Review – Duel (1971)
Right from the opening scene, where David Mann, played by Dennis Weaver, pulls out of his garage, and begins driving through the city, we know were in for something very special.
Duel began life as a short story, written by Richard Matheson and published in Playboy magazine. The story goes that Steven Spielberg’s assistant presented the magazine to him, and said to skip the pictures, and go to a brilliant story he had just read called Duel. He read it and immediately decided he wanted to bring the story to the screen.
The story is deceptively simple. Our main character plays a travelling salesman, on his way to meet a client. His journey takes him through a long and lonely, two lane, dessert highway. Some way into the journey he encounters a huge oil truck. The driver of the truck proceeds to annoy Mann with some dangerous speed related antics. He eventually overtakes the truck and speeds ahead, thinking he’s lost it.
A little later the truck catches him up, and thus begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse with this monstrous rig.
This is quite easily one of the greatest, chase movie ever made. A slow burner that blazes in the last 30 minutes to a scorching climax. It’s also a brilliant exercise in suspense and pure terror.
Dennis Weaver perfectly captures a man, under pressure, a role he perfected in the movie Touch Of Evil. It was after seeing this movie that Spielberg decided that Weaver would be perfect playing David Mann. The film was made in a little over two weeks and was shown in the regular Movie Of The Week slot on television.
It was so successful that the network invited Spielberg to film extra scenes, to bump up the running time to 90 minutes, in order that the movie be released theatrically. It was a huge success and the rest is history. Watching it now, it’s very easy to see what was to come in the form of Jaws, a mere four years later. If you have never seen Duel, i recommend you seek it out, to see what a real road movie looks like……