Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

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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Back to the Future

Back to the FutureDirected by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Neil Canton & Bob Gale
Executive producers: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall
Written by Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis
Starring Michael J. Fox
Christopher Lloyd
Lea Thompson
Crispin Glover
Thomas F. Wilson
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Editing by Harry Keramidas & Arthur Schmidt
Studio Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/U-Drive Productions
Distributed by United States: Universal Pictures
Foreign: United International Pictures
Release date July 3, 1985
Running time 116 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I remember when Robert Zemeckis used to make good movies featuring real people, not the CGI, motion capture rubbish he now does with films like Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. (What’s the use of having an animated character voiced by Tom Hanks/Jim Carrey/Bob Hoskins that looks exactly like Tom Hanks/Jim Carrey/Bob Hoskins? Why not just make a live action film?)  Before he ever dreamed of taking a trip into that uncanny valley he made Back To the Future, a film that I remember watching in the cinema with my friends back in the mid-80s. Perhaps Zemeckis should have another look at this film before he directs his next movie just so he can see that a film needs more than technology and special effects to be entertaining. An engaging star and funny storyline that keeps a viewers interest are much more important than any amount of computer trickery. While Back To The Future does have some great effects for 1985 the reason why the film was so successful was due more to the likeable Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.

This film did bring back some happy childhood memories of hanging out with the gang at Chadstone, eating popcorn and drinking Coke and just having fun. Huey Lewis’ great soundtrack just helped make those memories even brighter. This is a great film to watch and remember all that stuff. I enjoyed Back To The Future a lot when I revisted it, so it is such a shame that Zemeckis has deteriorated so much with his artistic vision.

* I don’t want to make this post a tirade against Robert Zemeckis but he is really annoying me at the moment. Watching something like Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Cast Away and even Forrest Gump make me remember that he was once a very good director, but you would not know that if you watched his latest projects. I make no bones about my dislike of motion capture technology. Zemeckis’ last three films have all been made utilising this technology and in my opinion they have all stunk. Worse still is that he is currently remaking Yellow Submarine using motion capture which I think will be as horrible as it sounds. The problem I find with this technology is that the director wants to create a faux world containing animated characters that look almost as real as possible, but if you look deeply enough at these characters you can see that they have no soul. It is also for this uncanny reason why I have not descended into the valley to watched James Cameron’s Avatar. Then again when Zemeckis has overused special effects and technology in films the results has mostly been horrible. Death Becomes Her was a terrible film and while I enjoyed Forrest Gump it by no means really deserved the accolades or awards that it received.