“The modern French duel is one of the most dangerous institutions of our day. Since it is always fought in the open air, the combatants are nearly sure to catch cold.”– Mark Twain, “A Tramp Abroad.”
Grandpa Felicius: Ah, the duel! The noble engagement that allowed a gentleman to swipe a glove across the snout of a pestilential acquaintance whenever the need so arose. Subsequently we convened on a convenient time, a sensible place, and a suitable weapon of choice. Swords at dawn! Friends and well-wishers would gather to see us dance, party, and parry until first blood. Then, relieved by merry hacking and slashing, we would all retire knowing that satisfaction had been obtained.
Before unleashing the “Alien” franchise upon the universe, Ridley Scott debuted with “The Duellists,” a bloody good 1977 adaptation of a Joseph Conrad short story that honors the manliest of sports. The decorous D’Hubert (Keith Carradine) and the unbending Feraud (Harvey Keitel) fight each other in duel after duel for sixteen years, during the Napoleonic wars. Their lives are determined by the constant awareness that one of them must kill the other, if there is ever to be a conclusion.
Hank: A fun episode of “Masterpiece Theatre.”
Tracey: A senseless macho display! “My sword is bigger than your sword! My cannon is bigger than your cannon! My missile is bigger than your missile!” And because I get that this is Joseph Conrad’s point, and that Ridley Scott’s debut makes a profound anti-war statement, I do give “The Duellists” a Cherry.
Cousin Franz: After a decade of foiled confrontations over insults they can’t even recall accurately (the initial cause has faded into a mythological mist), Keitel and Carradine fight a final tense duel with pistols. The backdrop is a ruined castle. It’s a perfect visual representation of the decaying absurdity of the dueling notions of honor. This is a masterful, classy way to begin a cinematic carrier. Who would imagine Scott’s Conradian love would next be manifested in the naming of a spaceship?
Trent: I don’t get why people from French times called this “fencing.” It’s not like you get a picket fence and jab it through somebody’s abs. It should all be called swording. Cool movie, though.
Beatricia: I simply can not get over how miscast this movie is. Keith Carradine looks like he rolled over from a relaxed Nashville hammock onto an Alexandre Dumas affair. Meanwhile Harvey Keitel was in a Martin Scorsese flick giving lip to some mobster from Little Italy, and got punched in the mug so hard he landed in Napoleon’s Army during the Russian fiasco of 1812.
Blurbarrella: “Duel After Duel– The Constant Awareness– Fun– Profound– Mythological Mist.– Martin Scorsese Giving Lip So Hard.”
5 out of 6 Cherries