Enzo G. Castellari’s 1976 spaghetti western, Keoma, is very much a niche film. It is not a movie for everyone. It is by no means the standard shoot-em-up bang bang western that most audiences might know from the likes of John Wayne and others. This film is much deeper than that. It deals largely in the view of subjugation of others. There is the mistreatment of the people who had been ravaged by the plague. And there is the racist view of Keoma’s half brothers towards him because he is half Native American. And of course, his friend George, who is African American, suffers prejudicial views because of the times.
Seeing the way that Caldwell and his gang treat everybody as less than second class citizens (including a pregnant woman who doesn’t even have the plague), Keoma serves as society’s better half, trying to eliminate that prejudice, albeit through violent means. Simply put, the movie is less Western and more social commentary. On a more simplistic level, while it is a work of social commentary, it’s still a western. And it’s one that even at nearly two hours long, is still able to keep the audience’s attention without being too preachy in its message. That’s the most important factor in the grand scheme of things.
By and large, Keoma is not a movie for everyone. It’s anything but a happy movie. It’s violent and it’s very dark in its message. Add on what can only be defined as a more than bittersweet ending, and audiences get a movie that will be difficult for many audiences to digest. On the other end, though, this is one more must for any true student of filmmaking. It offers so much that there is simply not enough time to get into it all. It alone is worth its share of discussions in any college level or higher film studies class. And that is enough to make it a movie not only to be watched, but to be remembered.
The Grand Duel is an interesting movie. The story behind the movie doesn’t make it an instant grab your attention piece. But given the chance, it turns out to be a very well written story that will keep audiences watching just to find out the mystery of who really killed The Patriarch.
The story behind The Grand Duel starts off somewhat slow. Audiences are introduced to the story’s main characters early on. But the story offers very little the way of back story. Thankfully, the story doesn’t take long to pick up and finally establish the plot. The plot turns out to be very simple. It’s one that’s been countless times since and probably before. Philipp Wermeer is being taken in for the accusation of having killed “The Patriarch” of the Saxon family. He’s brought into a small town where he meets the ex-sheriff Clayton. Clayton actually helps Wermeer escape because he knows who really killed The Patriarch. Yes, it’s the classic innocent man accused of a crime story.
The story of an innocent man wrongly accused had likely been done many times before this movie, and has been done just as many times since. So what is it that makes The Grand Duel stand out in the crowd of such movies? What makes it stand out is that writer Ernesto Gastaldi somehow managed to fuse together the Western and Crime Drama genres to make a movie that will entertain both the action movie fans and those into mystery movies. The gunfights spread throughout the movie (including the final shootout) are more than enough to satiate the appetite of any action movie buff. While Wermeer’s journey to discover who had really killed the Patriarch and let him take the fall will appeal to anyone that’s a fan of mysteries and crime dramas.
The writing behind The Grand Duel is a big part of the movie’s success, despite its slow start. Thanks to the writing, the movie clocks in at just over an hour and a half. It wastes very little time on unnecessary extraneous material, opting instead to stay right on track with the story. Eventually, the story leads up to a twist that seems predictable only in hindsight. That alone is a sign of good writing. And that writing, mixed with a general Western backdrop is enough to bring in even more audiences. It will bring in fans of the Western genre, even though the story just happens to be set in the old west. It manages to seamlessly mix the Western, the Action, and the Crime Drama for a piece that while it may not be the most memorable classic flick, it is one that any true movie buff should see at least once.