Duel (TV Movie 1971) Poster

(1971 TV Movie)


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While filming the shot where the truck drives off the cliff, a piece of machinery designed to keep the truck traveling in a straight line without a driver failed. Instead of calling a halt, the driver, who had an important engagement the next day and didn't want to miss it, stayed in the driving seat and only jumped out at the very last second before the truck went over.
During the chase, a parked sedan resembling a squad car is seen, briefly raising Dennis Weaver's hopes, but it turns out to be a service car for a pest exterminator named Grebleips... "Spielberg" in reverse.
When Carey Loftin, playing the truck driver, asked Steven Spielberg what his motivation was for tormenting the car's driver, Spielberg told him, "You're a dirty, rotten, no-good son of a bitch." Loftin replied, "Kid, you hired the right man."
Was shot in 13 days.
According to Richard Matheson, he was inspired to write the original short story "Duel" after an encounter with a tailgating truck driver on November 22, 1963, the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Steven Spielberg was shown seven different semi-trucks to choose from; he chose a Peterbilt because the cab resembled a face.
"Chuck's Cafe" still exists today. A French restaurant occupies the original structure a few miles south of Acton, CA.
Steven Spielberg can be seen reflected in the telephone booth during the scene where David Mann is calling the police. During his appearance on "Inside the Actors Studio" (1999) (#5.9)_qv Spielberg admitted that this was not an intentional cameo, but instead was a mistake. He went on to state that several similar mistakes were revealed when the movie received a theatrical release in Europe, with 18 different occurrences where Spielberg could be seen because of the change in aspect ratio for theatrical release.
The phone number Dennis Weaver dials to call his wife at the gas station is not the standard "555" movie prefix but, at the time, a valid number.
Steven Spielberg was already a fan of Richard Matheson before the movie was made due to Matheson's contributions to the Twilight Zone (1959).
Since filming only took about twelve days, it remains Steven Spielberg's personal benchmark for how quickly he can shoot a film.
In 1971, Steven Spielberg's secretary suggested the story to him after reading it in Playboy magazine.
After airing on U.S. TV, Steven Spielberg expanded it into a feature; this was the version released in Europe.
Some of the scenes were later used as stock footage in The Incredible Hulk: Never Give a Trucker an Even Break (1978). Obvious scenes used were the red Valiant slamming into the fence, the use of the same phantom truck in new TV footage, and the use of a similar Valiant in new TV footage. Unhappy by the discovery that footage from the movie was recycled, and unable to sue because the studio owned both the film and Hulk series, Steven Spielberg insisted that all his future contracts have a clause designed to protect his films from being used as stock footage.
Spielberg wanted David Mann's car to be red so it would stand out in the wide shots of the desert highways.
David Mann and Mrs. Mann are the only characters in the movie with names.
Parker Brothers merchandised the film with a board game. It didn't sell well, and examples have become somewhat scarce.
David Mann's car was a 1970 red Plymouth Valiant with California license plate 149 PCE.
When the truck enters the gate during the climax of the film, it actually hits the camera: in the last frame or so, you can see distortion and small pieces of the camera at the bottom right of the screen. Also, the shot is a flipped negative.
There is an elderly couple who drive by in a red car. The woman yells at the man to keep driving. A similar couple in a red car acts out the same ordeal in Back to the Future (1985), of which Steven Spielberg was the Executive Producer.
Steven Spielberg says that many European film critics found abstract concepts in the film, such as class struggle in America, but he considers it High Noon (1952) on wheels.
At the time of filming, the Federal Highways had just introduced the all yellow center line road marking guidelines. Parts of the road that Weaver drives along had just been painted in the new scheme. It is common for films made in the USA during the 'changeover' period (up to around 1975) to show roads with the original white lines and new yellow stripes.
Lucille Benson (Lady at Snakerama Gas Station) also appears as a gas station attendant in Steven Spielberg's 1941 (1979). Two other characters Spielberg reused in his other movies are the elderly couple in the car, who were featured as a couple in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
It was Dennis Weaver's role in Touch of Evil (1958) that convinced Steven Spielberg that he would be perfect for the role of David Mann.
Although Steven Spielberg wanted Dennis Weaver from the beginning, Weaver actually wasn't signed until the evening before shooting was to begin.
When first screened in Europe, the TV movie received a theatrical release.
The license plates on the front of the truck are for each state that the truck drives in, kind of a way of paying tax. Most of the plate have an MC on them which means "Motor Carrier" and the New Mexico plate is a HUP "Highway Use Permit"
The Valiant used in the film was actually 3 different cars. For the television release there was a 1970 with a 318 V8 (as witnessed by the 1970-only "V-EIGHT" spear-type emblems on the forward portion of the front fenders), and a 1971 with a 225 slant six. When the added scenes were filmed, a 1972 Valiant with a 225 Slant Six was used. This makes sense, due to the fact that the television showing was in November 1971, 3 months into the 1972 model year. All three Valiants had 1971-only, Plymouth-only wheel covers. The license plates on Weaver's Valiant were actually incorrect: 149 PCE, in the 1970 & later blue/yellow colors, would technically have to be 1976-issue ("P" = 1976). However, this isn't necessarily conversely an incorrect item. Many vehicles used variations of this license number (the van from the "A-TEAM" used number "1PCE149").
Gregory Peck was considered briefly to play the lead before it was decided to make it a TV-movie.
All of it was shot on location.
Director Trademark: [Steven Spielberg] [images seen in a side-mirror] The truck bearing down on David Mann.
Universal provided action stock footage, filmed by the 1st & 2nd units, from the Spielberg production, to an episode of "The Incredible Hulk", starring Bill Bixby. Obvious scenes used were the red Valiant slamming into the fence, the use of the same phantom truck in new tv footage, and the use of a similar Valiant in new tv footage.
There are seventeen notches on the headlights of the truck.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The truck driver is never seen.
The truck going over the cliff was done in one take. It had to be because they couldn't afford other trucks with the film's very low budget.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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