A rare Painting for a Movie (Morgan Henning / 1962)

This is a beautiful painting by Morgan Henning 

for The Movie “Mutiny on The Bounty” 

(Lewis Milestone / 1962). 

The Duellists / Les Duellistes / Die Duellisten / Los Duellistas / I Duellanti (1977)

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”. (prologue of “The Duellists”).

Like many people, I watched this film, after “Alien” and “Blade Runner” both directed by Ridley Scott. I was then very impressed by the elegant direction of Ridley Scott in another universe than Science Fiction. There are other movies about the Napoleon period, among them we can retain “Napoleon” (Abel Gance / 1927), “War and Peace” (King Vidor / 1956) and “Waterloo” (Sergei Bondarchuk /1970).But, “The Duellists” must be regarded as a special Napoleonic Movie because there are no big battle scenes, but rather a lot of intimate and emotional moments. For these reasons it must be seen separately from the above mentioned epics. That’s why I like it and choose to write a topic about this film.

The Story : Young Lieutenant Armand D’hubert (Keith Carradine) of the French 3rd Hussars is obliged in confused circumstances to fight a duel with a fellow officer, Lieutenant Gabriel Feraud of the French 7th Hussars (Harvey Keitel). Feraud is implacably quarrelsome and will not let the affair rest; It continues in grim and bloody earnest through four separate encounters. D’Hubert loses his mistress (Diana Quick), repeatedly hazards his life gains notoriety which he finds idiotic and unwelcome. Nevertheless, the Hussar’s code of honor holds him trapped in permanent obedience to Feraud‘s savage whim and their feud survives even the shared ordeal of the Russian campaign. After the war, D’Hubert returns to his family, makes a happy marriage with Adele (Cristina Raines), and salvages his military career. Feraud declines into lonely and vengeful obscurity. Finally, he reappears out of the past that D’Hubert has half forgotten and forces another duel. The last duel…

“The Duellists” is a film adaptation of a Joseph Conrad short novel, “The Duel” (“Point of Honor” / 1908). This movie was shown two years before the monumental epic movie war of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, “Apocalypse Now” (1979). It is a historical drama film based on a true story which has its genesis in the real duels spread over 19 years between two French Hussar officers during the Napoleonic era and even after : “The general Pierre-Antoine Comte Dupont de l'Étang and the general François Fournier-Sarlovèze”.

But above all, it must be noted that it was the first movie directed by the acclaimed British director Ridley Scott (“Alien” (1979), “Blade Runner” (1982), “Thelma and Louise” (1991), “Gladiator” (2000), “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005) and “Prometheus” (2011)) !

In 1976, Scott, first known as a prominent director of television commercials in Britain choose the Conrad’s novel for his debut as a feature director. Enigma Production with David Puttman (“Chariots of Fire” (1981), “Local Hero” (1982), “The Killing Fields” (1984), “Cal” (1984), “The Mission” (1986), “Memphis Belle” (1990)…) agreed to produce the movie. With the help of Paramount Picture, Putman succeeded in getting a budget of $ 900 000 ! (considering of today’s inflation rate, we could multiply the amount by two or three…).

The first Scotts’ choice for the two leading parts, were Oliver Reed and Michael York but the financial costs could not afford to get them. After several months, Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel became the characters of the two French hussars.

The two talented American actors were joined by an outstanding cast : “Albert Finney as the Minister of Police Joseph Fouché, Edward Fox as the Colonel Reynard (a Bonapartist agent), Christina Raines as Adele (d'Hubert's wife), Tom Conti as Dr Jacquin (an army surgeon and friend of d'Hubert), Robert Stephens as the Brigadier-General Treillard, John Mc Enery as Second Major (Feraud's second in the final duel), Diana Quick as Laura (d'Hubert's mistress), Meg Wynn Owen as Leoni (d'Hubert's sister), and Alan Webb as Adele's uncle and the narrator was Stacy Keach”.

Gerald Vaughan-Hughes (“Sebastian” (1968)) wrote a very great screenplay from the Conrad‘s novel. The producers gathered a very fine team of technicians, Frank Tidy was the cinematographer (“Sweet Liberty” (1986), “Under Siege” (1992), “Chain Reaction” (1996)…), Tom Rand (“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981), “The Bridge” (1999), “The Count of Monte Cristo” (2002)…) was the costume designer, Susan Barrabel was the make-up supervisor, Paul Nix was the hairdressing consultant, Rita Wakely was the wardrobe Mistress, and Bryan Graves was the art director.

