Duel (1971)

It should be noted that I didn’t grow up with Steven Spielberg. Well, that’s not completely true. When I was a kid, if it wasn’t animated, I didn’t watch it. Which means I watched mostly Disney movies, although I did enjoy An American Tail, The Land Before Time, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs as well, all of which Spielberg had a hand in.

It wasn’t until high school that I started watching his movies. Jurassic Park, ET, and Indiana Jones as well as others. But not all of them. In fact, these first two, Duel and The Sugarland Express, I had never even heard of until I read that book, let alone watched them.

Duel, for those like me who haven’t seen it, is about a man who is being chased by an 18-wheeler. I can’t say he was chased by a man (or woman) in an 18-wheeler because we never see the driver’s face and we never get any sort of motivation for the chase, except that David, the man being chased, cut him off at one point.

The story is simple, but the premise works wonderfully, even 46 years later. Who hasn’t looked in their rearview mirror at some point and wondered if the person behind them was following them? Perhaps you’ve even gone so far as to take an out of the ordinary turn, just to be sure.

That’s what Spielberg is playing with here, the fear of being followed by an unknown assailant. This is not a movie full of special effects, which helps the movie age well. In fact, they only had one truck so (spoilers) the big climax of the film could only be shot once.

Also fun fact, Spielberg used the same sound (more spoilers) of the truck crashing down the cliff at the end of Jaws.

-How would I rate the movie? 3.5 out of 5

-Do I regret watching it? No, it was enjoyable and well done, especially for a made for TV movie.

-Do I plan on watching it again? No, I think once was enough.

I found the DVD at my local library. If you get a chance to watch the movie and are interested in seeing how Spielberg has evolved as a filmmaker (it’s not coincidence that two movies later he would make another “monster” movie, Jaws), I would definitely recommend it, but it’s not one you need to add to your collection

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