Tag Archives: Klaus Kinski

The Great Silence (1968, Sergio Corbucci)

The first act of The Great Silence at least implies some traditional Western tropes. Jean-Louis Trintignant is a gunslinger who fights with evil bounty hunters. Frank Wolff is the new sheriff. Klaus Kinski is one of the evil bounty hunters. Wolff’s got political stuff, or at least the script implies there’s going to be political stuff, just like the script makes implications about Trintignant and Kinski. They’re not red herrings, but director Corbucci has something to say about the Western genre and he’s getting his pieces in order.

And, frankly, that first act is a little plodding. Sure, the winter setting is cool–Corbucci has no interest in the town other than as a setting for his action, so getting to know it is a passive experience, unnecessary for the narrative but so gorgeous snow covered–and Kinski’s immediately awesome. Well, he’s immediately different. It takes a couple scenes before it’s clear he’s just going to be awesome throughout, like he’s the only one who gets to know the film’s destination.

After running around in circles–literally–Corbucci gets Silence into the second act and the film starts to get a lot different. None of the Western tropes implied are getting followed up on. I mean, Trintignant’s even revealed to be hunting bounty killers because they killed his parents. Corbucci is going all out with the possible tropes and none of them really stick. Silvano Ippoliti’s photography is too heartless for them to stick. Even the Ennio Morricone score bucks sentimentality and nostalgia; it’s not a particularly successful score, but it is an effective one.

Instead, Silence becomes Wolff’s story. Turns out Luigi Pistilli’s Mr. Big is running the bounty hunters–that political subplot possibility–and Wolff’s going to do whatever it takes to keep things apolitical and legal. There’s a lot about legality in Great Silence; Corbucci plays just enough into Spaghetti Western expectations to get away with a lot of exposition and a lot of sentimentality. The love scene between Trintignant and Vonetta McGee (as the woman who hires him to avenge her husband–against Kinski, of course)–their whole romance–is just a subplot in what’s first Wolff’s film and then Kinski’s. Even though Trintignant is playing the title character–he’s The Great Silence–Corbucci kicks the genre around enough to allow the hero to be another player and a silent one at that.

See, Trintignant isn’t speaking. Those bounty killers who killed his parents made him mute. His whole performance is stress fractures in stoicism, which makes the whole love story subplot even better. It’s also a device for Corbucci’s commentary–the hero, though present and active, is removed from the viewer’s experience of the film.

Kinski’s amazing. It’s his movie. Wolff’s great, McGhee’s great. There’s a lot going on in the second act, including some nice stuff from Marisa Merlini too. Corbucci’s going for better performances than one expects from a Spaghetti Western; he’s refusing to let them be caricature. After threatening it for the first act; presumably to get the viewer to pay attention.

And then there’s the finish, which is sort of what the third act to the first act would look like–with a more traditional second act–only Corbucci’s run it through that devastating second act.

So the big question–since I didn’t start writing this response with a star rating decided on–do Corbucci’s successes make up for the film’s problems. And they do. The Great Silence has some slow parts, some seemingly needless shots, some way too long takes, but Corbucci does bring it all together and make something fantastic. It’s exceptional.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sergio Corbucci; screenplay by Vittoriano Petrilli, Mario Amendola, Bruno Corbucci, and Sergio Corbucci, based on a story by Sergio Corbucci; director of photography, Silvano Ippoliti; edited by Amedeo Salfa; music by Ennio Morricone; produced by Attilio Riccio and Robert Dorfmann; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant (Silence), Klaus Kinski (Tigrero), Vonetta McGee (Pauline Middleton), Frank Wolff (Sheriff Gideon Corbett), Marisa Merlini (Regina), Mario Brega (Martin), and Luigi Pistilli (Henry Pollicut).


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Doctor Zhivago (1965, David Lean)

When Doctor Zhivago got to its intermission, I assumed director Lean would keep things moving as fast in the second half as he did in the first. These expectations were all high melodrama. Instead, the post-intermission section of Zhivago feels utterly detached from the first, even though there are a lot of returning faces. But there’s not much connection with the characters as they’ve grown in the film. I don’t know if it’s from the source novel or just Robert Bolt’s screenplay; Alec Guinness–in a glorified cameo doing the questionably useful narration–disappears too.

So the second half (or last third more appropriately) of Zhivago is the film’s problem. It has problems before, like Julie Christie being too old for her part (even though she’s far more interesting than anything else going on) or Geraldine Chaplin not having a character to play. Of course, Omar Sharif’s barely got a character and he’s Doctor Zhivago. Lean and Bolt keep everything as removed as possible.

There’s some great supporting work from Rod Steiger and Ralph Richardson, particularly Steiger.

Technically, the film’s grandiose but not particularly grand. Maybe it’s Norman Savage’s editing, but Zhivago never feels as sweeping as it should. It feels very slapped together. Lots of extraneous scenes. The post-intermission parts–featuring Sharif wandering around frozen Russia–miss all sorts of opportunities for good scenes.

