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

Shout! Factory

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)

COMEDY/CRIME

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012)

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And William Holden thought Gloria Swanson made a screenwriter’s life complicated. Acclaimed Irish playwright and sometime filmmaker Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”) casts Colin Farrell as a struggling Hollywood scribe with a slooow-gestating idea for a psycho-killer movie, but some kooky inspiration right at hand (pal Sam Rockwell, dognapper Christopher Walken, gangster Woody Harrelson). Occasionally very funny, and one of the cleverer showbiz meta-comedies you’ll see, but overly determined toward the end to be as off-kilter as Farrell’s script-within-a-script. Extras: Given that McDonagh has apparently crafted a version of himself for Farrell, you’ll wish for more than a quickie character featurette. (Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99)

TELEVISION

DOWNTON ABBEY: SEASON 3 (2013)

Can’t wait for the next few episodes of the PBS phenomenon? Get a jump on the third-season wrap-up with this tantalizingly timed release. (And then maybe do something about your fidgeting, why don’t you, and make a closer study of all that post-Edwardian decorum you’re eating up?) Extras: Two hours of bonus features include a spotlight on Shirley MacLaine, indisputably the hit of the season as Elizabeth McGovern’s very American mother — and New World foil to Old World Maggie Smith. Another segment details tweaking the country-estate setting to 1920 specs. (PBS, $49.99; Blu-ray, $54.99)

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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