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Grand Duel


To catch a Cleef.

Rod Lott May 20th, 2013

Lee Van Cleef enjoyed a secondary career in Italy cranking out spaghetti Westerns, with little regard to quality. However, 1972’s Grand Duel — aka The Big Showdown — is deserving of its Grand label. No wonder Quentin Tarantino borrowed its sweeping theme song by Luis Bacalov for Kill Bill; you'll recognize it in two notes.

grandduel

As Clayton, a former sheriff, Van Cleef traverses the desert by stagecoach, looking to score a $3,000 bounty for bringing in the bandit Wermeer (Peter O'Brien, né Alberto Dentice, who never acted before or since). Wermeer is wanted for murder by the three Saxon brothers who seek revenge for them killing their dad (Horst Frank, Dario Argento's The Cat o' Nine Tails), which he didn't do, so by the time arrives for the inevitable showdown, Clayton and Wermeer forge an alliance against the tyrannical trio, one of whom is now the sheriff.

Although he sure could use a haircut here, what with an Old West mullet, Van Cleef is at his stark, silent best as Clayton. Saying little that can't be said with his trusty shooters, he earns the title of badass. Since director Giancarlo Santi (debuting after an apprenticeship on two Sergio Leone epics, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West) keeps the story simple, where it could work in a modern, urban setting just as well as it does with criminal cowboys, Grand Duel holds appeal well beyond the boundaries of Western conventions.

The film has no shortage of previous releases, but for this new DVD, Blue Underground has worked from a remastered cut that looks beautiful. There’s a commentary, too, but of more interest to me was its “Spaghetti Western Trailer Reel,” a half-hour’s worth of vintage trailers that includes such previous Blue Underground winners as Django, Kill! (If You Live Shoot!) and A Bullet for the General. You’d be wise to use it as a shopping list, pardner. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
A Bullet for the General Blu-ray review  
The Cat o' Nine Tails Blu-ray review   
• Django, Kill! (If You Live Shoot!) Blu-ray review   
A Fistful of Dollars / For a Few Dollars More Blu-ray review    



 
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