Film Review: The Big Gundown (1966)

Also known as: La resa dei conti, lit. The Settling of Scores (Italy)
Release Date: November 29th, 1966 (Spain)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Donati, Sergio Sollima, Franco Solinas, Fernando Morandi
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian, Walter Barnes

Produzioni Europee Associati, Tulio Demicheli P.C., United Artists, Regia Films Arturo González, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes (Italy/Spain), 89 Minutes (USA – Theatrical)


The Big Gundown is directed by the third Sergio of spaghetti westerns, Sergio Sollima. While he has only done a few cowboy movies, unlike Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, his work is still top notch.

The film stars one of my all-time favorites, Lee Van Cleef. He is backed up by the talents of Tomas Milian, who was superb in Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, Face to Face, Run, Man, Run, Tepepa and Compañeros.

I thought I had seen this film before, albeit a long time ago, but I was mistaken. I must have confused it for one of the many other Van Cleef spaghetti westerns. I have been a fan of Ennio Morricone’s score of this film for years, although I didn’t know which film those songs were from until I watched this picture. Anyway, the film score is one of the best I have ever heard from a musical standpoint. The editing of the audio is a bit disjointed here and there but the music is still well used and executed.

Van Cleef and Milian’s relationship in this film is perfect. In many ways, it is similar to that of Blondie and Tuco from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, except Milian’s Cuchillo is less of a bastard and Van Cleef’s Corbett is more of a straight laced good guy. Other than Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, this may be my favorite Van Cleef role. As for Milian, it is the most entertaining character I have ever seen him do. And Milian is an under-appreciated actor who contributed a lot to the spaghetti western genre, this film is proof of his greatness.

Sollima did a fantastic job of shooting this film. It feels truly large, as the landscapes and geography are mesmerizing and alluring. The cinematography is perfect and this may be the best shot spaghetti western that isn’t a Leone picture. Some shots in this picture were truly art. From a visual quality standpoint, I would say that it is above the more critically adored pictures of Sergio Corbucci. That could also have a lot to do with it being digitally remastered and on Blu-ray.

The Big Gundown is truly one of the best westerns ever made. There are few films that are as much fun as this. Where the Leone films are very serious and artistic and the Corbucci films are “balls to the wall” violence and badassery, this Sollima film is a good marriage of both with a solid lightheartedness added in. Also, it is a perfect balance of action and narrative, where it doesn’t beat you over the head with too much action, it also doesn’t find itself becoming too dragged out between the high energy bits.

The journey and the camaraderie in this movie is stellar. The film leaves you wanting more and wondering if these two men would ever cross paths again. Sollima could’ve done a slew of Corbett and Cuchillo buddy cowboy movies but he just made this solitary film. I certainly would’ve been game for more.

This is as close as you can get to a perfect spaghetti western that doesn’t star the Man With No Name. I recently watched The Great Silence and considered that to be the greatest spaghetti western not directed by Leone but this film also belongs in that company.

Plus, it has the best opening credits sequence I have ever seen in any film. That shit was intense.

Rating: 9/10