and Sergio Bardotti and Luis Enriquez Bacalov's memorable orchestral score that enhances this western.
As "Grand Duel" opens, lawmen fire warning shots at the stagecoach that Sheriff Clayton (Lee Van Cleef) is riding in and refuse to let Big Horse (Jess Han of "Escape From Death Row") enter Gila Bend. They explain that escaped killer Philipp Wermeer (Peter O'Brien, aka Alberto Dentice) has holed up with a girl in town after breaking out of jail in Jefferson. The authorities have posted a $3-thousand bounty onVermeer's head. Nevertheless, Clayton disembarks and strolls without apparent concern past two lawmen and several bounty hunters to quench his thirst in Gila Bend. This introductory scene unfolds at a leisurely pace as it covers points, such as where the bounty hunters are hidden and Clayton's imperturbability in the face of death. Clayton indicates the positions of all the bounty hunters to Vermeer. Later, after our wrongly convicted hero eludes the bounty hunters during a furious horse chase. The villains kill his horse, but he flags down a stagecoach. The entire scene resembles the scene from John Ford's "Stagecoach" when Ringo (John Wayne) who was afoot climbed aboard the vehicle.
The omniscient Lee Van Cleef hero dominates the action. The hooked-nosed, veteran Hollywood heavy delivers a stern but seasoned performance as the worldly-wise elder. Van Cleef smokes his signature curved pipe. Actually, when we meet Clayton, he is no longer the sheriff of Jefferson. He protested Philip Vermeer's conviction and the authorities stripped him of his badge. Earlier, he had taken the Patriarch to court three times. Eventually, as the best man with a gun in the entire state, Clayton ushers in justice above the law. Anyway, one of the Patriarch's sons Eli Saxon (bald-headed Marc Mazza of "Moonraker") accused Philipp Vermeer of killing the Patriarch, (Horst Frank in a dual role wearing whiskers), a wealthy, unscrupulous power-broker hated by half of the state. Vermeer suspects that the Patriarch had his father shot in the back because he learned about the
silver on Vermeer's land. Meanwhile, Eli demands to know the identity of the man who killed his father. Clayton reminds Eli that the Patriarch was gunned down from behind and that Vermeer stood in front of them at the railway depot. Clearly, Vermeer couldn't have killed the Patriarch.
The villains in "Grand Duel" qualify as challenging villains; they are vicious, cold-blooded, and degenerate to the core. David (Horst Frank of "Johnny Hamlet") rules the Saxon clan, while Eli serves as SaxonvCity's marshal, and Adam Saxon (Klaus Grunberg of "Fire, Ice, and Dynamite") runs the saloon. Grunberg plays Adam as a depraved homosexual who wears an ice-cream white suit, fedora, and constantly caresses a long scarf that he looped around his neck. The first time that we see Adam, he guns down an old man that his henchmen have thrown out of the saloon. Later, Adam massacres a wagon train with a machine gun and leaves no eyewitnesses on the orders of Brother David. David's words: "In a violent country, he who seizes today, controls tomorrow," epitomizes his treachery.
"Grand Duel" plays out in four settings: the first scene in Gila Bend; the second at an isolated stagecoach station named Silver Bells where he bounty vermin not only blow-up the stagecoach but also shoot each other after Vermeer surrenders to increase their shares, an anonymous mountain pass where Adam massacres Vermeer's followers, and the town of Saxon City where a showdown occurs in the stock pens in traditional western style.
Director Giancarlo Santi never lets the action malinger. The black and white sequence at night that he stages of the Patriarch's killing has surrealistic quality. Meantime, hardcore Lee Van Cleef fans won't want to miss "Grand Duel" for its numerous shoot-outs as well as its twists and turns. Get the fully letterboxed Wild East DVD; it surpasses the full-frame, public domain DVD or the foreign, semi-letterboxed version.