The Grand Duel (1972): Here’s a real brain twistin yarn for ya: ol’ Philip Wermeer (Alberto Dentice) has just hauled ass out of prison where he has been incarcerated for the murder of big wig Ebenezer Saxon (Horst Frank), a.k.a. The Patriarch; who in turn was the most likely candidate in the “Who killed Philip’s family” sweepstakes.
Anyway, Saxon’s sons put a large reward on P-man’s head and soon bounty hunters galore are up his ass six ways to Sunday. Enter the tough as all fuck disgraced lawman Clayton (Lee Van Cleef) who appears to also want the cash being offered for our hero…but after some assing-around and violence, Clayton helps Wermeer escape from his pursuers. The unlikely duo then set out to confront the Saxons and clear Wermeer’s name…if they can live long enough that is!
Working from a screenplay from giallo master-scribe Ernesto Gastaldi (The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh) Director Giancarlo Santi gives us a spaghetti western that doesn’t offer blazing originality, but does manage to entertain despite a few flaws. While the reveal of the Clayton character’s true motivations seem to take much longer than they should, the overall story has much to offer the viewer with an engaging murder-mystery who-dun-it along with some solid action sequences including the eponymous duel which features a guns-a-blazing Van Cleef dealing out the pain!
Speaking of Van Cleef, he gives another rock-solid performance as the multi-layered lawman, and Horst Frank along with Klaus Grünberg provide a duo of extremely watchable (though vastly different) villains as 2/3 of the sinister Saxon clan.
While The Grand Duel is fun on it’s own; Arrow Video gives the viewer much more for their money with a host of bonus features! Besides being able to watch the film in a dubbed format, or in it’s original Italian, you can also listen to an audio commentary by Film Critic Stephen Price, which presents a highly listenable, thorough document of the film’s production and the histories of those involved. Following that comes interviews with Santi, Gastaldi, Dentice, Producer Ettore Rosboch, and Assistant Director Harald Buggenig. Next we get a video appreciation of the film by academic Austin Fisher, a comparison of the film’s original cut and it’s longer German version, a short film from 1984 featuring actor Marc Mazza in a stylish sci-fi yarn involving pinball and a bald stalker (along with a video essay about Mazza by documentary filmmaker Mike Malloy), trailers, and image galleries.
All in all, The Grand Duel is a fine spaghetti six-shooter romp, with mystery elements, solid acting, and some fine action; and is definitely worth layin’ your eyes upon!
Yakuza Law (1969): Divided into three segments; two set in feudal Japan (one each for the Edo and Meiji Periods to be precise), and one set in the present (the late 1960’s when the film was made), Yakuza Law shows exactly what happens when you go a-fucking with the Yakuza’s codes of conduct.
The stories of these vignettes; a yarn concerning samurai vengeance, the tale of an exile returning home to face punishment (and perhaps take his revenge), and a story of gang warfare are like quick sketches…they present just enough detail to get you to the main masterpiece the film has to offer; namely the outrageous violence and gore, that while commonplace in today’s left of center cinematic offerings, had to be absolutely gob-smacking back in the ol’ 1960’s.
People are roasted on spits, blinded, buried alive, maimed by power tools, branded…and that is all before the credit sequence ends! In short revolutionary creator of Japanese exploitation Teruo Ishii (Orgies of Edo as well as dozens more) has crafted an exquisite Grand Guignol; light on story, heavy on the bloodshed and offered it up as a twisted morality play that is fascinating to behold in all of it’s excessive cruelty.
As for extras on this Arrow Video Blu-ray release we get: an audio commentary by Author Jasper Sharp that takes us through the film’s production, legacy, and place in the Japanese exploitation oeuvre all in an engaging fashion, a newly edited archival interview with Ishii, and an image gallery.
If you dig on exploitation splattered with gore and filled with hard-assed mother fuckers then Yakuza Law will be right up your arcane alley, that’s for damn sure!