Silence: The Happy Ending

Silence: The Happy Ending 

The Great Silence, or in Italian Il Grande Silenzio (1968, Sergio Corbucci) is generally referred to as 'that western in the snow'. Snow-capped hills are an unusual, but not unique setting for a western, and what really sets the movie apart is the bleak ending that seems to turn ever western cliché upside down, including the often heard idea that in a western the good guy always wins. Yes, in this movie the bad guys win, in gruesome fashion. People who watch the movie unprepared, are often shocked by the grim, ultra bleak ending. I remember that I was nearly blown out of my socks when I first saw the movie, in the Eighties, on a French VHS. Mon Dieu, good grief, what the hell was that ?

Upon its original release, The Great Silence was not very successful in Italy, even though several reviews were positive. Very violent for its time, with thumbs shot off and blood dripping from fractured skulls, the film got an ’18 rating’, which meant young Italians, who loved spaghetti westerns, weren’t allowed to see it. And those Italians who were allowed to see it, didn’t like the bleak ending: in Sicily a man reportedly fired at the screen out of rage when Silence was killed.

Corbucci also shot a 'happy ending', with both Silence and the sheriff coming back from the other side (so to speak) and eliminating the bad guys in a furious shootout. Some think it was shot because the producers weren't happy with the original outcome but it has also been suggested that it was shot for foreign markets, notably North-Africa and Japan. The alternate ending  was added as an extra to some DVD releases, but all versions were as silent as the film’s titular hero. A few gunshots were heard on some versions of it, but no voices. This seemed to indicate that the happy ending was never used, but not too long ago a spoken version popped up on the Italian Medusa release.

The alternative ending with sound

The quality of the audio varies, some lines are very clear, others are quite hard to decipher (luckily there are subtitles HOH). From a technical point of view, it’s a great scene, with brilliantly staged, vintage Corbucci action, but the lines are horrible and the scene seems to betray the entire movie. It will also give you the feeling you’re entering some kind of alternative universe, in which the outcome of familiar events has been radically altered: Nixon beat Kennedy in the 1960 elections, Elvis lives, and so does Silence. You can watch this ‘sound version here :

Here's the dialogue, Italian/English:

Sheriff (to Silence):
Sono arrivato a festa finita, ma te la sei cavata bene. Credevo che ti avesse massacrato le mani.
- Seems I arrived too late for the party, but you’ve done a good job. I figured they would ruin your hands.

Sheriff (to the wanted men:)
Anche per voi sono contento perché non vi serbo rancore, anche se vi siete mangiati il mio cavallo.
- I’m happy for you too and I won’t hold a grudge against you, not even when you have eaten my horse.

Ora aspetterete qui l’amnistia e poi voterete per il nostro Governatore alle prossime elezioni.
- Let’s wait for the amnesty and then vote for our governor at the next elections.

The wanted men:
Ci potete contare! Grazie, Sceriffo.
- You can count on that! Thanks a lot, Sheriff.
Possiamo andare a casa? -Siamo liberi, Sceriffo?
- Can we go home? Are we free, sheriff?

Sheriff (to the wanted men:)
Non scherziamo! Per ora andate in prigione. Il regolamento, innanzitutto. Avanti, tutti fuori e in ordine! Muovetevi!
- No foolin’ around! For the moment, you must go to jail. We can’t ignore the law. Let’s go, and behave yourself. Move your asses!

Starete un po’ stretti nella nostra cella, ma non vi parrà vero dopo il freddo che avete patito. Avanti, camminate! Fuori, fuori!
- It’ll be a little crowded in our cells, but you won’t find it too hard after this freezing cold you had to endure. Come on, outside, outside!

Sheriff( to Silence:)
Avrò bisogno di un aiutante per tenere a bada questa gente. Mi serve uno in gamba, che agisca e parli poco.
- I could use some help to keep these guys under control. From a brave guy who knows what to do, and doesn’t talk too much.

Translation by Scherpschutter (Simon Gelten)
Clip uploaded by: Dicfish (Alexander Pescador Fisher)


My Review of The Great Silence on Spaghetti Western Database: THE GREAT SILENCE REVIEW

If the clip won't play, you can watch it on SWDB: The Great Silence - Alternate Ending 


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