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Giancarlo Stanti
Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn
Writing Credits:
Ernesto Gastaldi

A grizzled ex-sheriff helps a man framed for murder to confront the powerful trio of brothers who want him dead.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Italian LPCM Monaural
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/7/2019

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Stephen Prince
• “An Unconventional Western” Featurette
• “The Last of the Great Westerns” Featurette
• “Cowboy By Chance” Featurette
• “Out of the Box” Featurette
• “The Day of the Big Showdown” Featurette
• “Saxon City Showdown” Featurette
• “Two Different Duels” Featurette
• “Game Over” Featurette
• “Who Was the Rider on the Rain?” Featurette
• Image Galleries
• Trailers


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The Grand Duel [Blu-Ray] (1972)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 19, 2019)

Another entry in the “Spaghetti Western” genre, 1972’s The Grand Duel introduces us to Clayton (Lee Van Cleef), a former sheriff. He appears to pursue a bounty when he meets a young man named Philip Vermeer (Alberto Dentice).

Someone murdered a powerful man named Ebenezer “The Patriarch” Saxon, and Philip gets framed for this crime. Philip manages to escape, a feat that leads to his encounter with Clayton.

The Patriarch’s three sons send a posse after Philip, and this requires Clayton to come to the younger man’s defense. This leads to many confrontations, all potentially deadly in nature.

At the start, Duel shows real promise. It sets up the situations and characters in a vivid manner, and it leads us to think we’ll get a taut, dynamic Western.

In particular, the opening creates an impression of Clayton that makes him seem like the ultimate badass. Van Cleef carries off these scenes with cool panache and the action flies hot and heavy to launch the film in a vivid manner.

After that? Not so much. While Duel occasionally kicks back to life after its splendid opening, the rest of the film feels less satisfying.

Some of this stems from an inconsistent tone. Duel flits from dark revenge thriller to goofy comedy to character drama without much logic, and the various elements fail to coalesce in a smooth manner.

In the same vein, the acting varies all over the place. Some performances play for drama, some go strictly for laughs, and the whole lot don’t come together well.

Not that I think Duel needed to grab one tone and stick with it, as well-executed films can bundle a variety of attitudes and emotions in a satisfying way. Unfortunately, Duel doesn’t become one of those movies, so its inconsistency makes it a bit of a mess.

This seems like a shame, as Duel presents a fairly simple story that doesn’t need all the jumps and leaps. If the filmmakers told it in a straighter, more coherent way, it’d fare much better.

Even with the flaws, Duel boasts a handful of good action scenes. In addition to the excellent opening, a flashback to the Patriarch’s murder becomes taut and dramatic, and a couple other shots seem compelling as well.

Alas, these occur too infrequently to redeem the whole film. In between the action, we find ourselves stuck with an ambling story that takes the long-way around to an inevitable conclusion. Despite a few strong sequences, Duel remains too spotty to truly succeed.

Potentially snarky footnote: I always feel amazed at how old actors tended to look back in the 1960s/1970s, and Duel gives me more ammunition in that regard. To look at him, you’d think Van Cleef was in his mid-60s during the shoot of Duel, but instead, the guy was only 47!

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

The Grand Duel appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though a little iffy at times, this usually became a good presentation.

Sharpness fared well most of the time. Some softer elements appeared on occasion – particularly during some moderately fuzzy interiors - but the majority of the film offered appropriate delineation and accuracy.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. In terms of print flaws, a few small specks popped up, but the image usually remained clean.

As befit the setting, Duel went with a sandy palette. These tones didn’t demand much of the Blu-ray, but the disc reproduced the arid hues with positive fidelity.

Blacks looked fairly dark, though they could crush a bit at times. Shadows showed decent to good clarity as well. Nothing about the image excelled, but given its age and origins, it seemed satisfactory.

Duel< came with both Italian and English PCM monaural soundtracks. Given that the film came as an Italian production, normally I’d view the Italian audio as the default.

However, a comparison made it clear that the movie used English dialogue during the shoot. Lip-synch clearly lined up better during the English version, so I used that as the go-to edition.

