Duel at Diablo

( 1 )

Overview

Frontier scout Jess Remsberg (James Garner) is crossing the desert when he spots a dead army scout and group of Apaches pursuing someone -- it turns out to be a white woman, Ellen Grange (Bibi Andersson); he gets her away from them and returns her to her home and her husband Willard (Dennis Weaver), who seems much more upset that the horse she was riding when she left is dead than he is glad that she is back. Ellen was kidnapped by the Apaches two years before and rescued a year after that, and had fled a town ...
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Overview

Frontier scout Jess Remsberg (James Garner) is crossing the desert when he spots a dead army scout and group of Apaches pursuing someone -- it turns out to be a white woman, Ellen Grange (Bibi Andersson); he gets her away from them and returns her to her home and her husband Willard (Dennis Weaver), who seems much more upset that the horse she was riding when she left is dead than he is glad that she is back. Ellen was kidnapped by the Apaches two years before and rescued a year after that, and had fled a town where her husband and everyone else had treated her as an outcast since her return. Apart from preventing her from being raped by some drunken townsmen, however, Remsberg barely has time to worry over what goes on between them, as he has a mission of his own -- tracking down the men who murdered his wife, a Comanche woman. A key clue is in the hands of the town marshal in Fort Conchos and to get there he has to scout for a cavalry unit bringing horses, ammunition, and fresh recruits to the fort, with Grange and his wife -- and the infant son she had by the Indian chieftain who took her as his squaw -- going along, with ex-buffalo soldier-turned-horse wrangler Toler (Sidney Poitier). Their party ends up under siege by Chata (John Hoyt), the Apache Indian chief and grandfather to Ellen Grange's baby, who has jumped the reservation; he wants his grandson back, and the ammunition the troop was carrying, and also intends on killing Ellen for inadvertently causing the death of his son. They all end up trapped in a box canyon while Remsberg tries to survive to get help from Fort Conchos. If this all sounds complicated, it's not, especially as told by director Nelson, in a straightforward, unpretentious, brisk, and decidedly violent fashion that anticipates his own Soldier Blue, made four years later. Every plot element links up neatly in this script, which quite effectively recalls (and weaves together) elements of the book and the movie Hondo as well as any number of revenge westerns of the 1960's.
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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.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/29/2014
  • UPC: 738329133627
  • Original Release: 1966
  • Source: Lorber Films (Kino)
  • Region Code: A
  • Presentation: Wide Screen / Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:43:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 2,863

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
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