The Grand Duel (1972) by Giancarlo Santi

Director: Giancarlo Santi
Year: 1972
Country: Italy/West Germany/France
Alternate Titles: Il grande duello; The Big Showdown; Hell's Gunfighters
Genre: Spaghetti Western

Arriving in the town of Gila Bend, a determined ex-marshal aides a suspected murderer into escaping from a ruthless gang of bounty hunters looking for the man's capture to serve justice for a murder charge. Believing the man innocent, he trails the guy through several encounters along the path back to the main town of Saxon City where they reveal a connection with the corrupt landowners who rule the town with an iron fist. Still intent on finding the guilty party and bringing them to justice instead of the fugitive, the marshal takes it upon himself to find the real culprit and stay alive during the attempts on his life.


For the most part, this was one of the finest entries in the genre. One of the main aspects to like with this one is the usually strong action scenes throughout the film. The open with the shootout in the small-town watering hole and resulting in plenty of fine stuntwork and gunplay leading to the horse-chase through the mountain valley is a fantastic start to things. A later ambush at a reclusive hideout manages to offer up some thrilling tricks in order to set up a nice twist with the bounty hunters killing off the help and riding off with their intended quarry after a strong shootout sequence which leads directly into the waterfall torture sequence that fulfills the requisite scene featured in one of these films.

The second half, with even more action present, is really where the film shines and gets plenty to like. With the series of confrontations against the back-handed henchmen looking to finally get his revenge settled, this really scores with the town shootout looking to get him under control and the gun down massacre of the settlers looking to pass through the town nearby which is done merely for sport by the psychotic brother carries plenty of thrilling moments to it. Aside from that, the iconic showdown at the corral at the end, accompanied by a stellar score and some outstanding work showcasing how the setting is utilized to its advantage makes this a strong addition to the genre.

The main problem with this one is the absolutely convoluted and illogical storyline that never really makes any kind of sense. The continuous nature of these films to provide plenty of double-crosses and varying alliances shifting around, this one is bound to feature a twisting setup that doesn't make any sense at all. The idea of seeking revenge on the murderer of someone who we don't even meet until a flashback to the incident in question making the entire experience quite difficult to follow. With the revelation of the true identity coming so late into the film and having so many of the characters taking up various roles later on, this twisting nature of the storyline makes this one so confusing to get an idea of what's going on. It's really the only real issue to be had with the film.

Overview: ***1/2/5
While this one does get a little too confusing to follow with its tale of revenge not making much sense, for the majority of the film in most other regards offers up plenty of fun moments to make for a highly enjoyable effort. Give this one a shot if you're a true aficionado of the genre or a fan of the creative side behind the camera, while those looking for an introduction to the genre should try for the classics before tackling this one.