While traveling through the desert for an appointment with a client, the businessman David Mann from California passes a slow and old tanker truck. The psychotic truck driver feels offended and chases David along the empty highway trying to kill him. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Spielberg's feature-debut is a cat and mouse classic
Seeing this film again I'm struck by how much first-time (on a film of this length) director Steven Spielberg is able to do with so little. He's basically making a movie in the Roger Corman vein, with little budget, but cart blanche on such a small expectations for a TV movie-of-the-week to do whatever he sees fit to make the film. One could equate the final result of Duel, from a sincerely gripping script by Richard Matheson, to what would come from Robert Rodriguez 10 years after; it shows what can be done to create excitement on limited resources, and in a fresh way. His star, Dennis Weaver, doesn't have to act so much as react, to the very terror that his quasi-mouse form is to the cat that is the giant gasoline truck following him down in the desert. There is no real plot as much as it is visual storytelling, of the tension that builds and builds as this truck gets meaner and more ruthless in its pursuit of this little red car. Spielberg, in going on his first try as director, is surprisingly successful in throwing in everything and a hat to ensure he gets the right angles, sometimes quite unconventional (i.e. many of the interior close-ups on Weaver and on the vehicles). Like Jaws, it's a film by someone who may be reckless with what he's got to film the script, but its done with such an intensity that you might forget how its aged. In fact, like Jaws and other Spielberg thrillers, I would put it to viewers to see how this does hold up over time, even more amazing considering its made-for-TV stance. And lets face it, some of these scenes are just a lot of fun (who isn't grinning during the moment when Weaver is in a rush to push the bus forward and almost gets crushed).
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