In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.
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
David Mann's car was a 1970 red Plymouth Valiant with California license plate 149 PCE. See more »
When David chases the truck out of Chuck's Cafe on foot, he has a stain on his shirt. When he then walks back to his car, the stain is gone. See more »
[radio playing, driving down the road, approaches the truck]
[David coughs, coughs again]
Talk about pollution.
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A scene plays out over the credits where David Mann sits on the edge of the cliff throwing stones. See more »
Spielberg shot an additional 16 minutes of footage (bringing the running time up to 90 minutes from the original 74 of the TV version), including a longer title sequence, the expansion of the gas station / laundromat scene towards the beginning of the film (the entire phone conversation with David Mann's wife being added), and the addition of a scene showing the killer truck trying to push Mann's car under a train at a railroad crossing. These new scenes can be noted by the fact that, for shooting the new footage, Universal had to purchase both a new red Plymouth Valiant and a similar Peterbilt semi truck. The Valiant is a 1972 model, which is very close to the original 1971 model in the original film, but not exact - and the differences can be noted in the film. See more »
Leave it to prosemaster extraordinaire, Richard Matheson (a favorite of mine and the man Stephen King acknowledges as being his biggest influence), to come up a premise so simple yet so believable and terrifying that the viewer will never look at an eighteen-wheeler the same way ever again...and leave it to cinematic wunderkind, Stephen Spielburg, to do right by Matheson's script and win acclaim in the bargain.
Though some may argue that "Bullit", "Vanishing Point", or maybe even the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" could be called the ultimate car chase movie, "Duel" deserves this designation better because it does something none of the above films can claim. The story literally starts on the road and ends on the road. No location in the entire film is ever out of sight of the highway and, in spite of the brief conversation with the wife, virtually nothing else happens outside the highway. For David Mann (played adequately enough by Dennis Weaver) and the monster truck he's trying to get away from, the road and everything alongside it is their entire universe. Nothing else of importance exists outside of it.
Though it's never mentioned in the film, this would seem to take place on the California highways. When I went out there about eight years ago, I went down roads that seemed to be not too dissimiliar to the ones shown here. They seemed to stretch on forever, no vestiges of civilization in sight for miles. Spielburg uses this setting to great advantage. Being in your car in a crowded city intersection is one thing, but on those highways with nothing but your car and a homicidal maniac in a diesel for miles? The isolation factor that cars naturally produce jumps up a thousand percent. The radiator hose problem made me think of many other times that I had similar troubles with cars I've had. Of course, I never had someone trying to kill me at the time, but...
Anyone looking for drama, character development, or all the other elements that pseudo-critics point out as the mark of cinematic excellence are liable to be disappointed by "Duel". It's what King described in "Danse Macabre" as a Tale of the Hook. It's only purpose is to scare the hell out of you. Damn if it doesn't work. THAT'S the mark of a classic.
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