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Duel at Diablo

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Duel at Diablo
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Produced by Fred Engel
Ralph Nelson
Written by Marvin H. Albert
Screenplay by Marvin H. Albert
Michael M. Grilikhes
Based on Apache Rising
Starring James Garner
Sidney Poitier
Music by Neal Hefti
Cinematography Charles F. Wheeler
Edited by Fredric Steinkamp
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • June 15, 1966 (1966-06-15)
Running time
103 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,500,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

Duel at Diablo is a 1966 western film starring James Garner in his first Western since leaving Maverick and Sidney Poitier in his first Western. Based on Marvin H. Albert's 1957 novel Apache Rising, the film was written by Albert and Michael M. Grilikhes and directed by Ralph Nelson who had directed Poitier in Lilies of the Field. The supporting cast includes Bibi Andersson, Bill Travers, Dennis Weaver and John Hoyt; Ralph Nelson has a cameo as an Army Major. The movie was shot on location amidst striking scenery in Utah; the musical score was composed by Neal Hefti.


While crossing the desert, a frontier scout, Jess Remsberg (James Garner), rescues Ellen Grange (Bibi Andersson) from a pursuing band of Apaches, and returns her to her husband, Willard Grange (Dennis Weaver). The couple have been on the move since two years before, when Ellen Grange had been kidnapped by Apaches and rescued. The townsfolk treated her as an outcast because, in captivity, she had a child by an Indian warrior.

Jess is searching for the murderers of his Comanche wife. He travels to Fort Concho to obtain information from the town marshal. On the way there, he is contracted to act as a scout for an Army cavalry unit of twenty-five inexperienced soldiers bringing horses, ammunition, and supplies to the fort. Willard, Ellen, and her infant son are along for the ride, as is horse breaker Toller (Sidney Poitier), a veteran of the 10th Cavalry (the "Buffalo Soldiers"). As Toller was contracted to provide broken horses suitable for riding, he is paid only for the horses already broken and will accompany the party breaking his horses on the way. The commander of the detachment, Lt. "Scotty" McAllister, a highly experienced former sergeant, will give Toller receipts to be paid at Fort Concho.

The party is trapped in a canyon by Chata (John Hoyt), an Apache chief and grandfather of Ellen's baby. Willard is captured and tortured mercilessly. Jess sneaks away and brings reinforcements from the fort just in time to save the day. At the fort, Jess had learned that the man he has been hunting is none other than Willard Grange, out for revenge for what was done to his wife. He finds Willard, tied to a wagon wheel and barely alive. When Willard begs him to put him out of his misery, Jess gives him his pistol and leaves.


Critical Response

Writing in The New York Times, Robert Alden gave a positive review, stating that Much of it is raw and ugly, yet it is a film that will grip you, a film that will have a shattering effect by the time you go back out into the street.[2] A more critical, three-star review was written by Tony Sloman for The Radio Times, observing that it doesn't quite succeed, partly because the eclectic casting (including Swede Bibi Andersson and Brit Bill Travers) gets in the way of the authenticity. [3]

See also


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