Starring Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Jenny Runacre and Robert Stephens
Screenplay by Gerald Vaughan-Hughes
Based on the story by Joseph Conrad
Directed by Ridley Scott
Production Year 1977
Running time 100 minutes
The Duellists is the debut feature of Ridley Scott - one of the most stylistically influential and successful directors working today. Scott was educated at the Royal College Of Art in London and had a highly successful career in TV and cinema commercials - his work included the iconic 1974 Hovis 'Bike Round' advertisement.
The Duellists is based on 'The Duel', a short story by Joseph Conrad, and tells of an obsessive series of personal battles fought between two French officers over a 30 year period.
Heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon', The Duellists is an astonishingly beautiful film - cinematographer Frank Tidy collaborated with Scott on hundreds of commercials leading up to this - and achieves a ravishing painterly look for the movie even though it was made on a comparative shoestring.
The producer of The Duellists was David Puttnam, who like Scott had started in advertising. After this film he went on to produce a series of highly successful movies including Midnight Express, Chariots Of Fire, Local Hero and The Killing Fields.
The two obsessive, duelling protagonists are played by Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel - with a host of fine British character actors in the supporting roles - including Tom Conti, Edward Fox, Diana Quick and Albert Finney . The dynamic fight choreography is by the legendary William Hobbs and noted historian Richard Holmes advised on the period detail. The result is a highly convincing portrayal of the rules and rituals of the early 19th century.
The Duellists won Best Debut Film at the Cannes Film Festival. Within five years Scott had made 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' and changed the look and style of modern cinema.