Of course, like most Italian productions of the era, all the dialogue got looped later even in the original language, so a few shots showed slightly disconnected lip-synch. Nonetheless, most fit together well in the English version, whereas the Italian lines matched mouth movements noticeably less well.

In terms of quality, Duel brought us dated but decent audio. Actually, the dialogue sounded better than expected, as the looped material seemed more natural than usual.

Typically, these dubbed Italian films come with genuinely artificial integration of speech, but Duel did decently in that regard. No, the lines didn’t seem as natural as they would had the dialogue been taken from the set, but the lines seemed relatively natural and suffered from little edginess or other issues.

Music felt fairly peppy and full, while effects appeared more than adequate. Some louder elements like gunfire displayed a smidgen of distortion, but in general, the material seemed clean enough. This became a perfectly acceptable track for an older Italian production.

Note that the Italian version offers different opening credits than the English edition. Indeed, the latter shows the title The Big Showdown as opposed to the original Il Grando Duello.

The Blu-ray comes with a surprisingly robust collection of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from film historian Stephen Prince. He brings us a running, screen-specific look at genre connections and traits, cast and crew, sets and locations, various production elements and related topics.

Overall, Prince offers a pretty typical film historian track, and he does so well. He covers the ins and outs in a fairly satisfying manner, so this becomes a useful chat.

A slew of featurettes follow, and these begin with An Unconventional Western. This lasts 31 minutes, 40 seconds and features a chat with director Giancarlo Santi.

The filmmaker talks about how he came to the film and how it got to the screen, aspects of the production and elements of his career. Santi brings us a lively conversation, especially when he accuses Quentin Tarantino of outright theft!

With The Last of the Great Westerns, we discover a 25-minute, 37-second interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. He goes over his memories of the film and other participants. Like Santi, Gastaldi delivers a fun, blunt discussion that keeps us entertained.

Next comes Cowboy By Chance, a 35-minute, 32-second piece with actor Alberto Dentice. He gets into his career and notes about the Duel shoot. While not as delightful as the prior to chats. Dentice still manages to bring a mix of useful memories.

Out of the Box lasts 29 minutes, two seconds and gives us a reel with producer Ettore Rosboch. He discusses his thoughts about the shoot and its participants. Rosboch gets into the material well.

After this we locate The Day of the Big Showdown, a 21-minute, seven-second chat with assistant director Harald Buggenig. Here we learn about how he came to the film as well as his work on it. This winds up as another pretty informative piece.

During the 15-minute, 32-second Saxon City Showdown, we find a “video appreciation” from film historian Austin Fisher. He examines genre areas and their connection to Duel. Fisher throws out some useful insights.

Two Different Duels fills 15 minutes, 38 seconds and offers a comparison between the original version of Duel and a longer German cut. This shows a split-screen view of parts of both along with text to describe the variations. It becomes a fun way to examine an alternate version of the film.

With Game Over, we see a 1984 short film that stars Duel’s Marc Mazza. It lasts nine minutes, 12 seconds and very clearly rips off The Terminator in almost every possible way.

I guess. Given the fact Terminator didn’t debut until October 1984 – and didn’t hit Europe until 1985 – I suppose it’s possible Over came first, but I’m more inclined to think the filmmakers borrowed from the James Cameron classic, as the similarities seem extreme. Anyway, it’s actually not bad on its own, derivative though it may be.

Up next comes Who Was the Rider on the Train?, a 12-minute, 32-second “video essay” from documentary filmmaker Mike Malloy. This piece offers a discussion of the apparently enigmatic Marc Mazza.

Malloy tells us of Mazza’s career and shows some film clips. We don’t get many real insights but we find a decent overview of Mazza’s work.

In addition to two trailers, we finish with three Image Galleries. These cover “Stills, Posters and Press” (18 frames), “Lobby Cards” (34) and “Super 8mm, Home Video and Soundtrack Sleeves” (16). These add up to a decent collection of elements.

At times, The Grand Duel brings us a lively Western. Unfortunately, too much of the movie rambles and lacks cohesion. The Blu-ray comes with decent picture and audio as well as a surprisingly long roster of supplements. Although I like parts of the film, the whole package doesn’t hang together.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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