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Blu-ray debut of Ridley Scott’s ‘The Duellists’

Last summer’s heavy coverage of Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi with “Prometheus” might have led some to think that his career began with “Alien,” that the two movies were creative bookends in the strictest sense. Scott in fact made his feature directing bow with his Napoleonic drama “The Duellists” (1977). A welcome Blu-ray debut offers a fresh look — or a first look — at the little-seen Joseph Conrad adaptation, which earned Scott first-work honors at Cannes. Keith Carradine stars as d’Hubert, a French army officer whose seemingly innocuous encounter with fellow soldier Feraud (Harvey Keitel — in braids!) gives rise to a grudge spanning decades. In meadows, in courtyards, on horseback, hotheaded Feraud challenges the reluctant d’Hubert to cross swords again and again. (He’s like Sam I Am with a saber.) The two leads at times come across as the casting stretches that they are, but just as often make their unending, predator-and-prey connection feel as soul-sapping as intended. Scott, meanwhile, displays all of the aesthetic polish and promise you might expect, even if the film’s most striking sequence ditches the cultured French setting for the savagely cold Russian front. Extras: A new interview with Carradine covers everything from production details to the historical background behind those braids. He even semi-convincingly argues that the story’s class divisions justify Keitel’s New Yawk accent. In a recycled supplement, Scott is interviewed by director Kevin Reynolds (“Waterworld,” but also “The Count of Monte Cristo”). (Shout! Factory, $19.97)

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