The production values are astonishing and the film revels in the exquisite painterly visuals which have become a Scott trademark. Howard Blake's elegiac theme adds immeasurably to the impact of a film influenced by Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1974), and anticipating Scott's own Best Picture Oscar-winning Gladiator (2000). A haunting work of spectral beauty, it is also a worthy companion to Scott's shamefully neglected 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992).
On the DVD: The Duellists is transferred at 1.77:1 with full sound atmospherically remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. A new 29-minute documentary finds Scott discussing The Duellists with Kevin (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) Reynolds, which is particularly enlightening given the relative merits of the two swashbucklers. Scott's absorbing commentary track provides an in-depth look into the film-making process. Equally, film music aficionados will be delighted to find not just an isolated music track, but an informative commentary by composer Howard Blake, though he does sometimes talk over the beginning or end of cues. Most unusual but very welcome is the inclusion of Scott's first short film, Boy and Bicycle (1965), a 25-minute b/w mood piece starring Tony Scott, with music by John Barry. Other extras are a storyboard-to-screen comparison, the American trailer and four galleries of posters, stills and production photos. --Gary S Dalkin
The two antagonists begin their series of bloody encounters when D'Hubert is ordered by his commanding general to arrest Feraud for wounding the local mayor's nephew in a duel. Feraud, in a hopelessly irrational state, challenges D'Hubert to a duel, which is carried out more or less on the spot. D'Hubert comes off slightly better in the initial encounter, which only serves to fuel Feraud's rage, and the course of the film is set.
The cinematography of this film, shot by Frank Tidy, is almost beyond comparison. The previous versions on VHS simply looked muddy and rather washed out. The colors lacked any real saturation, rendering Feraud's bottle-green dolman black and it almost looked like a poor quality black and white in some scenes, especially those set in Napoleon's abortive Russian campaign.
The DVD transfer, by contrast, is staggeringly beautiful and releases colors, which I did not realize existed in the original. I am, by coincidence, a professional cameraman and I rate this as the best shot film I have ever seen. The only criticism I have is a somewhat inconsistent use of graduated filters, which, whilst they were probably quite innovative for their day, don't always work well. Grads are always a problem and any film made since will tend to suffer the same way. A very minor point.Read more ›