7.4/10
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The Duellists (1977)

PG | | Drama, War | February 1978 (UK)
Clip
2:12 | Clip
France, 1801. Due to a minor, perceived slight mild-mannered Lieutenant d'Hubert is forced into a duel with the hot-headed, irrational Lieutenant Feraud. The disagreement ultimately results in scores of duels, spanning several years.

Director:

Ridley Scott

Writers:

Gerald Vaughan-Hughes (screenplay), Joseph Conrad (story "The Duel")
Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Keith Carradine ... Armand d'Hubert
Harvey Keitel ... Gabriel Feraud
Albert Finney ... Fouché
Edward Fox ... Colonel
Cristina Raines ... Adèle
Robert Stephens ... Gen. Treillard
Tom Conti ... Dr. Jacquin
John McEnery ... Amiable Second
Diana Quick ... Laura
Alun Armstrong ... Lacourbe
Maurice Colbourne Maurice Colbourne ... Tall Second
Gay Hamilton Gay Hamilton ... Maid
Meg Wynn Owen ... Léonie
Jenny Runacre ... Mme. de Lionne
Alan Webb Alan Webb ... Chevalier
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Storyline

Set during the grand, sweeping Napoleonic age, an officer in the French army insults another officer and sets off a life-long enmity. The two officers, D'Hubert and Feraud, cross swords time and time again in an attempt to achieve justice and preserve their honor. Written by Greg Bole <bole@life.bio.sunysb.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Fencing is a science. Loving is a passion. Duelling is an obsession.

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Harvey Keitel was only available for this film because he had been released from Apocalypse Now (1979) which, like this film, was based on a Joseph Conrad novel. See more »

Goofs

During their second duel (in a cellar) one of their sabers scrapes against the stone wall and makes sparks. In the DVD commentary the director explains that this was done by taping an electrified wire mesh to the wall. The mesh is visible if you look closely. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: The duellist demands satisfaction. Honour, for him, is an appetite. This story is about an eccentric kind of hunger. It is a true story and begins in the year that Napoleon Bonaparte became ruler of France.
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: STRASBOURG 1800 See more »

Connections

Featured in The EE British Academy Film Awards (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

Bist du bei mir
(uncredited)
Music by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel
(from "Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach" No. 25. BWV 508)
See more »

User Reviews

Good looking debut
25 November 2000 | by Dodger-9See all my reviews

After making a string of acclaimed adverts, Ridley Scott followed fellow ad man Alan Parker onto the big screen with his debut movie.

The Duellists was based on a tale by Joseph Conrad (who inspired Apocalypse Now and the ship names for his 1979 feature, Alien - Nostromo and Narcissus).

As you my expect from Ridley, every scene looks gorgeous and is obviously the mark of a man moving from 30 second promotional films into the big screen world.

Harvey Keitel (later to star in Thelma and Louise) and Keith Carradine are the Hollywood stars acting alongside a wealth of British thesps including Albert Finney, Diana Quick, Tom Conti, Pete Postlethwaite and Veronica Quilligan (later to play the innocent protagonist of Neil Jordan's Angel).

The movie is clearly inspired by Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory and Barry Lyndon and looks like a dry run for Gladiator's battle scenes.

It deals with the themes of honor, obsession and violence. Needless to say, the futility of war and the destructive nature of revenge leads to the twist that both men have been duelling for so long, in the end they actually forget what it was that set them off on their feud.

The duels are stunning, the attention to detail is meticulous and the movie won a string of awards, including 'Best Debut Film' at the 1977 Cannes film festival.

Top trivia

* The budget was so tight that Scott was forced to use producer David Puttnam and other crew members as extras.

This was an extension of his earlier short films, a potted version of Paths of Glory in which a handful of extras (including Tony Scott) go over the wire and run round the camera before repeating the exercise. Smoke and editing hide the fact that there were so few people involved.

*The Duel, as it was originally called, was to be made for French TV as a one-hour film.

*The scene where the French army is bogged down was shot in a ski resort near Inverness.

*After EMI turned down the script, Scott flew the project to Chicago and the company Hallmark...

*After the French deal collapsed and the $700,000 budget proved too rich for Hallmark's blood, one of the bosses saw its potential as a film and suggested that Scott try and make it as a movie.

*The eventual budget was a mere $900,000. Scott clinched the dealing by telling Paramount he would put up a completion bond and that he would start pre-production on the day of the meeting. He would start shooting within a couple of months.

The thought of filming a movie like that in September left the suits slack of jaw.

In the sun-kissed world of la la land, making a Joseph Conrad movie in Winter sounded like a nightmare.

*Scott had originally wanted to make a Western but lacked the cash to fly off to Monument Valley and the locations of other such classic John Ford Westerns.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

February 1978 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Duellists See more »

Filming Locations:

Aquitaine, France See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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