- Actors: Dennis Weaver, Jacqueline Scott, Eddie Firestone, Lou Frizzell, Gene Dynarski
- Directors: Steven Spielberg
- Writers: Richard Matheson
- Producers: George Eckstein
- Format: PAL, Colour, Full Screen
- Language: English
- Studio: Universal
- VHS Release Date: 8 April 2002
- Run Time: 86 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 109 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00004R67Q
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,878 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Businessman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is driving on a lonely stretch of highway when he notices that he is being followed by a huge, menacing diesel truck. The truck then starts trying to push him off the road, and despite Mann's attempts to defuse the situation, it soon has him engaged in a punishing duel to the death. Originally made for American television but given a cinema release in the UK, this was director Steven Spielberg's feature debut.
This is the TV movie that put Steven Spielberg on the map, shortly before he made The Sugarland Express. Working from a script by Richard Matheson, the film stars Dennis Weaver as a mild-mannered travelling salesman who unintentionally angers the driver of a lorry. Suddenly, the lorry is not only riding his tail but trying to run him off the road. No matter what he does (pulling over, stopping at a diner, calling the cops), he can't get rid of it. Spielberg makes the wise decision of never showing the driver, even as he cranks the voltage on the film's suspense elements. As a result, the lorry itself takes on an air of satanic menace--even a personality of sorts--as it seems to hunt its human prey. Spielberg made a lot out of a little, suggesting just how skilled a storyteller he would become. --Marshall Fine
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SPOILER ALERT-reading some of the following detail may give away key film details. Do not read if you wish to find out some details here.
History of Duel:
Officially listed as ©1972 on print even though this was broadcast originally as a TV Movie in the US on 13 November 1971 on ABC at 8:00PM EST in a 90-minute slot with commercials. Originally a made-for-TV movie, this Spielberg film was re-edited and lengthened for theatrical release in Europe in 1972, at the request of CIC (the distributor). 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, and a scene showing the killer truck trying to push Dennis Weaver's car under a train at a railroad crossing. Another new scene, where Weaver stops at a gas station and phones his wife, was written by producer George Eckstein to inflate the running time to the requested 90 minutes. This was reportedly done against Spielberg's wishes.
Some technical aspects on the DVD (and this Blu-ray version) when compared to the earlier VHS releases.
The DVD version is the 90 minute version, but it differs from earlier releases in at least three instances.
1. In the wide shot (13mins) overlooking the truck at the gas station, a camera shadow can be seen on the truck's roof, at the bottom of the screen. This is gone, corrected either digitally or through cropping.
2. Toward the end (67mins), in the VHS version, a voice-over makes it very clear what Dennis Weaver is planning to do: go at least 70 miles per hour through "Frenchman's Pass," an incline that the truck won't be able to climb very fast; on the DVD, the voice-over is removed, and all one hears is Dennis Weaver shouting, "You can't beat me on the grade!"
3. Finally at 72mins, another fifteen- or twenty-second shot showing Dennis Weaver's eyes superimposed over the road as another voice-over reveals he is about to get on the incline, has been removed. Just before this scene, the scene where the train blows it airhorn after the truck driver blows the truck's horn is a different horn. The horn in the VHS version is a deep single-note airhorn which is too old for the Southern Pacific diesel locomotives in the film. Leslie or Nathan muti-chime horns can clearly be seen on the cab roofs of the locomotives and should have a blaring brassier tone. This has been corrected for the DVD version.
Man, probably some sort of travelling salesman, leaves to go somewhere not specified. On the way he becomes the victim of a driver, never seen, of a powerful large lorry which is filthy and emits copious fumes etc. The victim is portrayed as a mild-mannered man who is forced to flee for his life. This strategy fails so a battle ensues that lasts until the conclusion of this uneven struggle is climaxed.
That such a single themed and unyielding plot can prove to be unfailingly gripping throughout is testament to a plot line that any driver in deserted terrain might fear an identify with coupled with director skills that steadily winds up the tension. The final conclusion is not a disappointment although perhaps not as obvious as some might expect. Spielberg does not make the mistake of extending the drama beyond what can be sustained.
This is a fine start to a director's career centred around steadily rising tensions and has achieved a considerable following. It is also historically significant for that reason. However, this review is not intended to discuss the actual film as by now it will have both its supporters and detractors. Entering into those conflicts is not the purpose of the review which is aimed squarely at the many supporters of this film.
Essentially, for all of those who are keen supporters of this film and who have bought the previous DVD version of this disc, the only issue of vital importance will be whether the Blu-ray offers an improvement technically sufficient to justify the additional expense.
For this reviewer the answer is a clear affirmative. The upgrade offers a clear advance on both image and audio quality with the imaging being a marked improvement. The colours are firmer and there is an increase to the perceived depth of the imaging. The whole film simply becomes more 'real.' The film, which is so concerned with close characterisation, benefits considerably from this enhancement of reality.
The degree of improvement experienced from this BD will also inevitably depend on the replay equipment used. The following technical information is intended to be a guide to aid in assessment.
The screen used for this review is only of moderate dimensions being a 40 inch television screen. However, the television is a high performing 4K unit which delivers a compensating positive effect. The moderate screen size lacks the impact of larger screens but is less critical of film faults.
However, the contributing player is, unusually, able to separate the audio and visual HDMI signals before they leave separately to the television and pre-amp. That feature enhances both the visual and audio elements of the output. The audio, not so critical in the case, delivers an unusually wide-ranging and revealing performance. Its precision is equally revealing of film scores.
Readers with alternative equipment will have to interpret this review bearing in mind their own equipment and its comparative advantages and disadvantages.
The disc offers purchasers with suitable replay equipment a substantial improvement over the previous DVD.
In summary this BD is a transfer from well-preserved 1971 film stock and has responded well to the upgrade and well worth considering
If only all restorations were this good.
The movie is very watchable owing to this with the scenery on a projector.
The camera work is mind blowing - an excellent TV movie.
- The threat of fear to be chased by a truck at any moment, is the red line through this movie from beginning to the end.
- Have it on DVD, but wanted the blue ray version of this exellent movie to "refine" my collection.
A movie you can watch several times ... and the quality of the movie is really fantastic on the Blu-ray version.
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