Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Grand Duel (1972)

Director: Giancarlo Santi

Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn, Horst Frank, Klaus Grunberg, Antonio Casale, Marc Mazza, Dominique Darel, Alessandra Cardini, Gastone Pescucci, Elvira Cortese

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A one man Judge, Jury and Executioner who turns the Wild West into a Blood Bath!

Plot: Philipp Wermeer (Dentice) has been framed for the murder of a powerful figure known as The Patriarch. Wermeer escapes, but the three Saxon brothers, sons of The Patriarch, have arranged for a large bounty on Wermeer's head. Clayton (Cleef) is a grizzled ex-sheriff stripped of his office in Jefferson after refusing to acknowledge Wermeer's guilt. During a series of fire-fights, Clayton contrives to help Wermeer escape from attacks of bounty-hunters. Together, the two make their way to Jefferson, where they can confront the three powerful Saxon brothers, and reveal the surprising truth about who killed The Patriarch.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.  It's Lee Van Cleef, Baby!

Lee Van Cleef is in cool, steely-eyed badass Spaghetti Western mode here and that's right where he belongs.  DUEL doesn't have an awful lot when it comes to a story but director Santi & pals were able to churn out a 98 minute movie that doesn't drag and is entertaining. 

It feels like the role of Wermeer was written for Tomas Milian and that he and Cleef would re-teem, trying to capture the chemistry they had in the fantastic THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966).  I'm just speculating because Dentice plays the role with a playfulness found in a lot of Milian's performances.  The ending is written in the title so you know you're going to get a grand duel but the mystery man shown in flashback is pretty obvious and you spend most of the movie waiting to learn the answer to the big question.  One of the highlights is the cyphilis-stricken brother (one of the three), a flauncy lad that's a sight to behold. 

Next to Cleef, though, the biggest star of the show is Luis Bacalov's (also credited with Sergio Bardotti) outstanding score.  If you've seen KILL BILL (2003) you'll recognize it instantly.  A Bacalov score + Lee Van Cleef means you need to see this.  It's not going to make anyone's top 10 Spaghetti Westerns of all time but it's better than most of the 500+ Spags made from '63-'77.

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