'The Grand Duel: Special Edition'
(Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn, Horst Frank, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1972) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Genre stalwart Lee Van Cleef (The Big Combo, Day of Anger) stars as 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.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Grand Duel' is an awesome spaghetti western featuring the one, the only Lee Van Cleef - who never ever looked cooler in his life than in this flick.
Also featuring the greatest theme song ever composed for a film (and that's something, given that Quentin Tarantino probably agrees with me as he also selected the song for the soundtrack of 'Kill Bill', Van Cleef plays former Sheriff Clayton.
Portraying the type of gunslinger whose eyes are never really closed when he lies asleep with his hat over his face he spots the hideout of every potential enemy without even lifting his head.
Riding along with a traveling stagecoach, Clayton is on the trail of a young fugitive outlaw named Philippe Vermeer (Alberto Dentice). Not for the $1.000 reward on his head, like all the other bounty hunters they encounter along the way, but to keep an eye on him as he's heading towards Saxon City to settle a personal vendetta.
Saxon City is kept under the thumbs of the three rich and utterly corrupted Saxon brothers David, Eli and Adam (too bad none of them is named John…) and they falsely accused Philippe of killing their father at Jefferson train station.
Although Philippe is innocent of that crime and wisely stays away from Saxon City, he nevertheless insists on returning to find and get even with the murderer of his own father.
Of course, Sheriff Clayton just happens to be the only person who can help him with that.
'The Grand Duel' has everything you could possible seek in a western: outrageous shootouts, invincible heroes and psychopathic villains (especially Adam, the youngest Saxon, is oddly menacing), compelling sub plots, jaw-dropping moments of intensity, magnificent decors and breathtaking exterior locations and – as said already – an impeccable soundtrack.
The opening scenes are especially memorable as Dentice's character shows moves that would later become standard part in action movies. The performances across the board are quite hearty, especially from the likes of Jess Hahn, as Bighorse the stage driver, and Antonio Casale as nefarious bounty hunter Hole.
Klaus Grunbergs' effeminate performance as Adam Saxon, a young man clearly not that happy at the thought of marriage to a woman, is amusing also. Oh, the final showdown of the title is over fairly quickly, sure, but that doesn't make it any less effective, believe me.
Director Giancarlo Santi might not be the most prominent name in the field of classic Italian westerns, but he obviously paid close attention to the films of the masters (like Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima).
Admittedly I'm being a bit too generous and biased here, but it's a brilliantly entertaining example of a sadly extinct cinematic genre. This is a Full Screen 35mm camera negative film (4:3) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
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