Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MINNESOTA CLAY

Two years before making DJANGO, director Sergio Corbucci helmed MINNESOTA CLAY (1964), an early, proto-Spaghetti Western starring Cameron Mitchell (GORILLA AT LARGE, FLIGHT TO MARS) as the eponymous gunslinger.

Wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, the man called Minnesota Clay (Mitchell) escapes from a labor camp and sets out to claim his revenge against Fox (George Riviere), the corrupt sheriff of his home town, who withheld evidence at Clay's trial that would have acquitted him. Clay's quest for vengeance places him between two warring gangs (standard plot element in the genre) and repeatedly forces him to prove his skill with a pistol. Unfortunately for the avenging gunman, while he's still the fastest gun in the West, he is slowly going blind....

Not as dark, cynical, nor stylish as Corbucci's later films, like THE GREAT SILENCE or THE HELLBENDERS, MINNESOTA CLAY is, nonetheless, a solid, traditional Western. Mitchell is well-cast in the lead role, and the supporting players are all quite good. There are some small surprises in the story, and the action is well-staged, if not as violent as is usual in the Eurowestern genre. In fact, aside from the dubbing and Continental locations, MINNESOTA CLAY could almost be a homegrown Hollywood production.

Available on numerous budget labels and Western DVD compilations, VCI's presentation of MINNESOTA CLAY looks surprisingly good, with a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from a clean print. There's virtually no dirt or damage, and the colors are strong and bright. Detail is good, though there's a slight, overall softness to the image. That said, it looks much better than the previous versions I've seen, from washed-out TV syndication prints.

VCI has included the original Italian ending, as well as the theatrical trailer, and the trailer for ANY GUN CAN PLAY (also available from the company).

While not a classic of the genre, MINNESOTA CLAY is a solid, old fashioned Western with a good cast, and VCI's new disc is the best version of the movie I've ever seen. Recommended.

BUY: Minnesota Clay