Duellists, The (Blu-ray) (1977)

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Released 27-May-2020

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by director Ridley Scott
Isolated Musical Score-and commentary by composer Howard Blake
Featurette-Duelling Directors: Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds
Interviews-Cast-Keith Carradine
Gallery-Photo and Posters
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Imprint Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 100:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ridley Scott
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Keith Carradine
Harvey Keitel
Albert Finney
Edward Fox
Cristina Raines
Tom Conti
John McEnery
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Howard Blake


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
English Audio Commentary DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
English Audio Commentary DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† Strasbourg 1800; French cavalry officer Lieutenant Armand díHubert (Keith Carradine) is tasked by his general to deliver an order and a reprimand to Lieutenant Gabriel Feraud (Harvey Keitel) because Feraud had fought a duel that morning. Feraud is a prickly and argumentative officer and he takes exception to díHubert and challenges him to an immediate duel. DíHubert cannot in honour refuse the challenge but the duel ends inconclusively. However, Feraud is not prepared to let the matter rest and over the next 6 years he challenges díHubert whenever they are in the same place and the same rank. díHubertís lover Laura (Diana Quick) implores him to stop but by this time reputation, and honour, demands he continue to face Feraud. They fight with epees, sabres and on horseback; once díHubert is badly wounded, stopping the duel, another time Feraud is cut and bleeding profusely so again the duel is stopped. There is a hiatus when Feraud is posted to Spain but in 1812 they meet again during Napoleonís disastrous retreat from Moscow in the Russian winter.

†††† In 1814 Napoleon goes into exile in Elba and díHubert, now with the rank of general, retires to his sisterís estate in the country, where he falls in love with and proposes to his neighbour Adele (Cristina Raines). When Napoleon escapes and returns to France díHubert declines an offer to re-join his army, although Feraud, now also a general, does. Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo and again exiled. díHubert, now married with a baby on the way and in good standing with the reinstated Royalist regime, learns that Feraud is on a list of Bonaparte supporters due to be tried and executed. Honour demands that he intercedes on Feraudís behalf; he is successful and Feraud is released. But Feraudís honour demands that one last duel be fought.

†††† The Duellists, based on the Joseph Conrad short story The Duel, was directed by Ridley Scott. Scott had directed thousands of commercials and a couple of TV episodes but The Duellists was his first feature film, one that set his career on the upward trajectory that lead to Oscar nominations (four so far, but sadly he has yet to win one) and commercial success. The Duellists was made for less than $1m, but even in this first feature Scottís ability to construct worlds is evident, in this case the world of Napoleonís army and France. Shot on location in France and Scotland (standing in for the snows of Russia) every frame of The Duellists from the first shot of a duel at dawn to the last of Keitel on a hillside with the light slanting through the frame, is exquisitely beautiful. The cinematographer ostensibly was Frank Tidy although in a rather unusual step for feature films Scott himself operated the camera. To work within the budget Scott utilises smoke, mist and darkness or shots through windows or tent flaps to hide the limited number of extras at his disposal. Interiors in state rooms have impressive set decoration and detail and the retreat from Moscow in the freezing snows looks epic!

†††† The Duellists is well served by the two protagonists. Keitelís Feraud is intense, single-minded and aggressive, Carradineís díHubert more rational and questioning, but to both honour is paramount and with obsession it takes on an existence of its own. The duels are varied, each with their own dynamic, and are at times bloody; perhaps the best is the one with cavalry sabres within a brick cellar where both men fight themselves to exhaustion. The final duel with pistols within the ruins of a castle is long and tense, a fitting climax to the madness that has gone before. Scott also manages to assemble an impressive cast of familiar faces in bit parts including Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Tom Conti, Australian Arthur Dignam and, in his first screen role Pete Postlethwaite.

†††† The Duellists is an impressive film by any standards, much less one that is a low budget first film; indeed, it was well regarded enough to win the best first film award at Cannes in 1977.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† The Duellists is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

†††† If I described the look of the film as composed of pastel compositions you would get the idea. The Duellists was often shot in the brilliant witching hour of sunrise or dusk, with diffused light filtered through smoke or mist or through trees, the sunlight radiant when it strikes against buildings. Interiors are also diffusively or dully lit with candles or light slanting through windows. The costumes are beautifully detailed; the Napoleonic age was a period of spectacular uniforms especially among the elite cavalry units such as the various units of Hussars, to which both participants belong, although to different regiments. Close up detail of blood or dirt on faces is strong. Blacks and shadow detail are excellent, especially during the blizzards, snow and darkness when the army retreats from Moscow, skin tones are natural, brightness and contrast consistent. I saw some tiny, fleeting marks but this is otherwise a clean print.

