Sunday, October 07, 2012

31 Days of Halloween - Day 7 - Movie 2

Duel (1971) a made for tv movie, which really launched Steven Spielberg's career as a director, has the simplest plot. A businessman (Dennis Weaver) is on his way to a meeting is chased and terrorized by the unseen driver of a malevolent looking oil truck. That's it for the full 90 minute running length.

The attacks from the truck run from nuisance danger such as not letting Weaver pass him on the highway and tailgating him at 90 miles per hour, to more direct attacks such as trying to push Weaver's car into a passing train, or trying to run him over while he tries to phone for help from a pay phone.

Other than his arm, and in one case, his boots, we never see the driver of the truck except as a suggestion behind the dirty windshield, making the truck itself seem like some sort of supernatural menace. We also have no idea why he's after Weaver's character, or if he's done this sort of thing with randomly chosen drivers in the past.

Spielberg successfully manages to continuously ratchet up the suspense and provides a variety of shots to keep things interesting in this mostly dialogue free movie which spends most of its time with Weaver behind the wheel of his car as he races for his life through the California desert.

This is well worth watching if you've never seen it before. If you've only ever seen it on tv with commercial interruptions, as I had before today, then it's worth revisiting on DVD where the movie is allowed to build without tension breaking interruptions for furniture polish.


Michael Jones said...

I saw this again recently and I absolutely adore Dennis Weaver's acting. When his dance of glee switches to one of anguish is one of my all time favourite moments in the movie.

Stephen said...

This is an excellent film, and shows Spielberg's early talent. I saw this when I was a teenager, the day someone tailgated me on a windy mountain road and caused me to roll my car over. I tell you, watching Duel was like reliving the experience!