The duels were superbly choreographed by William Hobbs (“H.M.S. Defiant” (1962), “Cyrano de Bergerac” (1990), “Rob Roy” (1995), “Games of Thrones” (2011)…) and the late and well-known military historian adviser Richard Holmes gave a very helpful participation to the movie. Still today, the film is praised for its historically authentic portrayal of Napoleonic uniforms and military conduct.

For the film score, Scott and Putman”s the first and the only choice was, Howard Blake (“Riddle of The Sands” (1978), “Flash Gordon” (1980), “The Snowman” (1982), “The Snowman and the Snowdog” (2012)). Scott and Blake have been known each other because they already worked before on a series of television commercials.

The Composer Howard Blake

Together with “War & Peace” (1952) and “Waterloo” (1970) (both scores written by the great and famous Italian composer Nino Rota), “The Duellists” is one of the best score ever written for a Napoleonic movie ! The composer told that he selected some concert music of the period that he merged with his own music with a view to give the feeling of a “source music”. Also, he used a large symphonic orchestra to dramatize the romantic and tragic mood of the story and underline the loneliness of the Carradine‘s character.

The Main Theme of "The Duellists"

The composer described his work for the movie :

The Duellists as the most visually exquisite films I had ever seen. I watched fine cuts of each scene materialize, and would rush home with one new inspiration after another. David (Puttman) and Ridley (Scotts) gave me tremendous input and support, and a generous free hand. The result of this intense collaboration produced what I consider to be my finest film score ever

About the music, Scott said :

In my first experience as a feature director, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Howard Blake, who proved to be a sensitive guide into the mysteries of film scoring. It was beautifully evocative music for my film”.

In 1979, the director asked Howard Blake to compose the score of his next movie “Alien” but the Twentieth Century Fox executives preferred the veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith to him. Unfortunately, the two artists will not work again for the big screen.

The photography of the movie is marvelous and Ridley Scott took the work of the cameraman with the collaboration of Frank Tidy. Together, they did an incredible job. The main locations used for shooting the film were in and around Sarlat-la-Canéda in the Dordogne region of France. Never the Dordorgne country was so beautiful with a great sense of poetry and a clever approach of the naturalistic painting of the period. The result was so stupendous that the critics compared “The Duellists” to Stanley Kubrick's “Barry Lyndon”.

For Ridley Scott, “The Duellists” was a wonderful luck and he succeeded very well. The reviews of the critics and the audience were good, especially in Europe. But not in United States, because the film was considered as an “Art” movie. Thus, the commercial impact of the movie on the international market was limited. Despite, this ridiculous statement, “The Duellists” was nominated for the main prize at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival and won the special Jury Prize as best debut film.

Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel gave one of their best performances, alike, the rest of the cast was just perfect.

The Trailer

“The Duellists” remains to me, a wonderful story and a powerful movie. Every time, I watch this masterpiece it catches my renewed interest as it would be the first time I see it because of its first-class cast, its superb photography, its romantic score and its human drama …

Armand D'Hubert (Keith Carradine) : “You have kept me at your beck and call for fifteen years. I shall never again do what you demand of me. By every rule of single combat, from this moment your life belongs to me. Is that not correct? Then I shall simply declare you dead. In all of your dealings with me, you'll do me the courtesy to conduct yourself as a dead man. I have submitted to your notions of honor long enough. You will now submit to mine”.

The Last Scene

Director Ridley Scott once said of the film's central theme of the movie : "The one man played by Harvey Keitel is a prisoner of his own hatred. He must kill or be killed. Keith Carradine plays the other man who is honor bound to fight. It is a fascinating story of man's violence within himself".

P. S. : If you want to know more about “The Duellists”, please refer to :

● Books :

“The Duellists” by Ridley Scott, the US Press Book (In English), 1977, Paramount Picture, US. (This press book includes movie production information, actors' and actresses' biographies, as well as, synopsis information about the movie…).

“The Duel” by Joseph Conrad (in English), 2011, Melville House, USA.

“The Duel/ Le Duel” by Joseph Conrad (in English and French translation), 1998, Folio Bilingue, Gallimard, France.

