Duel (1971) – movie review

***Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s***

Duel 1971 - pic 3

Duel (1971)top 1970's TV horror - small

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Richard Matheson

This early Stephen Spielberg film penned by Richard Matheson is a fantastic suspense thriller that holds up well even to this day. David Mann, (Dennis Weaver) is heading cross country to a new job. Early in the trip he passes a truck that was moving slow and spewing fumes from the exhaust pipe. He iDuel 1971 - dvds tormented by a faceless trucker in this mind-game of cat and mouse for the rest of his trip. The suspense and terror associated with the unknown assailant builds to a feverish peak as David tries to shake off his stalker with little success.

There is a scene where David enters a roadside diner after being run off the road and nearly killed by the assailant. He knows the truck driver is in the diner and walks through quietly examining each of the men in a highly tense scene. It’s a great example of psychological horror, worthy of a Hitchcock film. Back on the road, the two are locked into a deadly duel as David in his 1971 Plymouth Valiant tries to fend off the faceless driver in his 1955 Peterbilt 281, tanker truck.

If you have not seen this movie, it would be worth seeking out. It is shot in the style of 1970’s movies, but that doesn’t hinder the tension and suspense of this classic road trip film.

Duel 1971 - pic 4


Fun Facts:
In one scene, David sees a sedan resembling a police car and hopes to get help with his predicament. However it turns out to be a car for an exterminator service. The name of the company is ‘Grebleips’ which is “Spielberg” spelled backwards.

In the scene where David Mann is calling the police from a telephone booth, Spielberg can be seen in the reflection of the glass. He said in an appearance on The Actors Studio that it was an unintentional cameo.

The roadside Diner in the film, Chuck’s Café, is still standing today and is a French Restaurant.

Some additional scenes were shot for this film for its theatrical release outside the US. These are good scenes with the bus and the train tracks. It’s recommended that you see the extended theatrical release film with these scenes included. (I believe it’s the only version on dvd/bluray)

There are many more interesting trivia and fun facts for this film, If you are interested you should check out the IMDb page.

11 thoughts on “Duel (1971) – movie review

  1. I never realized this was originally a made-for-tv movie. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen it but I’ve always remembered how masterfully Spielberg created tension seemingly out of nothing. I think your Hitchcock comparison is spot on.

  2. Great Post!
    I thot this was a great movie, until my 1st driving lesson turned out to b a shocking recreation of it. And there was no cliff in the area over which w cld banish th big-rig-drivin’ bounder!

  3. I was wondering when you were going to get around to this one, Mike. Great review bro! You already know I dig this one big time. Nice job!

  4. Richard Matheson has written some incredibly tense stuff. He’s been adapted pretty well (Duel is a good example), but I still usually prefer his novels/stories.

    That scene you mentioned is well done in both the movie and the story.

    Matheson also wrote some pretty great Twilight Zone episodes.

    I think Stephen King and Joe Hill wrote a sequel of sorts to Duel that was included in a Matheson tribute I read a little while ago. It was okay, but I haven’t loved King’s short stories as much as his novels or novellas.

  5. Pingback: Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s – Top Honors! | parlor of horror

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