“The Grand Duel”
“An Archetypal Spaghetti Western”
“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.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
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