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Studio: Shout Factory
Year: 1977
Cast: Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Edward Fox, Cristina Raines, Robert Stephens, Albert Finney
Director: Ridley Scott
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Rating: PG for (adult themes, violence)
Run Time: 01h:40m:31s
Genre(s): drama

ďYour duty is to victimize me.Ē - Feraud (Harvey Keitel)


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I'm not sure how this, Ridley Scott's first film, never made it onto my radar, but what better way to watch it for the first time than via this potentially excellent new Blu-ray disc from Shout Factory.

Movie Grade: B+

DVD Grade: B+

Have you ever seen that movie? You know, the one shot in the 70ís, featuring A-list actors (of the era) in period costumes wielding swords, and directed by one of the best directors of the last 30 years? If your answer is no, then youíre not alone, since the film in question, 1977ís The Duellists has somehow managed to fly under the mainstream radar for the past 36 years. Keith Carradine (Nashville) and Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, The Piano) are the titular characters, and Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus) is the living-legend director behind the lens of this, his first feature film. Despite winning the Best First Feature Award at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival, The Duellists has still gone relatively unseen by many of even the most ardent film buffs. Itís enough of a cult classic, however, for Shout Factory to tackle its Blu-ray release.

This was the first time Iíve ever seen the film, myself, and it quickly became clear why more people havenít really latched on to the film and elevated it beyond semi-obscurity. The Duellists is a movie thatís constantly searching for an identity, as at one point it seemingly wants to be a period drama, and the next minute weíre embroiled in a straight-up action flick. This is likely a result of it being Ridley Scottís first directorial effort, as heís clearly trying to find his footing behind the camera. The good news is, that things are consistently entertaining for most of the 100- minute running time, with the Scott doing a fine job with the duel scenes, specifically. These sequences hint quite a bit at the similar intensity that Scott would exhibit in his classics like Blade Runner and Gladiator, so fans of the filmmaker will want to give The Duellists for that reason alone.

Watching Keitel and Carradine in these against type roles is another reason to finally experience this, as their performances are interesting, to say the least. Keitelís dialogue-delivery is much more wooden and stilted than normal, but that doesnít take away from some great work, as he exudes a physical presence that weíve rarely seen in the rest of his body of work. Carradine is just as good, if not better, as his subdued, yet compelling performance is almost haunting at times. Despite almost looking borderline sleepy, at times, Carradine springs to life when the script calls for it, seamlessly showcasing numerous emotions and handling the dramatic, non-duel-oriented scenes like a seasoned pro. These two, longtime actors are still working quite a bit today, and that makes it even more fun to go back and take a look at their younger selves in action.

Shout Factory presents the film in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and itís a very impressive 1080p transfer. Although much of the dirt, grain, and other problems have been cleaned up, the film still maintains its unique look, courtesy of cinematographer Frank Tidy. Image detail is consistently nice, with well-handled sharpness, solid, deep blacks, and a realistic, well-rendered color palette that never disappoints. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also very pleasing, exhibiting wide dynamic range, some surprisingly deep bass during the duels and a war sequence, and crystal clear, well-mixed dialogue.

The extras collection includes Dueling Directors: Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds, a 29-minute sit-down with the two titular directors, as they discuss The Duellists, how it played at Cannes, and how the film was received upon its theatrical release. Thereís also a 24-minute interview with Keith Carradine, during which he talks about how The Duellists became the cult classic that it is today, and how impressed he was in working with Ridley Scott. A pair of audio commentary tracks are on board, with the first one involving Scott. This is basically Scottís story of how the film came to be, chronicling the entire production. The second track is with composer Howard Blake, and he, naturally, focuses on the memorable score and the origins of its numerous parts.

Posted by: Chuck Aliaga - March 10, 2013, 4:59 pm - DVD Review
Keywords: officers, duels, passion

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