Another big problem is Zhivago’s amazing poetry. Lean never lets the audience experience it at all.

It’s too big, too narratively unfocused.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by David Lean; screenplay by Robert Bolt, based on the novel by Boris Pasternak; director of photography, Freddie Young; edited by Norman Savage; music by Maurice Jarre; production designer, John Box; produced by Carlo Ponti; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Omar Sharif (Yuri), Julie Christie (Lara), Rod Steiger (Komarovsky), Alec Guinness (Yevgraf), Tom Courtenay (Pasha), Geraldine Chaplin (Tonya), Ralph Richardson (Alexander), Siobhan McKenna (Anna), Jeffrey Rockland (Sasha), Lucy Westmore (Katya), Klaus Kinski (Kostoyed) and Rita Tushingham (The Girl).


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Creature (1985, William Malone)

I'm hesitant to pay Creature any compliments, but it does have some unexpected plot developments. Not regarding the space monster, which rips off Alien comprehensively–though stoutly–but in how director Malone and co-writer Alan Reed plot the film. They have a large cast to work through as alien food and eventually move away from the Ten Indians style. It doesn't make the film much better, but it does make certain plot developments unexpected.

They also give some of the characters actual arcs. The actors don't do anything with these opportunities, but they do have them.

The easiest place to jab at Creature is Malone's direction. He's got a nice wide Panavision frame and no idea what to put in it. If the photography were more competent–either Harry Mathias can't light or the film stock was atrocious–some of the more awkward shots would be interesting. Low budget filmmaking sometimes leads to lots of innovation. Not so in the case of Creature.

Really, the only good thing about the film is Klaus Kinski's ludicrous, scenery chewing–literally–turn as a horny West German guy. He brings a nice amount of derision for the material but also acceptance of his place in it.

The rest of the acting is awful. Leading man Stan Ivar and his erstwhile sidekick, Lyman Ward, are astounding calm for being hunted by a monster. Diane Salinger and Wendy Schaal are weak, if somewhat less lethargic. The other cast members are indistinctly bad.

Malone plays Creature with a straight face. Big mistake.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by William Malone; written by Malone and Alan Reed; director of photography, Harry Mathias; edited by Bette Jane Cohen; music by Thomas Chase and Steve Rucker; produced by Malone and William G. Dunn; released by Trans World Entertainment.

Starring Stan Ivar (Mike Davison), Wendy Schaal (Beth Sladen), Lyman Ward (David Perkins), Robert Jaffe (Jon Fennel), Diane Salinger (Melanie Bryce), Annette McCarthy (Dr. Wendy H. Oliver), Marie Laurin (Susan Delambre) and Klaus Kinski (Hans Rudy Hofner).


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Nobody’s the Greatest (1975, Damiano Damiani)

According to Wikipedia, Sergio Leone was so unhappy with Nobody’s the Greatest, he had his name taken off. He directed the first scene, which is a standard Leone Western opener and is quite good, he co-produced and he came up with the story. The movie’s a tedious, at times painful attempt at comedy–Terence Hill smiles a lot and is quite affable, but the script’s just terrible. The plotting is bad, the resolution makes no sense… I’m not sure if the dialogue is bad in just the English language version or in every language too, but it’s awful.

The biggest problem, besides a genuine lack of scope–director Damiani manages to make Monument Valley look like rear screen projection–is the dubbing on the English version. The goofy voices Leone usually reserved for one or two comic roles in his films are now the leads. So it might be difficult to say Robert Charlebois and Patrick McGoohan are both terrible, given a great deal of the terribleness comes from their voices, but it’s probably a safe bet they are in any language.

The majority of the film, though boring, is never awful. Ennio Morricone’s score is silly and playful, qualities one doesn’t usually associate with him. And there is a nice bit, at the beginning, with Klaus Kinski. The conclusion to that sequence, actually, is where the film starts to tumble. It falls apart more rapidly at the end, when the red herrings and double-crosses dissolve and the viewer is left without any resolution to the story. The ending makes little sense, but, by that time, it’s such a relief to have the movie end, it doesn’t matter.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Damiano Damiani; screenplay by Damiani, Ernesto Gastaldi and Fulvio Morsella, based on a story by Gastaldi and Morsella; director of photography, Giuseppe Ruzzolini; edited by Nino Baragli; music by Ennio Morricone; production designers, Francesco Bronzi and Carlo Simi; produced by Claudio Mancini, Rafran C. Rialto and Morsella; released by Tobis Filmkunst.

Starring Terence Hill (Joe Thanks), Miou-Miou (Lucy), Robert Charlebois (Bill Locomotiva), Patrick McGoohan (Major Cabot), Raimund Harmstorf (Sergeant Milton), Piero Vida (Jacky Roll), Rik Battaglia (Captain), Mario Valgoi (Thomas Trader), Mario Brega (Coach driver), Friedrich von Ledebur (Don Felipe, the priest), Jean Martin (Colonel Pembroke) and Klaus Kinski (Doc Foster).


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