Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1970s Duel (1971)

Duel (1971)

This oddball existentialist drama pits a lone travelling salesman against a mysteriously menacing death-dealing tractor-trailer rig.

duel_003Adapted by Richard Matheson from his own novel, it is an immensely effective man vs machine thriller about the salesman (Dennis Weaver) gradually realising his red Plymouth Valiant is being chased across a stretch of the Californian desert by the huge tanker truck – the driver of which is never seen – whose sole purpose seems to be to crush him and his car under its gigantic wheels.

Shot on a budget in 13 days, there’s barely any dialogue – it’s all palm-moistening, tyre-squealing action – but once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it.

Talented young 20-something director Steven Spielberg attracted a lot of attention for his flashy, highly edited style of direction in a film which he originally made as a TV movie for ABC.

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Remarkable notices (and admiring critics) resulted in the film being released on the cinema circuit – with additional scenes filmed – and launched the young director’s career in movies.

The truck itself prefigures Spielberg’s shark in Jaws  (1975) as a marauding screen monster with a personality of its own.

David Mann
Dennis Weaver
Mrs Mann
Jacqueline Scott
Cafe owner
Eddie Firestone
Bus driver
Lou Frizzell
Man in cafe
Gene Dynarski
Lady at Snakarama
Lucille Benson
Petrol station attendant
Tim Herbert
Old man
Charles Seel
Shirley O’Hara
Truck driver
Cary Loftin

Steven Spielberg