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Duel (1983)

April. 22,1983
| Action Thriller TV Movie

Traveling businessman David Mann angers the driver of a rusty tanker while crossing the California desert. A simple trip turns deadly, as Mann struggles to stay on the road while the tanker plays cat and mouse with his life.


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I started watching these older movies and must say I enjoy them more than today's CGI-heavy movies. I love the practical effects and films being shot on location. It more effectively creates a sense of realism. The actors are also more believable because they are actually part of their surroundings, and not being made belief to be there. Before Spielberg scared us with a shark, he brought us this thrilling road movie. The film never gives us a reason for the truck driver to pursue our hero, nor does it ever reveal the driver. But this was a very exciting film and to this day one of the better road movies out there. Dennis Weaver was so good that you could actually feel his agony and desperation.


Having finished my look at Johnny Depp's filmography. I have decided to focus on the work of legendary director Stephen Spielberg.Duel was conceived of, filmed for, then broadcast as a made-for-TV movie in 1971, so it's inclusion here may be questionable. Still, two years after eight American broadcast, Duel was widely seen as a feature in Europe then, finally in April 1983, it did receive a limited American theatrical release. They don't make them like this anymore.?Shot in 16 days for a cost of $425,000 Duel is a powerful story that shows Spielberg's serious potential as a director. Even here, there are things that would become trademarks and staples of his forthcoming body of work. In film after film, Spielberg's leading character would be a modern Everyman, tue ordinary guy (or girl) who rises to heroic proportions by choosing to fight back against seemingly unconquerable adversity. While the circumstances may be extraordinary they are not contrived, but the Spielberg hero usually confronts something basic and universal. It is also implied the hero David Mann is a father who is having troubles in his marriage, which could soon reach breaking point (meaning he would be the typical Spielberg absent father) We also get another trademark images seen in a side-mirror!! In this case the truck bearing down on David Mann.For me the best scene in the movie is a scene in a diner, where David is trying to work out which of the men is the would be killer. The sequence is practically wordless, but it's done with such style it's great. A few random tit bits. The phone number Dennis Weaver dials to call his wife at the gas station is not the standard "555" movie prefix!! I wonder how many people have failed that number!! Lol With its original runtime of 74 minutes, the TV movie was not long enough to be released in theaters. Universal called Steven Spielberg back to shoot additional scenes in order to make it a 90-minute film. These new scenes were the railroad crossing, the school bus, the scene where David phones his wife and the opening scene where the car backs out of the garage and drives through the city.

The Movie Diorama

Originally produced for television, Spielberg's debut feature-length film has stood the test of time. Acquiring the ability to retain the thrilling suspense that was masterfully created back in 1971. A businessman travelling cross-country encounters an oil tanker that soon starts to recklessly infuriate him, turning an innocent drive into a cat-and-mouse pursuit. A simple premise that purposefully lacks backstory to enhance the emergent situation that is being illustrated. Just a feeble car fleeing a monstrous truck. Spielberg excellently ensures that the domineering presence of the beastly tanker is the prominent showpiece, conveying intimidation through its aesthetic appearance and booming engine. His directing technique, which includes POV car shots and wide panning shifts between the two vehicles, is the stand out. It's a prevalent element to the film which heightens its perennial status, even when watching this for the first time today it feels fresh as if watching a modern film. Astonishing really, but proving that solid direction is required to create a classic. Weaver's mild mannered behaviour juxtaposes the ruthless savagery of the anonymous truck driver, thus conjuring up the thrills that is surprisingly maintained well. There are a few moments where the fuel warning light comes on, particularly when the car tries to overtake the truck, due to repetitious scenes. Also can't shake the feeling that he could've simply drove in the opposite direction, easy solution really although not half as exhilarating. However the nitrous fuel is then refilled and the narrative speedily drives away without looking back. The final scene was tremendously filmed, especially the slow motion carnage, and proves that Spielberg works well with tiny budgets also. In fact, this is just as good as his big blockbusters which is an impressive achievement. So sit back, strap yourself in and push the pedal to the metal in this thrilling car chase.


DUEL is an exemplary addition to the 'car chase' genre of films in the 1970s. Remembered today for being Steven Spielberg's first movie, it's also his best directed, even today. He doesn't let himself get distracted by character, sentiment or special effects; instead it's just a car, a truck, and a lengthy and picturesque stretch of desert road on which to film. He keeps what is in essence a single-location thriller interesting through lots of inventive camera angles, camerawork which alone adds to the tension and build up of suspense; watch, for instance, just how many times you see the truck in the background of a shot. The vehicles and action are perfectly filmed and although the story is a little slow at times (the extra padded scenes required to build this up to feature rather than TV movie length) even these moments have the requisite tension. Dennis Weaver does a stalwart one-man-band job but the real star of the show is unsung hero and stunt driver Carey Loftin, the man behind the wheel of that Satanic lorry.