Universal Studios Home Video
Date: August 17, 2004
Review posted: August 28, 2004
A mild-mannered traveling salesman
(Dennis Weaver) unintentionally angers the driver of a semi truck.
Suddenly, the truck 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.
made for television, then given a theatrical release by Universal,
this is the film that put Steven Spielberg on the map. Before this he
was directing television; after, he was on to Jaws, Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, and all the other films for which he
is known. In a way, Duel is one of Spielberg’s best films; it
certainly works better than some of his later movies. It is a grand
example of what Hitchcock called “pure cinema.” Pure cinema is the
notion that film does not refer to any art form other than itself; it
does things that books, paintings, and music are not capable of,
though it may contain aspects of each. This is created through edits
and dissolves. A simpler way to put it would be to say that the story
is told primarily through the images, with little or no dialogue.
Other than some rudimentary dialogue – Weaver talking to himself, or
trying to convince others of what is happening – Duel could
just as well be a silent film.
driver of the truck is never shown, making Duel into more of a
man against machine struggle, which works better than what would have
become a more worn man versus crazy man struggle. Dennis Weaver, who
made his name playing the hayseed, the country bumpkin in so many
films, does well here as the weak salesman. The idea of manliness is
at the heart of the film. Early on, when Weaver’s character is talking
to his wife, we learn that the night before another man made a pass at
her, and Weaver did nothing. Right away his manliness is called into
question. Then we learn that his job is a precarious position. He is
far from the strong, solid type that is usually glorified in films. In
the end, he wins just as much by luck as he does by his wits.
is an interesting film. Like a Pinter play, there is so much more
going on than simply what is going on; it is all beneath the surface.
As the film rolls along, the truck takes on a palpable air of menace,
the suspense gradually moving up, notch by notch. As an exercise in
horror, Duel prefigures pictures like The Car, Christine,
and other evil auto movies that would follow, typically to lesser
success. In terms of Spielberg’s work, the similarities between
Duel and Jaws are striking. (Spielberg himself has talked
about how related the two films are.) Aside from being a great film,
Duel is also a must for those fans of Spielberg who want to see
where it all began.
made for television, the DVD retains the original full frame format.
The picture is sharp, with the colors looking better than they ever
did on VHS. There is no grain, and the whole presentation is vibrant.
offers tracks in 5.1 Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS sound. The presentation
is pristine, with all of the effects coming through sharply. The wide
sound dispersal also does a remarkable job of putting us out on the
road with Weaver and the evil semi.
features the DVD offers are quite detailed, giving us an in depth look
at this often overlooked masterpiece.
Spielberg on making Duel:
Spielberg talks about making the film, what went into it and what it
Spielberg and the small screen:
A rare look at the television work Spielberg did prior to making
feature films. (Now, if only they would release some of those
Matheson: The Writing of Duel:
This story comes from the man who wrote the novels I Am Legend,
Stir of Echoes, What Dreams May Come (among many, many others),
countless episodes of The Twilight Zone, and other projects too
voluminous to name here. ere he talks about the process of writing
the short story and later adapting it into a screenplay.
This DVD also
offers a Photo Gallery and the Original Theatrical Trailer
for the film.
is a film that would look great on any resume, and Spielberg was only
getting started. The film is a rare, remarkable example of pure
cinema, and it looks great on the new DVD. The bonus material is also
VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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