Paramount first released The Duellists on laserdisc in 1984 . in a sharp transfer that preserved the backlit, perfume-ad look so typical of director Ridley Scott’s movies (Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise). It’s crucial that the movie look exquisite, since the script, based on a Joseph Conrad story about two feuding Napoleonic officers, seems a matter of indifference to Scott. He treats it as an arbitrary frame on which to hang ravishingly photographed set pieces. Unfortunately, the color technicians behind this newly remastered ”wide-screen” edition have given virtually every shot a pinkish-brown cast. Winter battlefield scenes, invigorated with palpably chilly shades of blue on the old laserdisc, look balmy here.
Worse, the slightly letterboxed frame actually crops out parts of the picture visible in the cassette and original laser-disc versions, which are still available. (This may sound wacky, but some video transfers restore top and bottom portions of the image that are cropped out for wide-screen theatrical release.) Granted, the letterboxing accurately reflects the way the film looked in theaters. But who needs this fidelity when it yields such an awkward, cramped-looking image? C