†††† English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Audio is a choice of English DTS-MA HD 5.1 or English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (the Blu-ray sleave and the Blu-ray menu states it is English LPCM 2.0 but my system reads it as DTS-HD MA). The filmís theatrical release was with mono audio.

†††† This is not a film with big action sequences requiring booming surround use but what we get is regular and impressive ambient sound. For example, during the duels there is mostly no music as the weapons clash, clang and whistle through the air with the grunts of the duellists coming from the front speakers while the rears feature distant thunder, the wind, the baa of sheep or the twittering of birds. Scenes in the towns or state rooms have the murmur of voices. Pistol shots are loud and reverberate and there is the thunder of hooves. The beautifully lyrical score by Howard Blake is nicely rendered. Dialogue can occasionally be on the soft side, especially in a scene between Carradine and Diana Quick when the subtitles helped. The subwoofer was used sparingly for hooves and weather effects.

†††† There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with director Ridley Scott

†††† Scott talks non-stop about how he got the film set up, the cast, including how he got Albert Finney for a cameo and where Scottís children appear, locations and the rain in France, he mentions most of the crew including the screenwriter Gerald Vaughan-Hughes, the score and the look of the film including the influence of Barry Lyndon, the budget and techniques of low budget filmmaking, chasing the light, provides advice to budding directors, talks about going from commercials to feature films, his filmmaking techniques, points out continuity errors and provides some anecdotes about the shoot.

Audio Commentary by composer Howard Blake and Isolated Music Score

†††† Blake pauses when the isolated score occurs and elsewhere talks about the various themes and motifs he wrote for the film, explained what he was trying to achieve and points out where the same themes were used, reused and adapted. He also talks about his background, meeting and working with Ridley Scott, the various instruments he chose, the three different types of music used, influences, sound effects and music and when the score was not used. An unusual, informative and interesting commentary.

Duelling Directors: Ridley Scott & Kevin Reynolds (29:09)

†††† Filmed in 2002, director Kevin Reynolds introduces The Duellists then sits down with Ridley Scott to discuss the film and to watch some scenes. They talk about the genesis of the film, the script, the budget and low budget filmmaking, the fight scenes, the locations, sets and casting, the look of the film, the release of the film and attending Cannes. Included is also film clips, on-set footage plus archival (1977) interviews with Scott, producer David Puttnam and writer Gerald Vaughan-Hughes.

The Story of The Duellists: An Interview with actor Keith Carradine (26:42)

†††† Accompanied by some film clips Carradine talks about working with Ridley Scott and David Puttnam, low budget filming tricks, the filmís music, his character, the dueling scenes and the other actors, Harvey Keitel, Albert Finney, Edward Fox and Cristina Raines, and his reaction now to the film.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:31)

Photo Gallery

†††† 39 film photos and posters. Accompanied by music, they advance automatically.

Imprint Trailer (0:26)

†††† A run through of the first batch of Imprint releases: The War of the Worlds, Sorry, Wrong Number, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The Duellists and Waterloo.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The Region A Blu-ray of The Duellists misses the trailer and photo gallery but has all the other extras. Buy local.

Summary

†††† The Duellists was not an outright commercial or critical success at the time in most regions but it has since grown in stature and achieved cult status. It put Ridley Scott on the path to his successful career. Indeed, even at this early stage of Scottís career The Duellists shows his ability to create credible and detailed worlds and to make beautiful looking films.

†††† The video is outstanding, the audio very good. The Duellists was released on DVD here almost two decades ago. That DVD included all the extras on this Blu-ray except for the Carradine interview but it also had Boy and Bike (1965), Ridley Scottís first short film. The Blu-ray of course is HD and with lossless sound, so fans of the film or Scott should certainly consider an upgrade.

†††† The Duellists was supplied for review by ViaVision Entertainment. Check out their Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, deals and more.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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