Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Premise: A businessman (Dennis Weaver) is stalked on the freeway by a trucker who is trying to kill him.
What Works: Duel moves along very briskly and demonstrates a lot of filmmaking craft as it creates suspense. Although it was made for television in the 1970s, the film looks like it could have been a major motion picture, and a lot of that has to do with Spielberg’s manipulation of the cinematography. Dennis Weaver is very good as the archetypal “every-man” who is pushed into a position that makes him abandon the niceties of civilization and fight back in order to survive.
What Doesn’t: Duel moves along so fast that it sacrifices depth, although this is not a film about complex interpersonal interaction; it is about the will to survive.
DVD extras: Featurettes, photograph gallery, trailers, and production notes.
Bottom Line: Duel is a genuine diamond in the rough. It was Spielberg’s first feature length project, and it has an important place in his collection of work and his status as an auteur filmmaker. It is a very Hitchcock inspired film but with Spielberg’s own touch. It is more exciting and more suspenseful than the majority of the big budget action films made today because Duel takes its time to craft the suspense and insert the audience into the scene.
Trivia: Listen for the dinosaur roar at the end of the picture. It is the same sound effect used at the very end of Jaws.
Episode: #19 (September 19, 2004)