MINNESOTA CLAY (1964)

MINNESOTA CLAY DVD box coverMINNESOTA CLAY (1964)

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]unfighter Minnesota Clay (Cameron Mitchell) is serving time in a Southwestern U.S. prison work camp for killing two brothers. Clay claimed self-defense but the only eyewitness was nowhere to be found at the time of the trial. Complicating Clay’s attempts to clear his name is that his eyesight is degenerating. Clay manages a daring prison escape and makes his way back to his hometown in New Mexico. There he discovers that the townspeople are being terrorized by an outlaw gang headed by Domingo Ortiz (Fernando Sancho). Self-appointed Sheriff Fox, who essentially commands his own outlaw gang, is none other than Clay’s old rival and the witness who failed to testify for Clay at trial.

Among the townspeople are Clay’s now-grown daughter Nancy (Diana Martin) and a simple young man named Andy (Alberto Cevenini) who idolizes Clay and who has romantic designs on Nancy. As Clay attempts to exact revenge on Fox and to clear his name, he finds himself caught up in the rivalry of the two gangs and the romantic attentions of Estella (Ethel Rojo) who has introduced herself as “Ortiz’s woman.” Sheriff Fox proves to be a particularly venal and violent adversary with murderous intentions toward Clay.

Minnesota Clay does not have as good a screenplay nor is it as technically advanced as Sergio Corbucci’s later films but it does lay the foundation for later Euro-westerns with the theme of afflicted heroes like those in A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die (1968) or Corbucci’s own The Great Silence (1968). Cameron Mitchell, an American character actor who starred in Mario Bava’s giallo thriller Blood and Black Lace (1964) and who gained greater fame on the television western High Chapparal (1967-1971), gives a good performance as Clay. French actor Georges Riviere is convincing as the evil Sheriff Fox and Ethel Rojo conveys passion as Estella. Alberto Cevenini as Andy appears clumsy in his attempts at comedy relief. The English-speaking voice actors for the characters of Nancy and Andy are particularly grating in their scenes together. The score by Piero Piccolini is serviceable without being memorable.

Where the film really shines is in its last act as Clay loses his eyesight and has to face off against the sheriff’s gang and ultimately Fox himself. The actors’ performances, night cinematography and editing add up to a highly suspenseful sequence.

The alternate Italian version ending (in Italian language with English subtitles) feels tacked on and doesn’t fit thematically with the tone of everything else in the movie. Ultimately the alternate ending is ridiculous.

Technically the DVD has excellent color saturation although the image is a bit grainy and it is not as sharp as other Euro-westerns of the period. The dialogue track is dubbed into English by American actors (more successfully with some characters than with others).

EXTRAS

Theatrical trailer

Alternate Italian “happy ending” (in Italian language with English subtitles)

DIR: Sergio Corbucci. PROD: Danilo Marciani. STORY: Adriano Bolzoni. SCR: Adriano Bolzoni, Sergio Corbucci. CIN: Jose Aguayo. ED: Franco Fraticelli. SCORE: Piero Piccionni. CAST: Cameron Mitchell, Georges Riviere, Ethel Rojo, Diana Martin, Fernando Sancho, Antonio Roso, Alberto Cevenini (unbilled). Genre: Western. Color. Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1. Running Time: 90 minutes. Harlequin International Pictures.

DVD distributor VCI Entertainment (www.vcientertainment.com)