“Le Duel” by Joseph Conrad (In French) 2010, Edition Sillage, Translation by Marie Picard, France.

● Video :

“The Duellists” by Ridley Scott, 2003, Paramount Picture, US DVD Zone 1, Ref. N° B00006JU7U, Widescreen Edition, NTSC, 1.85.1. Languages : English English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono). (Special Features : “A commentary by Director Ridley Scott and the Composer Howard Blake ; A short documentary (“Duelling Directors”: Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds featurette) ; "Boy and Bicycle" (Ridley Scott's first short film) ; Photo Galleries and Storyboards”).

The Duellists / Les Duellistes” by Ridley Scott, 2003, Paramount Picture, FR DVD Zone 2, Ref. N° B000089QL7 / EU 100832, Widescreen Edition, Pal, 1.85.1. (This edition contains the same special features than the US DVD issue).

● Music :

CD Promotional Album of the original score of “The Duellists” by Howard Blake, Airstrip One Cie,N°AOD HB002, 2000, USA. (This album is paired with “The Riddle of The Sands”, 33 tracks, Stereophonic Sound, Total CD Time : 73.54).

● Websites :

A Ridley Scott Page

Official Website of Howard Blake

Keith Carradine Unofficial Website

The Joseph Conrad Society ( UK) Official Website

Another link about Joseph Conrad

Two French Reviews of the Conrad’s novel

A very beautiful Photo from « Hawaii » (1966)...

This one of my favorite picture from the movie « Hawaii » 
(George Roy Hill / 1966). 

No Comment...

Salute to Herbert Lom (1917- 2012)

He was well known as the hysterical (and funny) chief inspector Charles Dreyfus, the boss and also the worst enemy of the Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) in the series of slapstick Pink Panther comedies.

Like Anthony Quayle, he was a charismatic second role in many great adventure and famous epic films : “The Ladykillers” (1955), “War & Peace” (1956), “Spartacus” (1960), “El Cid” (1961), “Die Nibelungen Part 2” (1967) and “King Solomon’s Mines” (1985)…

So Long Herbie... R. I. P. 

Here are some stills from my collection...

with Peter Sellers in "The Return of The Pink Panther" 

(Blake Edwards / 1975)

with Kirk Douglas in "Spartacus" (Stanley Kubrick / 1960)

Sir Roger Moore in Paris (October 04th 2012)

This week, Sir Roger Moore came to Paris to promote his new book about the James Bond films : “Bond on Bond” (French Title : “James Bond par Roger Moore”).

The high class British actor is still handsome and a witty gentleman.

For all the French fans who were there, it was a very trill and wonderful time to share with you, sir.

Thank you for your coming to France and kindness.

God bless you and come back to France very soon.


Official Website of Sir Roger Moore

Blog about Sir Roger Moore (in French)

Sphinx / Der Fluch der Sphinx / Cairo Mysteriet / La Esfinge / Sfenks (1981)

“Sphinx” is a very special movie. The Story takes place in one of the most hypnotic, beautiful and mysterious place in the World : “Egypt”.

This film is one of the most exotic romance and thrilled movie that I have ever seen. It is both a tale of an ancient and modern adventure which merges actual facts and old curses (the mystic of the king Tut legend and the search of a lost tomb of the Pharaoh Seti I).

Many times, Egypt was taken by screenwriters as the theater of many great adventures but in the case of “Sphinx”, the moviemakers choose to speak about the secret black market of antiquities. It is why to me, “Sphinx” is a very audacious movie.

The Story : A young brilliant Egyptologist Erica Baron (Lesley-Anne Down) is researching some information about a forgotten ancient architect of the Pharaoh Seti I, named Menephta. After her arrival in Cairo, she is shown a golden statue by an old unscrupulous art dealer-shopkeeper, Abdu-Hamdi (Sir John Gielgud) who is brutally murdered. A French journalist, Yvon Julien de Margeau (Maurice Ronet) saves her from the murderers and tries to help her to find the stolen statue of the Pharaoh Seti I. Thus, she becomes the target of the black marketeers determined to keep their treasure for themselves. Only, the handsome Director of Antiquities for UNESCO, Ahmed Khazzan (Frank Langella), tries to protect her from all the dangers around and falls in love with Erica.

