The Grand Duel (1972)

Il grande duello / The Big Showdown

grand duel poster

Ok, a few weeks ago, I picked up this 3-disc/9-movie set of spaghetti westerns on eBay, dirt cheap. Apparently, some are actually in the public domain now, so just about anyone can release them. A quick glance at the disk showed them to be of varying quality, no surprises there. There’s one on there called “White Comanche’, starring, get this, William Shatner as a white guy raised by Comanches. It sounds like it has the potential of being a "Black Belt Jones" quality of spag western (as in sooooo bad it’s good). I’ll get to it someday. Anyways, last night I watched one of them - Giancarlo Santi’s “The Grand Duel’ (Il Grande Duello), from 1972. It’s a joint Italian-French-German film starring genre legend Lee Van Cleef, as well as Peter O’Brien and Horst Frank.

Lee Van Cleef

Van Cleef stars as Sheriff Clayton, who has this uneasy alliance with O’Brien’s character named Philip Wermeer. Wermeer is being hunted by some bounty hunters because he’s been wrongly accused of killing the patriarch of the nutty, power-mad Saxon clan. Clayton knows who the real killer is, and after several escapes and brushes with death, he faces down the Saxons in the aforementioned ‘Grand Duel’.

Peter O'Brien

All in all, not a bad film, as far as the genre goes, but by no means in the upper eschelon. Van Cleef was awesome as usual, and the story had enough twists and turns to make it interesting. As usual in these films, the acting was all over the place, some good, some not so good. Like this guy:

Angty motherfucker

This guy is really angry. Seriously. He looks like this in every scene. I was waiting for his head to explode. No luck, though.

The feel of the film was actually quite typical of the genre, somewhat derivative… close ups, strange angles and such. There was this recurring black and white flashback scene that was filmed really well. The soundtrack, by Luis Bacalov (Django) sounded somewhat like it could have been a Morricone score at times. There was one MAJOR editing goof, in a scene where two of the bad guys were firing on a crowd with a machine gun. One of them gets shot and falls backwards. Two seconds later, he’s back in the scene as though it never happened, gets shot again and falls forwards. There were a few things in the film to make it interesting, though, such as this flamboyant baddie and his goons:

flamboyant badass

What’s with the scarf? And is that an Allman Brother beside him?

Like ‘Django Kill’, there was another one of those flamboyant gay cowboys, something that clues you in right away that you’re not watching a John Wayne movie. Must be a European thing. Not trying to be mean here, but seriously, would this guy last ten seconds in the rugged, machismo-laden old west? Where does he get the bleach to keep that suit and gloves so perfectly, angelically white? They’d probably hang him by that scarf if this guy were real.

So, overall, typical B-movie spag western, not bad. No underlying message or subtext, and certainly not high art, but it was fun, nevertheless.

Here’s the trailer, it was released in some markets as ‘The Big Showdown’ (not to be confused with Sollima’s ‘The Big Gundown’.


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