Duel

Approx. run time 74 min. TV Version
89 min. Theatrical Version
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by George Eckstein
Starring Dennis Weaver
Carey Loftin
Music by Billy Goldenberg
Country United States
Language English
Original channel ABC
Release date November 13, 1971

Duel was a 1971 television movie that provided Steven Spielberg with his big break in the movie business. It was released theatrically outside of the US in 1972. Until this time Spielberg was an unknown TV director whose most important work up until that time was the as yet unscreened debut of Colombo.

Duel was perhaps a sign of what was to come with Spielberg’s body of work, as its influence can be seen in other film such as Jaws and Jurassic Park. The film feels very much like a Hitchcock style thriller, with the film’s hero, David Mann being pursued by a huge 1855 Peterbilt tanker. The unseen driver plays a cat and mouse game with Mann, trying to push the car off the road with the massive truck.

It is very difficult to believe that this is a made for TV movie and was not planned to have a theatrical release. It is even more astonishing to think that a film of this quality was shot in just 13 days with only a further 10 days needed to edit it, so that it could make it’s November 13 air date. It feels like a big screen movie and you can see that Spielberg has put a lot of thought and effort into the film. Weaver is great as the nervous David Mann, and we can clearly see his anxiety and paranoia as the giant truck bears down on him. However it is that 1955 Peterbilt that is the film’s star. The ugly old truck is menacing every time that it is on screen, while the fact that we never get to see its driver just adds to the fear factor.

This is a wonderful film by Spielberg that I really recommend.

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