In 1980, Orion Pictures bought the rights of the Robin Cook’s best–selling novel “Sphinx” (600 000 copies in hard cover). He was also known like the successful novelist of “Coma” which a film adaptation was made by Michael Crichton in 1978.

The Trailer

The Academy Award-winning director, Franklin J. Schaffner, (“Planet of the Apes” (1968), “Patton” (1970), “Papillon” (1973) and “The Boys from Brazil” (1978)) was approached to do it for the screen. With the collaboration of the producer Stanley O’Toole (“The Boys from Brazil” (1978)), he entrusted the screenwriter-director John Byrum (“Heart Beat” (1980), “The Razor Edge” (1984)) with the writing of the screenplay. The veteran American director was so involved in this project that he decided to serve as executive producer and “Sphinx” became a Franklin J. Schaffner film for Orion Picture release through Warner Bros.

Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker in "Valley of The Kings" (1954)

Like in the first chapter of the Indiana Jones saga (“Raiders of the lost Ark” / 1981), the main character is again an archeologist but this time in a realistic way. Some years before, the legendary actor Robert Taylor portrayed an intrepid Egyptologist in the “Valley of the Kings” (1954), now, it is the very talented and gorgeous British origin actress Lesley-Anne Down who protrayed the leading part of Erica Baron who fought against a bunch of vicious black marketeers. It was her fourth major role for the screen after “The (First) Great Train Robbery” (1978/ See the topic), “Hanover Street” (1979) and “Rough Cut” (1980).

The very talented American stage and film actor Frank Langella (“Dracula” (1979), “1492 : Conquest of Paradise” (1992) , “Dave” (1993), “The Ninth Gate” (1999), “Frost/Nixon” (2008) and “Robot and Frank” (2012)) joined her to portray the handsome and intellectual Ahmed Khazzan, who headed the antiquities division of the United Nations.

Frank Langella with Lesley-Anne Down

The high class Shakespearean British actor, Sir Arthur John Gielgud (“Julius Caesar” (1953), “Richard III” (1955), “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1968), “Providence” (1976) and “Hamlet” (1996)) played the part of the mysterious Egyptian shopkeeper, Abdu Hamdi.

Sir John Gielgud with Lesley-Anne Down

The French legendary actor-director-writer Maurice Ronet portrayed the now-good, now-bad journalist, Yvon de Margeau (“Elevator to the Gallows” (1958), “Carve Her Name with Pride” (1958), “The Talented Mr Ripley” (1960), “La Piscine” (1969) and “La Balance” (1982)).

Maurice Ronet with Lesley-Anne Down

Three distinguished actors completed this unconventional cast, John Rhys-Davies (“Raiders of The Lost Ark” (1981), “Victor Victoria” (1982), “Shogun” (1980) and “The Lord of The Ring” (2001 / 2002 / 2003) played Stephanos Markoulis, a malicious Greek antiquity dealer, Martin Benson (“The King and I” (1956), “Exodus” (1960), “Cleopatra” (1963) and “The Sea Wolves” (1980)) was Mohammed, the evil chief of the black marketeers and the Jordanian origin actor, Nadim Sawalha (“The Wind and The Lion” (1975) and “Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985)) was Gamal the loyal assistant of Langella’s character.

John Rhys-Davies with Lesley-Anne Down

The cinematographer Ernest Day (“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and “Mission Impossible” (1996)), the production designer Terence Marsh (“Doctor Zhivago” (1965), “A bridge too Far” (1977) , “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), “Basic Instinct” (1992) and “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)) and the Art Director Peter Lamont (“Sleuth” (1972), “The Boys from Brazil” (1978), “Titanic” (1996) and “Casino Royale” (2006)) were hired by the producers.

The movie was shot on location in Egypt, Cairo (The Cairo bazaars, the Egyptian National Museum, the Sphinx and Pyramid of Giza), Luxor (the Valley of the Kings and the Winter Palace Hotel) and in Hungary at Mafilm Studios, Budapest for the interiors (the tomb of Seti I with her braces of gold–saddled horses, jeweled thrones, golden warriors, presiding gods and idols, cases of jewelry and true-color hieroglyphics incised on all walls). A one quarter of a mile long tunnel was built in the Hungarian studios to collapse behind the racing Ms Down for the impressive ending of the movie.

