Blu-ray Review: THE GRAND DUEL

THE GRAND DUEL (aka as Il Grande duello, Storm Rider and The Big Showdown) was directed by Giancarlo Santi from a screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi and stars Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn, Horst Frank, Marc Mazza and Klaus Grünberg. The music was composed by Luis Bacalov.

The Grand Duel is archetypal spaghetti western which boasts many of the genre’s classic hallmarks including action-packed gunfights, wild stunts and an impressive climactic showdown… Genre stalwart Lee Van Cleef stars as a gnarled ex-sheriff called Clayton who comes to the aid of a 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 thrilling gunfights before the two make their way to Jefferson to confront three villains known as the Saxon brothers, and reveal who really killed The Patriarch. A complex tale of revenge penned by prolific giallo writer Ernesto Gastaldi , The Grand Duel benefits from a beguiling central performance from Lee Van Cleef and assured helmsmanship from Giancarlo Santi. Add to this brew a memorable and tuneful score by composer Luis Bacalov and the stage is set for one of the grandest of all the Italian westerns.

This 1972 Italian spaghetti western follows “man in black” Clayton, an ex-sheriff who’s tasked with protecting Phillip from a mob of hitmen determined to take the rebelling young man out. The thing is, Phillip continuously tries to escape from Clayton who’s doing nothing more than trying to keep him alive for a very important reason. Needless to say, Phillip is more of a headache than he’s worth but Clayton stands strong to his motives.

The chaos and numerous chases ends up leading the two men to the small town of Jefferson that’s run by the three corrupt Saxon brothers who are hellbent on getting revenge for their father’s death. They all think Phillip is the guilty party but Clayton is the only man who really knows who killed The Patriarch. In the end he reveals the shocking identity which ultimately leads to a final showdown between the “man in black” the sinister Saxon brothers so he can once and for all clear Phillip’s name.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back include movie details and list of special features. The reversible sleeve features original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin so you have your pick of which side you’d like to use as the front cover. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, I had a blast watching The Grand Duel because the Italians always go over-the-top when they try to Americanize one of their productions. The story is interesting and the characters are fun to follows, espeically Lee Van Cleef’s character whose motives aren’t quite clear in the beginning and Alberto Dentice whose character is about rebellious as they come. There’s some awesome gun fights in the movie along with some exciting action and this is where the over-the-top part comes in because American westerns don’t attempt some of the acrobatic stunts we see in this movie. It’s still fun to watch though! Giancarlo Santi was the assistant director for popular westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West so he brought his experience to this movie and delivered an entertaining slice of cinema that’s about American as an Italian film can get and there’s a fitting score to go along with it. The Italians are known for their great giallo but they make darn good westerns too. The Grand Duel will be available on Blu-ray on May 14th.

Distributor: Arrow Video

Run Time: 94 Minutes

Rated: R

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1) Region A

Blu-ray Audio: Italian and English LPCM 1.0 Mono

Subtitles: English and English SDH

Special Features: The extras include two subtitle options, new audio commentary, five interviews with some of the cast and crew, an all-new appreciation video, two trailers, extensive image gallery, a comparison between the two cuts of the film that are included on this release, a short film and a video essay.

  • 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 (31:40)
  • The Last of the Great Westerns, a newly filmed interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (25:37)
  • Cowboy by Chance, an interview with the actor Alberto Dentice AKA Peter O’Brien (35:32)
  • Out of the Box, a newly filmed interview with producer Ettore Rosboch (29:02)
  • The Day of the Big Showdown, a newly filmed interview with assistant director Harald Buggenig (21:07)
  • Saxon City Showdown, a newly filmed video appreciation by the academic Austin Fisher (15:32)
  • Original Italian Trailer (02:56)
  • International Trailer (02:56)
  • Extensive image gallery featuring stills, posters, (03:00) lobby cards (05:40) and home video sleeves (02:40), drawn from the Mike Siegel Archive and other collections
  • Two Different Duels, a comparison between the original cut and the longer German cut of The Grand Duel (15:38)
  • Game Over, an obscure sci-fi short film from 1984 directed by Bernard Villiot and starring The Grand Duel’s Marc Mazza (09:12)
  • 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 (12:32)
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