Duellists, The 1978

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(67) IMDb 7.5/10

Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel star in this dramatic film about two officers in Napoleon???s army who violently confront each other in a series of duels.

Starring:
Keith Carradine,Harvey Keitel
Runtime:
1 hour, 40 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Action & Adventure
Director Ridley Scott
Starring Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel
Supporting actors Cristina Raines, Edward Fox
Studio Paramount
BBFC rating Parental Guidance
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By John Dynan on 27 July 2003
Format: DVD
Based on Joseph Conrad's book "The Duel", the true story of a 30-year feud between two Napoleonic cavalry officers, "The Duellists" was Ridley Scott's first major film. Starring Keith Carradine as the pompous D'Hubert and a particularly menacing Harvey Keitel as Feraud, the film climbs inside the minds of two men for whom honor is more important than life itself.
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Spike Owen TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Aug. 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Duellists is directed by Ridley Scott and adapted loosely to screenplay by Gerald Vaughan-Hughes from the Joseph Conrad short story The Duel. It stars Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Cristina Raines, Robert Stephens, Tom Conti, John McEnery and Diana Quick. Music is scored by Howard Blake and cinematography by Frank Tidy.

Plot finds Keitel and Carradine as officers in Napoleon's army, who after an incident brings them into conflict, sees them duelling over a number of years. Something that greatly affects the lives of both men.

Ridley Scott has never hid from the influence of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon on The Duellists, and why should he? For The Duellists is every bit as noble and enjoyable as Kubrick's lengthy picture. Here on his first feature film assignment the director has crafted a picture of lush visuals, while also garnering great performances from his two leads. Story ultimately is a bit thin, but Scott explores interesting themes and keeps things ticking over nicely for the hour and forty minute running time. The characters are intellectual, the dialogue sharp, the Napoleonic period splendidly recreated with thought and attention to detail. While the sword fights are intense and credible and never once does it feel like Scott is slotting in a duel purely for action's sake.

A darn great film for the period film lover to gorge on, where the futility of war and men's obsessions blend seamlessly with visual splendour. 8.5/10
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 25 May 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this when it came out and vividly remembered it for over 30 years, though when I saw it I did not know that Ridley Scott directed it. To see it again was an extraordinary pleasure, the quality was so great that I was astounded. This is an absolutely first rate film, a genuine masterpiece.

The plot of the film is about two men locked in a duel of mortal combat, the tail end of the aristocratic honor code as the modern age dawns with Napoleon. Though an aristocrat, one man (Carradine) is rather civilized, given the task of hauling the other, an incorrigible brute, into prison for the murder by sword of a politician's relative. After a silly insult, the result is an explosive hatred, with the macho aggressor (Keitel) imposing the fight and his own code on his adversary. Carradine would like to stop the madness, but carries on for the sake of his reputation. All of this is played out against a vivid historical backdrop, the Napoleonic Wars and the restoration, which are evoked with splendid intelligence and subtlety.

The action scenes - the fights - are of a bloody realism that I have rarely seen in an action film, but then, this is a historical drama of wonderful accuracy. In a variety of contexts, you watch the men go at eachother with a blood lust, with a youthful energy that slips away before the viewer's eyes, with a growing sense of futility and emotional scars. It is an extraordinary transformation.

The cinematography of the film is also second to none: from the odd angles of provincial French architecture to the flourishes of the most Baroque aristocratic homes, you witness the men as they pursue their careers. Truly a feast for the eyes, utterly mesmerizing, breathtaking. Iconic images are a Ridley Scott hallmark.

Finally, the extras on the making of the film are very nice. You get context with the usual hollywood fluff treatment. Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Sept. 2013
Format: Blu-ray
Based on a Joseph Conrad short story inspired by a real-life long running duel between two of Napoleon's officers, Ridley Scott's first feature The Duellists is one of the most visually beautiful films of the 70s. Often adopting the look of paintings of the period while pulling off the difficult trick of avoiding looking like staged or slavishly copied tableaux but instead immersing you in a different time and place, at times it looks and feels as if Scott and his collaborators had somehow travelled back to the Napoleonic era and shot their movie there. Scott manages to marshal his extremely limited forces splendidly, using the natural landscape and existing locations to give the film a sense of scale while strategically cramming the tighter shots with memorable detail to convince you that it's only part of a much more densely populated world. Adding to the verisimilitude is the fact that many of the locations chosen turned out to be the hometown of one of the real life duellists whose series of some 30 duels inspired Conrad's short story.

In many ways it's the least Ridley Scottish film of Scott's career, at once inhabiting the classic British costume drama tradition while still making something quite unique out of it that ensures it's not all about the look and the interior decoration. It's a thin story, but Scott makes it feel a surprisingly rich one, Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel's constantly interrupted duel following the course of Napoleon's rise and fall as one adapts to circumstances and becomes a man of substance and the other turns belligerence into a point of honour until even he can no longer remember the truth of the trivial incident that inspired his life-long unconsummated vendetta.
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