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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Grand Duel (Blu-ray)
The Grand Duel (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // May 7, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 28, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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The Movie:

Giancarlo Santi's 1972 film, also known as The Big Showdown, who gets his mitts on a wanted man named Philip Wermeer (Alberto Dentice credited as Peter O'Brien) who has been accused of calling the patriarch of the powerful Saxon family. When a gang of bounty hunters show up with the intention of taking Wermeer in, dead or alive and whether Clayton likes it or not, he helps him escape but the pair soon hook up again on the way to Saxon City where the three surviving sons of the murdered man intend to see Wermeer hang for his crimes.

As the story progresses, Clayton and Wermeer learn the truth about one another and form a begrudging alliance. As it turns out, Wemeer wants to avenge the death of his own father, while Vermeer, who we learn has been stripped of his star, wants justice.

Stylishly directed with all the close ups and wide angle shots you'd expect from a director who did his time helping out Sergio Leone (he was the second unit director on The Good, The Bad And The Ugly as well as Once Upon A Time In The West), The Grand Duel features Lee Van Cleef in one of the coolest roles of his career. Here he's almost beyond human, an unstoppable force able to catch bullets in his death and hit his targets with his six shooters without even looking at them. He's as tough as nails and as hard as they come but so too is he fair and just. Van Cleef plays the role with as much poise and ‘cool' as you would want him too, never overreaching or chewing the scenery, instead using his tough guy looks and dangerous eyes to say as much with a knowing glance as he does with any spoken dialogue. Dentice is also good here, and if his character isn't quite as memorable, he makes a fun foil for Van Cleef. On top of that the movie also benefits immensely from a great soundtrack composed by Luis Bacalov (it's so good that Quentin Tarantino pilfered it and recycled it in Kill Bill!). It's one of those movies that gets everything right, the perfect mix of action and humor, tension and heart and it's got some interesting characters and a few cool plot twists as well.

If it isn't the most realistic western ever made (see the aforementioned comment about Van Cleef catching a bullet in his teeth or witness early on the scene in which Dentice is launched over a building by using a wagon as a launch pad) it's definitely tops when it comes to fun and entertainment. You get the impression that the two leads are supposed to be larger than life and as such, they behave in ways that aren't necessarily within the realm of possibility. It hardly matters by the time the end credits hit the screen, because you'll be so wrapped up in cheering on the good guys that you won't care. If may not be particularly deep or thought provoking and it may not turn the genre on its head, but it sure is entertaining.

The Video:

Arrow presents The Grand Duel on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 and taken from a ‘new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative.' Detail is stronger and colors look more natural here than on past editions. There's no noise reduction, the presentation is very film-like, and the transfer is free of compression issues or edge enhancement. There's great depth and texture evident throughout and the picture is very clean from start to finish, showing virtually no print damage at all, just a few small white specks here and there. Black levels are solid and skin tones look good. Really, no complains here, Arrow has done a nice job.

The Audio:

Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio options are provided in English and Italian options with subtitles provided for the Italian track and SDH subtitles provided for the English track. Both tracks are clean, clear and free of any hiss or distortion. The English track plays better to my ears but your mileage may vary. Both options sound very good, problem free, so it really just comes down to personal preference.

The Extras:

In addition to being able to watch the movie with your choice of English or Italian audio options and titles/credits, the disc also includes a host of new supplements including a new audio commentary by film critic, historian and theorist Stephen Prince. It's a well-informed track with a lot of goof information on the cast and crew, specifically director Santi and leading man Lee Van Cleef. Prince gives quite a bit of background information on them, but also talks up the locations that are used, the effectiveness of the music in the film (as well as some details on composer Luis Bacalov's career and contributions to Italian cinema) and quite a bit more. He also offers up his own thoughts on the film and analysis on what works and helps to set this one apart from the pack.

From there, we dig into a host of new featurettes, starting with An Unconventional Western, a newly filmed interview with director Giancarlo Santi that runs just under thirty-two-minutes in length. Here he covers how he got into the business, how he connected with producers Henryk Chroscicki and Ettore Rosboch, his work with Sergio Leone, working with the cast and crew on the film, and how he felt about Quentin Tarantino using selections of the score in Kill Bill. The Last Of The Great Westerns is a newly filmed interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi that clocks in at twenty-six-minutes. Here the writer talks about working with Santi, his thoughts on how the film turned out, how he got into screenwriting in the first place and a few other projects that he's been involved with over the years. Cowboy By Chance is a new interview with the actor Alberto Dentice AKA Peter O'Brien that runs thirty-six-minutes. In this piece he speaks about how he got into acting, doing live theater work, getting into film landing his part in The Grand Duel, working with Santi and Van Cleef, what it was like on set and more. Out Of The Box is a new interview with producer Ettore Rosboch that runs twenty-nine-minutes and sees his speaking about Titanus Films, the popularity of the Spaghetti Westerns in the day, working with Santi and Van Cleef and his thoughts on the film as a whole. The Day Of The Big Showdown is a new interview with assistant director Harald Buggenig that clocks in at twenty-one-minutes in length. He speaks here a out his thoughts on the movie, his career to this point, collaborating both with Santi and cinematographer Mario Vulpiani and quite a bit more.

Arrow has some other interesting featurettes included on the disc as well, beginning with Saxon City Showdown, a newly filmed video appreciation by the academic Austin Fisher that runs just shy of sixteen-minutes. In this piece, Fisher talks in quite a bit of detail about what makes The Grand Duel such an entertaining and interesting film, the effectiveness and importance of Van Cleef's presence and performance and what Santi and the crew were able to bring to the film. Also worth checking out is Marc Mazza: Who Was The Rider On The Rain, a twelve-minute video essay about the actor by "tough-guy film expert Mike Malloy." Malloy's contributions to Blu-ray/DVD releases are always enjoyable, this piece is no exception as he details Mazza's life and times and his contributions to genre cinema.

Two Different Duels is an interesting comparison between the original cut and the longer German cut of The Grand Duel that runs sixteen-minutes. In this piece, like the title suggest, we learn what was changed between the two versions and what makes these variants unique from one another.

Rounding out the extras on the disc are original Italian and international theatrical trailers, a massive image gallery comprised of stills, posters, lobby cards and home video sleeves (from the Mike Siegel Archive and other collections), menus and chapter selection.

Overall:

The Grand Duel works really well as a fairly standard action film with some decent comedic elements and features some great performances, particularly from Van Cleef. It's also got an excellent soundtrack and some great cinematography. Arrow's special edition Blu-ray release trumps previous editions from Mill Creek and Blue Underground with better audio and video and more extras. Recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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