Art of The Duel: Ridley Scott Returns to His Duellists Roots

Way back in 1977, Ridley Scott made his auspicious debut with the expertly staged period movie The Duellists, the story of a series of duels fought between rival officers in Napoleon’s army. The reason for those duels? Twas a slight supposedly received by Harvey Keitel’s thin-skinned Gabriel Féraud from the aristocratic Armand d’Hubert (Keith Carradine).

 

Carradine is dogged throughout the years by the obsessive (and, truth be told, extremely irritating) Keitel, who can’t really recall why the feud began, but is obviously jealous of his opponent’s social ease and charm. The picture was based on a Joseph Conrad novella which had its origins in real life:

 

In The Encyclopedia of the Sword, Nick Evangelista wrote:

 

As a young officer in Napoleon’s Army, Dupont was ordered to deliver a disagreeable message to a fellow officer, Fournier, a rabid duellist. Fournier, taking out his subsequent rage on the messenger, challenged Dupont to a duel. This sparked a succession of encounters, waged with sword and pistol, that spanned decades. The contest was eventually resolved when Dupont was able to overcome Fournier in a pistol duel, forcing him to promise never to bother him again.

 

Their first duel in 1794 resulted in Fournier demanding a rematch, which amazingly led to at least another 30 clashes over the next 19 years.

 


"The Duellists" (1977) Trailer - Ridley Scott, Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine

 

Film Alex (Repo Man) Cox slated The Duellists as ‘outtakes from Barry Lyndon , but the movie has become a firm favourite with film-lovers.

 

the duellists (1977) - missed duel during russian's campaign

 

In 2020 Scott returns to this scenario with The Last Duel, based on the last officially recognized judicial duel fought in France in 1389. The trial by combat involved the knight Jean de Carrouges and squire Jacques Le Gris, who Carrouges had accused of raping his wife.

Adapted by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, the movie boasts an all-star cast, including the aforementioned duo as well as Jodie (Killing Eve) and Adam Driver. Damon plays the knight, Driver the squire accused of raping his wife (Comer). The movies are part of a long tradition of period pictures where dueling is a key element, here’s a few to whet your appetite:

 

THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974):

D'Artagnan vs. Rochefort - Final Duel (The Four Musketeers)

 

LA REINE MARGOT (1994):

Queen Margot Official Trailer (2014) HD

 

THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940):

Zorro 1935 - Tyrone Power & Basil Rathbone [final duel]

 

THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1952):

The Prisoner of Zenda 1952 Final fight

 

THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987):

Inigo Montoya vs Count Rugen (The Princess Bride)

 

TOMORROW AT DAWN (2009):

Demain Des Aube (Tomorrow at Dawn) Trailer

 

Other more contemporary movies with a ‘duel’ theme include (naturally enough) Spielberg’s Duel (1971), Frankenheimer’s The Fourth War (1990), Enemy At The Gates (2001), The Prestige (2006) and American Sniper (2014).  And of course, the great Western duels, such as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Quick & The Dead, Open Range, Vera Cruz, The Wild Bunch, Magnificent Seven and many others.

 

And finally the many duels in submarine vs surface ship/submarine movies such as The Enemy Below, The Bedford Incident, Above Us The Waves and Murphy’s War

 

Here are some more clips:

OPEN RANGE (2003):

Open Range (2003) - "You the one who killed our friend?" - Clip

VERA CRUZ (1954):

Vera Cruz (1954) Final Duel [1080p]

THE APPALOOSA (2008):

"Appaloosa" Best Scene HD

MURPHY’S WAR (1971):

Murphy's War 1971 Ram the Sub

ENEMY AT THE GATES (2001):

Enemy at the Gates (9/9) Movie CLIP - Endgame (2001) HD

THE FOURTH WAR (1990):

THE FOURTH WAR TRAILER

 

 

 

 

Arnell Esq

Arnell Esq

Broadcast consultant - former Director/Creator of ITV3, ITV4 in the UK, producer/writer (most recently Bob Fosse for Sky Arts in May 2019), commentator/rent-a-gob for trades, broadsheets and magazines. Also occasional lecturer (University of Westminster, London). Content provider. Accept no substitute (terms & conditions apply) 'Nullum bonum amico, nullum peius hostes'

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