Duel in the Sun is being reviewed here for the quality of its presentation; it's been out twice before from Anchor Bay. In content, MGM's disc is the same as AB's second release entitled Duel in the Sun Roadshow Edition from 2000. It has the same double overture that extends the running time by a full ten minutes, including the clumsy narration opening that apologizes for the character of the Sin Killer played by Walter Huston.
Duel in the Sun is as nutty a picture that ever came out of Hollywood, and I still get into the delirious romanticism of its Tiomkin music, the gloriously overplayed sex scenes and King Vidor's powerful imagery (abetted by a posse of fill-in directors whenever crazy producer David O. Selznick wanted to flex his authority). For a full run-down on the wildly uneven show, see the earlier Duel in the Sun Roadshow Edition review.
MGM's disc is a mixed blessing. Perhaps due to improved encoding and production methods, the picture looks better than ever, with colors perhaps a bit more stable. No complaint there at all, for this DVD shows off the picture's extremes of Technicolor almost as well as a theatrical print and far better than compressed cable transmission.
The nagging problem is the audio, which I am going to guess has been given a big dose of compression processing to minimize hiss. Well, they went too far because the track is now too "crunchy", with loud noises slightly distorted and all detail lost out of quieter passages. The dynamic music is badly effected as well, as if it were out of phase and with some frequencies cancelled out. The same track malady is present on MGM's visually beautiful Thief of Bagdad disc.
I played the disc on two TVs from two different DVD players. On the small monitor it was less noticeable but even there the track was "thick" - I had to turn it up too loud to hear it, and then it distorted. On the large Mitsubishi with surround the effect was even worse. I often play my old disc with the picture off just to enjoy the Tiomkin soundtrack in the background (the overture is quite a workout) and I'll just have to continue using the older disc.
The disc contains a trailer as an extra. The release was licensed from Buena Vista (no explanation given for that arrangement) in a package of discs released in a group. As with the others, MGM simply received the masters and proceeded to mastering. So where along the line the audio problem occurred is hard to say. If someone out there gets a disc that sounds good (can you hear Orson Welles' opening narration clearly?), let me know right away so I can happily retract the above and say I simply have a bum screener.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Duel in the Sun rates: