At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

DUEL IN THE SUN (KINO/Lorber)

By • Aug 9th, 2017 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

GONE WITH THE WIND is a remarkable example of too many cooks not spoiling the broth. DUEL IN THE SUN isn’t.

That GWTW didn’t turn out like DUEL is practically unfathomable. Both had as their narcissistic, disruptive and destructive centerpiece Producer David O’ Selznick. (Catch up with Michael Powell’s autobiography as he remembers DUEL star Jennifer Jones’ feelings about her domineering puppeteer of a husband, expressed on a day when she was feeling vulnerable and voiced some of her normally hidden feelings.)

You’ll notice a great many shots that are magnificently designed, redolent with biblical swashes of color worthy of the great William Cameron Menzies. Menzies is actually credited, or rather uncredited, as one of the many directors, and (again uncredited) as one of several second unit directors. But not as Production Designer!? With his recognizable, vivid use of frame fill, and without a strong enough screenplay to support that kind of visual power, what you get resembles a Warner Bros cartoon more than a Grade A studio melodrama. DUEL wavers between delicious high camp and mind-bogglingly painful miscarriage. It’s really worth catching up with for both aspects.

Finally, DUEL IN THE SUN is what it is: Unique. Martin Scorsese was heavily influenced by it as a child. It has its undeniable powers. But the one lamentable aspect of the film, and something in no way due to KINO/Lorber’s release of the BluRay, is the periodic appearance of shots that are completely out of register. This is painful to see in a film that labored so relentlessly to be gorgeous. Amazingly, it happened at the shooting stage when, presumably, a camera loader didn’t know how to properly deal with the camera’s registration pin. I am informed that a fix is possible, but at a cost not justified by the BluRay market. It would have to be a charitable gesture. You may love the high camp elements, you may swoon over Jennifer Jones’ lurid Native American make-up. But there’s no way one can appreciate a technical snafu like defective registration. It’s the one indisputable curse the film must live with, and I’m forced to wonder why a control-freak like Selznick didn’t spot it and do something about it. He wore thick glasses. Was his eyesight so impaired that he missed those shots?

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