomas Milian). Corbett sets out to bring him in, following him south toward Mexico.
Every time he gets close, Cuchillo, a young, handsome Mexican with a gift for words, manages to charm people into helping him escape. He keeps telling Corbett that he didn’t kill the little girl, but knows who did. What else would a killer say?
As he follows the young rogue on into Mexico, Corbett comes to realize that all may not be as it seems, setting up a showdown at the end of the picture with all parties involved.
THE BIG GUNDOWN was the first film Van Cleef made after THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY and was his first role as lead and hero. In researching for this post, there seems to be several versions of the film. The original European cut was 106 minutes long, the American theatrical version an edited down 93 minutes. An 89 minute length has been shown on television. A Canadian fan released a version that restored the missing scenes, with English dialogue added in 2005. The DVD I came across is apparently the 89 minute television version.
The music is by Ennio Morricone and it is a very good film. Though classed as a spaghetti western with the requisite Morricone score, to me anyway, it didn’t have quite the same feel. Maybe, in the early parts of the film, in Colorado, there were too many trees and foliage. I liked it though.
Here’s the main theme: