25 March 2001 | Doylenf
Overproduced Western Epic Is A Guilty Pleasure!
Everything about 'Duel in the Sun' is overripe: the music, the photography (those red sunsets a la GWTW), the strong emotions and the climactic duel on a blazing desert sun by the two mismatched lovers. Indeed, the excesses are almost operatic in proportion--and yet, a viewer can get caught up in this sprawling western rightly termed "Lust in the Dust" by some reviewers. The rampant sensuality of the steamy scenes between Peck and Jones are emphasized by Dimitri Tiomkin's luscious background score which becomes blistering and intense for the climactic shootout. Overproduced, overacted, overwritten--it still entertains and makes us appreciate the genius of David O. Selznick whose hand on all of the material is quite evident. Jennifer Jones was nominated for her tempestuous Pearl Chavez (but lost to Olivia de Havilland for 'To Each His Own'). Lillian Gish deserved her Oscar nomination. And last but not least, let's not forget Walter Huston, who gives the most realistic and enjoyable performance in the entire film as The Sin Killer--a wickedly funny portrayal. Weakest aspect of the film is Gregory Peck's easygoing villain--his whole performance strikes a false note and is not the least bit convincing. He and Joseph Cotten should have switched their roles--Cotten always made a more believable villain than Peck. Selznick obviously was striving to make a western on the level of GWTW--even including Butterfly McQueen for comic relief. All in all, fun to watch if you don't take any of it seriously. Not exactly a work of art--but definitely worth watching. And, oh, that ripe technicolor!