The Composer Michael J. Lewis

The brilliant and talented Welsh composer Michael J. Lewis (“Julius Caesar” (1970), “Theater of Blood” (1973), “The Passage” (1979)) was hired to write the musical score. His romantic music is one of my favorite. Like Jerry Goldsmith (“The Wind and The Lion” / 1975) and Maurice Jarre (“The Man Who Would be King” / 1975), Lewis managed to merge ethnic instruments with a large symphonic orchestra. The result was so marvelous that the Director and close friend of Jerry Goldsmith stated of Lewis’ work : “This music could not have done better”. In 1982, the two men will work again together on the very charming comedy with the famous singer Luciano Pavarotti : “Yes Gorgio”.

A Tribute to Michael J. Lewis (13:57)

In 1995, the composer produced and conducted several symphonic suites from his best scores (“Sphinx”, “Theater of Blood”, “The Passage”, “Julius Caesar”…) in a spectacular double CD Album : “Orchestral Film Music of Michael J. Lewis - The first twenty-five years (1969/1994)”. Also, a promotional CD Album of the complete score of “Sphinx” was produced by the composer with extra cues.

Another Tribute (10:00)

Today, it is difficult to understand why such a versatile composer doesn’t work more for the big screen ? This is a complete mystery to me. Nevertheless, if you want to know more about this great artist you can hear some of his works, on his official website (see the link hereunder) !

It is well known that the professional conscience obliges everybody to do his best, but in the case of “Sphinx”, we can say that Lesley–Anne Down gave more than a fine performance. In fact, we have the feeling that “she gave her soul” to this movie. Of course, although people can think, she has never opened an archeologist book, we believe in her character. After all, it is the work of an actor to make us believe that he is on the screen. In addition to that, we cannot disregard that the clever direction of the versatile Schaffner probably helped her very much, in finding where she was the best.

The elegant Frank Langella was just perfect in his part and his “duo” with Miss Down worked on the screen very well. My only regret is that they didn’t make another movie together. Maurice Ronet and Sir John Gielgud, like always, were very convincing in their parts.

Despite the bad response from the critics and audience at that time, I have the feeling that “Sphinx” must be rediscovered and could become a “cult” movie. There are very good moments in this film, especially during the second hour (Erica’s escape from the black marketeers’ trap and the discovery of the golden chambers of Seti I).

A short scene from the Movie (3:35)

“Sphinx” is a splendid romantic story including all the ingredients of the epic qualities of the thriller, with an international cast at its best sustained by a very great symphonic musical score, in an exotic location. For all these reasons, this movie should have deserved a better welcome. I hope you will share this opinion and enjoy it…

P. S. : If you want to know more about “Sphinx”, please refer to :

● Books :

“Sphinx” by Robin Cook (in English), 1979, Mass Market Place, USA.

“Sphinx” by Robin Cook (In French), 1981, J’ai Lu - Edition Illustrée ; N°1219 ; Paris ; France. (This book includes some black & white photos from the movie).

“Sphinx”, the US Press Kit (In English), 1981, Orion Picture, US.
(This press kit includes photos, movie production information, actors' and actresses' biographies, as well as, synopsis information about the movie…).

“Sphinx” , the French Press Book (In French), 1981, Warner Bross Inc/Orion Picture Cie, France. (This press book includes some color photos from the movie).

“Sphinx” , the Japanese Program (In Japanese), 1981, Warner Bross Inc/Orion Picture Cie, Japan. (This program includes some black & white and color photos from the movie).

A rare Interview of Michael J. Lewis : Soundtrack, Vol. 17 / N°65, March 1998.

● Video :

“Sphinx” by Franklin J. Schaffner, 2010, Warner Bross, US DVD All Zone ;
Ref. N° B003ODIUZ2, Widescreen Edition, NTSC, 16:9 – 177:1.

Music :

CD Promotional Album of the complete score of “Sphinx” by Michael J. Lewis
(19 tracks ; Stereophonic Sound ; Total CD Time : 59.43 /

Double CD Album of “Orchestral Film Music of Michael J. Lewis - The first twenty-five years (1969/1994)” by Michael J. Lewis with the Rundfunkorchester Berlin and the Los Angeles Ensemble ; 1995 ; PD 951. (http://www.bluediamondmusic.com/Film%20Music%20CDs.htm).

Websites :

Official Lesley-Anne Down Website

Official Michael J. Lewis Website

Official Robin Cook Website