Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 8th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1972
Director: Giancarlo Santi
Writer: Ernesto Gastaldi
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn, Horst Frank, Klaus Grünberg, Antonio Casale, Marc Mazza, Dominique Darel, Alessandra Cardini, Gastone Pescucci, Elvira Cortese, Anna Maria Gherardi
DVD Released: May 21st, 2013
Approximate Running Time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $14.98
Synopsis: Philipp Wermeer is man who has been wrongly accused of killing old man Saxon. Now he is on the urn from the law and Saxon family who are hell bent on seeing him hang. Clayton (Lee Van Cleef) is a former sheriff who was there the evening old man Saxon died and he knows the real identity of the killer. Reluctant at first Philipp Wermeer joins forces with Clayton in quest to clear his name and find the truth behind his own fathers’ murder.
The Grand Duel has been release under various names, most notably The Big Showdown and Storm Rider. And though this release is four minutes shorter than the 98 minute length listed on the IMDB. It is still a longer cut of the film then what was used for the Wild East DVD release. Also this release contains the scene where one of the Saxon’s, who is dressed in a white suit shoots a defenseless old man in the street. The old man then rubs his bloody hand on the white suit. This scene ends rather abruptly on the Wild East DVD. Content wise the version of the film included for this release from Blue Underground appears to be identical to the one used for the Mill Creek release, albeit that release used a different main title card.
Lee Van Cleef often played heavies and this time around he is given the chance to play a more straight forward character that is all about justice. From the opening moments of the film Lee Van Cleef owns this character as he was calm, cool and collected through out a town filled with bounty hunters. Outside of one of Lee Van Cleef’s finest performances the rest of the acting is average at best. The action sequences are violent and bloody something that had all but disappeared from spaghetti westerns being made around the same time as this film.
For a first time director Giancarlo Santi masterfully handles the spaghetti western genre. Ernesto Gastaldi’s screenplay manages to balance all the spaghetti western genre clichés while adding a few new into the mix. The story is meticulously plotted and we are given an ample amount of time to get to know the lead characters. Luis Enríquez Bacalov score is nothing short of brilliant and the films main theme is one of the most memorable pieces ever used in any spaghetti western. It is so mesmerizing and haunting that Quentin Tarantino used it in his film Kill Bill volume 1. Overall The Grand Duel is one the last great spaghetti westerns to emerge before the genre finally called it a day.
Blue Underground presents The Grand Duel in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended ‘scope’ aspect ratio. Also this is a dual layer DVD release (7.41 GB). This new transfer was sourced from the camera’s original negative and for those who have seen Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray release. This transfer is comparable to that aforementioned transfer. With the main difference being they each use different main title cards. The exact running time for this release from Blue Underground is 93 minutes 53 seconds, while the running time for Mill Creek’s release is 93 minutes 48 seconds.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There are no major issues with background noise or distortion. Dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and the film’s score sounds robust. It should be noted that the audio mix for this release fares much better, then the audio mix included for the Mill Creek release.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 55 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and an audio commentary with journalists C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parks, who discuss Lee Van Cleef’s career is Spaghetti Westerns, comparisons between the character he portrays in The Grand Duel and the character’s Lee Van Cleef portrayed in the two film’s he made with Sergio Leone, the uniqueness of the locations used for The Grand Duel, director Giancarlo Santi and his career as an assistant director, most notably with Sergio Leone, the cast, acrobatic stunt work, the light tone of the film, voice-over dubbing actors, the film’s visual style, the score, the decline of the Spaghetti Western genre and many of the genres clichés and the film’s highly stylized final showdown. Overall this is a lively discussion that is overflowing with a wealth of information.
Rounding out the extras is a collection of other Spaghetti Western trailers which are as follows, A Bullet for the General, Compañeros, Django, Django, Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, Four of the Apocalypse, Keoma, Mannaja: A Man Called Blade, Run Man Run and Texas, Adios (total running time – 26 minutes 31 seconds – anamorphic widescreen). Overall The Grand Duel gets a first rate DVD release from Blue Underground.
Note: During the audio commentary that one of the participants mentions new Blu-Ray transfer. He was referring to Blue Underground’s Hi Def transfer, since Blue Underground only currently has the rights to this film for the DVD format. Blue Underground has also confirmed to me that they only have the DVD rights for the film Keoma.