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Duel at Diablo

Duel at Diablo

4.0 1
Director: Ralph Nelson, James Garner, Sidney Poitier, Bibi Andersson

Cast: Ralph Nelson, James Garner, Sidney Poitier, Bibi Andersson


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Ralph Nelson's Duel At Diablo (1966) was once out on laserdisc as part of a double feature with John Sturges's Hour Of The Gun, which was an awkward combination -- one movie was an action-filled topical adventure with lots of familiar faces cast against type, while the other was a dour, deeply psychological, character-oriented story that put an awkward


Ralph Nelson's Duel At Diablo (1966) was once out on laserdisc as part of a double feature with John Sturges's Hour Of The Gun, which was an awkward combination -- one movie was an action-filled topical adventure with lots of familiar faces cast against type, while the other was a dour, deeply psychological, character-oriented story that put an awkward spin on a familiar story; James Garner was the reason for the pairing, as he was the star of both. Nelson's movie stands much better on its own, as one of the best movies in its genre to come out of Hollywood in the 1960's. What's more, this DVD is a true jewel, just for restoring the film to its proper luster -- letterboxed to 1.66-to-1, in a deep and detailed transfer, it takes flight from the opening credits, seen over a stunning desert panorama. The letterboxing, though mild, enhances the action scenes by framing them the way that the director and cinematographer intended them to be seen, and that goes double for any shots involving mobile camera work, of which there are plenty here; even the night shots manage to be realistically dark yet contain usable picture information; and one key montage sequence, covering a mad dash to relative safety in the oncoming dawn, is transferred beautifully, capturing the rising level of light with each series of cuts in all of its subtlety. And Charles F. Wheeler's photography (mostly done on location in Utah) isn't the only element enhanced here -- Neal Hefti's score, though a little too modernistic for its time, is also presented cleanly, on a good, loud audio track. The movie itself was years ahead of its time, in both its racial sensibilities and its violence, which is comparable to that of the spaghetti westerns of the period, and it ought to be regarded as one of the jewels of the United Artists western library, right alongside the best parts of the Clint Eastwood collection. Garner was a better actor at this point in his career than Eastwood was; with Sidney Poitier in one of the flashiest, boldest roles of his career -- an ex-buffalo soldier turned horse wrangler and gambler -- also aboard, and Bibi Andersson, Dennis Weaver, Bill Travers, and John Hoyt doing superb work as well, this disc is a no-brainer of a purchase especially as part of MGM's mid-priced "Western Legends" line; this reviewer would have happily paid money to see it in a theater in 1966, but it was too adult for him at the time. The movie comes with only one extra, the original trailer, which condenses some of the more violent action into two minutes. There's also a Spanish language track available, and English captions and French and Spanish subtitles, all accessible through a simple two-layer menu that opens automatically on start-up.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Ralph Nelson's Duel At Diablo (1966) is, in some respects, almost a dry-run for his much more pessimistic and even more violent Soldier Blue (1970) -- while the latter was permeated with a bitterness and brutality that was the product of five years of slaughter in Vietnam, Duel At Diablo was more rooted in the sensibilities surrounding the struggle over civil rights, which was contemporaneous with its production. The movie's points about the impossible racial tensions cutting across American society and, indeed, across the continent, give it a bleak and searing topical edge that hasn't lost all of its relevancy over the ensuing four decades. There are also some wonderful little details in the depiction of the time and setting, such as in the Bibi Andersson character's first contact with James Garner's frontier scout -- she can't see who he is, but assumes he is one of her pursuers, and addresses him in Apache; he has to point out, in English and to her astonishment, that he isn't Apache. In details like that, and its overall story arc, however, the movie may have been almost too far ahead of the sensibilities of the era for its own good -- Sidney Poitier's boldness in the part of a soldier-turned-gambler was something new in mainstream westerns, and the casting of Dennis Weaver totally against type, in the role of a racist and murderer who is considered an upstanding citizen of the town, stretched the tolerance of audiences in 1966 almost to the breaking point (it should be remembered that even a figure such as Johnny Cash was branded as a political traitor in mainstream country music circles for showing his sympathy for Native Americans and the poor too overtly). The movie's lack of any answers also made it too honest and bleak for its time, though by the end of the decade it would have been totally in synch with what audiences were thinking might be the tragic truth -- and by then, Nelson had pushed the envelope even further with Soldier Blue.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Original theatrical trailer; English mono, Spanish mono; English, French & Spanish language subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Garner Jess Remsberg
Sidney Poitier Toller
Bibi Andersson Ellen Grange
Dennis Weaver Willard Grange
Bill Travers Lt. McAllister
William Redfield Sgt. Ferguson
John Hoyt Chata
John Crawford Clay Dean
John Hubbard Maj. Novak
Kevin Coughlin Norton
Jay Ripley Tech
Jeff Cooper Casey
Ralph Bahnsen Nyles
Bobby Crawford Swenson
Richard Lapp Forbes
Armand Alzamora Ramirez
Bill Hart Cpl. Harrington
Phil Schumacher Burly Soldier
Richard Farnsworth First Wagon Driver
Joe Finnegan 2nd Wagon Driver
John Day Stableman
Edward Little Sky Alchise
Al Wyatt Miner
Dawn Little Sky Chata's Wife

Technical Credits
Ralph Nelson Director,Producer
Marvin H. Albert Screenwriter
Eddie Armand Costumes/Costume Designer
Roscoe S. Cline Special Effects
Emmett Emerson Asst. Director
Fred Engel Producer
Victor A. Gangelin Set Decoration/Design
Michel M. Grilikhes Screenwriter
Larry Hampton Special Effects
Neal Hefti Score Composer
George Peckham Special Effects
Frederic Steinkamp Editor
Charles Wheeler Cinematographer
Yvonne Wood Costumes/Costume Designer
Alfred Ybarra Art Director

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Title [6:56]
2. An Unhappy Homecoming [6:07]
3. Barroom Rage [5:02]
4. Free-for-All [6:59]
5. Big Chance of Plans [5:48]
6. Heading Out [3:43]
7. Whose Baby? [6:19]
8. Rescuing Mother and Son [6:11]
9. Apache Attack! [10:22]
10. The Only Water [6:44]
11. Heading for the Canyon [5:09]
12. Making a Run for It [5:02]
13. Jess Goes for Help [5:45]
14. The Last Stand [6:59]
15. Confronting the Marshal [7:39]
16. The Surrender/End Credits [9:25]

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Duel at Diablo 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago