Storm Rider (Il Grande duello, 1972), aka The Grand Duel and The Big Showdown is a Spaghetti Western directed by Giancarlo Santi, who had previously worked as Sergio Leone's assistant director on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. The film stars Lee Van Cleef as a sheriff who seeks justice for a man accused of murder.
Phillip Wermeer has escaped from prison where he serves a sentence for the murder of Saxon, the patriarch of Saxon city, who in his turn is believed to be behind the murder of Wermeer’s father. The film starts with Wermeer holed up in Gila Bend by a swarm of bounty killers, who want his $3.000 reward - posted by Saxon's three sons David, Eli and Adam. Clayton arrives on a stagecoach, and bosses his way through the cordon set up by the local lawmen. While walking the street down to the saloon he performs some actions that hints the watching Wermeer as to where some of the besiegers are hidden (like throwing a lit match so a man hidden in hay has to put it out). Wermeer breaks out and makes it to the saloon, where Clayton, who has counted his shots and knows that he is out of bullets, arrests him.
When Hole, as spokesman for the bounty killers, calls on Wermeer to surrender a shot rings out and Clayton emerges dragging the "dead" convict. They argue that Clayton – who if he is a sheriff cannot collect bounty – should give up the body and when disagreement develops into a gunfight, Wermeer jumps up on a horse and escapes, pursued by the pack (though not Clayton). Wermeer makes the bounty killers follow his horse, and hitches a ride with the stagecoach, where he finds Clayton among the passengers.
When they stay the night at Silver Bells Wermeer goes for a shotgun hanging on the wall, but is stopped by Clayton. When the stationmaster (a ragged drunk, like the coach driver) assures that it is empty, Clayton retorts "Never consider a gun empty.” Then he and Wermeer play cards, Wermeer betting his $3.000 bounty, Wermeer wins and suggests that he has won his freedom, but Clayton promises to take him to Saxon city as he wants. At night Wermeer steals the revolver from Clayton’s bag, but is told that it is empty. Wermeer repeats Clayton’s earlier saying, and pulls the trigger, but Clayton shows him the bullet, taking it out of his mouth. Wermeer throws him the gun and starts opening the door, but Clayton shoots at the door, this time with bullets.
During the night the bounty killers have surrounded the house. The bounty killers tell the others to leave and then give Wermeer thirty seconds. Only the two remain, plus Elisabeth, a female passenger who has earlier shown interest in Wermeer. Clayton tells her that Wermeer is innocent and that he saw who did it, but if Wermeer walks out the door he will never know. Hole has just said that Clayton is no longer a sheriff and Wermeer asks why Clayton follows him, because he is not convincing as a bounty killer. Wermeer gives himself up. Hole and two of the bounty killers now kill the others in the pack, and ride off with Wermeer.
Clayton follows, and finds them beating and questioning Wermeer in a waterfall, asking for where the silver of his father is and offering to let him go if he tells. Clayton shoots off the rope and liberates him. Wermeer says that Clayton interrupted his questioning of them, and asks if he is still a prisoner. When Clayton says no he holds a gun against Clayton and rides off to Saxon city on the latter’s horse.
In Saxon city Wermeer confronts the Saxon sons Adam and Eli. He accuses Eli (who is sheriff) and asks who killed his father. We also learn that Hole was sent by Eli to find out who really killed the old man Saxon.
Clayton arrives and demands that the Saxons reopen Wermeer's case.
Wermeer challenges the Saxons. He sends word to his friends to gather at the silver mine.
Clayton finds Wermeer hidden in his hotel room. Clayton supervises a duel between Hole and Wermeer after telling the latter that it was Hole that killed Phillip’s father. There is an ambusher, helping Hole, but Wermeer shoots him too, without Clayton interfering. (In a German-language version the dying Hole says he killed Wermeer because the latter refused to share the silver).
Adam Saxon massacres Wermeer's followers with hidden explosives and a machine gun. He also kills his own men, not to leave any witnesses.
David Saxon, the oldest of the brothers, meets with Clayton, who says that they both know who killed the old man Saxon. David offers $25.000 if he and Wermeer leave town.
When Wermeer arrives Clayton relays the offer that the charge will be dropped. Wermeer retorts that the Saxons gave the offer because "Dead people don't need a leader.” Adam shoots him from a window, though Elisabeth, who arrived in town to marry Adam, cries out a warning. Clayton escapes during the gunfight.
In the morning Wermeer is to be hanged. Clayton appears and says that he knows who is the real killer. David wants the hanging to continue but Eli says that he must know. Clayton confesses that he himself did it, saying that the judge was bought by Saxon, so justice could only be done this way. The Saxons agree to meet him at the cattle pens.
At the confrontation, when Clayton approaches, David says that the three must draw first and at the same time to overcome Clayton’s expert gunplay. Wermeer, from a distance, shoots off Clayton’s hat so that he draws first and kills them. Wermeer picks up his hat and gun and says that he now can go back to be a sheriff. Wermeer leaves for Mexico with Elisabeth, not caring about the silver. The old man from the stage-coach drives them.
- Lee Van Cleef as Sheriff Clayton
- Alberto Dentice as Philipp Wermeer (credited as Peter O'Brien)
- Jess Hahn as Bighorse the Stage Driver
- Horst Frank as David Saxon / Samuel Saxon
- Klaus Grünberg as Adam Saxon
- Antonio Casale as Hole the Bounty Hunter (credited as Antony Vernon)
- Marc Mazza as Sheriff Eli Saxon
- Dominique Darel as Elisabeth
- Memè Perlini
In his investigation of narrative structures in Spaghetti Western films, Fridlund writes that the relationship between Wermeer and Clayton before their arrival to Saxon City follows the stories of the (commercially more successful)Spaghetti Western films Death Rides a Horse and Day of Anger, about the relationship between an older gunfighter and a younger protagonist, and he further traces the root of this type of plot to the play between the younger and the older bounty killer in For a Few Dollars More. In all four films the older party is played by Lee Van Cleef. Subsequently, Wermeer's return to his home town and quest for the truth about the death of his father, and the massacre of innocents are closer to what happens in films like Massacre Time and Texas, Adios that are more influenced by another genre highlight, Django.
Wild East released this alongside Beyond the Law under its American title "The Big Gundown" on an out-of-print limited edition R0 NTSC DVD in 2005. In 2013 Blue Underground re-released the film, again under its American title, in a newly transferred and fully restored R0 NTSC DVD.