“THE GRAND DUEL”— “An Archetypal Spaghetti Western”

“The Grand Duel”

“An Archetypal Spaghetti Western”

Amos Lassen

“The Grand Duel” is an archetypal spaghetti western with many of the genre’s classic hallmarks including action-packed gunfights, wild stunts and an impressive climactic showdown.

Lee Van Cleef is a gnarled ex-sheriff called Clayton who comes to the aid of young Philipp Wermeer (Alberto Dentice), a fugitive framed for the murder of a powerful figure called The Patriarch. Clayton helps Philipp fend off attacks from bounty hunters in a series of shootouts before the two get to Jefferson to confront the Saxon brothers, three villains and who really killed The Patriarch. This is a complex tale of revenge with a fine  central performance from Lee Van Cleef and excellent direction from Giancarlo Santi. This is one of the grandest of all the Italian westerns.

Released in 1972  the film follows Sheriff Clayton (Lee Van Cleef) who comes upon a wanted man named Philip Wermeer  who has been accused of killing 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, 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, Wermeer wants to avenge the death of his own father, while Vermeer wants justice.

Lee Van Cleef is almost beyond human, an unstoppable force able to catch bullets in his teeth 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 and he is also fair and just. Van Cleef plays the role with as much poise and ‘cool’, never overreaching or heavily emoting, 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 good foil for Van Cleef. On top of that the movie also benefits immensely from a great soundtrack by Luis Bacalov. This is one of those movies that gets everything right from the perfect mix of action and humor to tension and heart.  It is fun and entertaining.

We 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 se are so wrapped up in cheering on the good guys that we won’t care.

This is Giancarlo Santi’s first film but one would never know as it is wonderfully directed and paced with skill and a keen eye for action and style.


  New 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative 

  High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation 

  Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio 

  Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits 

  Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack 

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack 

  New audio commentary by film critic, historian and theorist Stephen Prince

  An Unconventional Western, a newly filmed interview with director Giancarlo Santi 

  The Last of the Great Westerns, a newly filmed interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi 

  Cowboy by Chance, an interview with the actor Alberto Dentice AKA Peter O’Brien

  Out of the Box, a newly filmed interview with producer Ettore Rosboch

  The Day of the Big Showdown, a newly filmed interview with assistant director Harald Buggenig

  Saxon City Showdown, a newly filmed video appreciation by the academic Austin Fisher 

  Two Different Duels, a comparison between the original cut and the longer German cut of The Grand Duel

  Game Over, an obscure sci-fi short film from 1984 directed by Bernard Villiot and starring The Grand Duel s Marc Mazza

  Marc Mazza: Who was the Rider on the Rain?, a video essay about the elusive actor Marc Mazza by tough-guy film expert Mike Malloy

  Original Italian and international theatrical trailers 

  Extensive image gallery featuring stills, posters, lobby cards and home video sleeves, drawn from the Mike Siegel Archive and other collections 

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kevin Grant and original reviews

One thought on ““THE GRAND DUEL”— “An Archetypal Spaghetti Western”

  1. Mike Malloy

    Actually, Van Cleef does not catch bullets with his mouth. He has removed the bullets from the cartridges, leaving only the case and powder. Hence the later line, “That gun’s only good for making noise.” For some reason, he’s holding the bullets in his mouth, I guess so it can be a big cinematic reveal. (Doubt a gun would actually fire that way in reality, but willing suspension of disbelief and whatnot….)


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