Duel (1971)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Chase Movie, Road Movie  |   Release Date - Nov 13, 1971 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Betzold

A traveling salesman and a mysterious truck that pursues him are the only ingredients in this minimalist story that marked Steven Spielberg's first major directorial feature. Originally made for television, Duel was shown theatrically in Europe in the early '70s but did not have an American release until 1983, after Spielberg had become a household name with Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. Writer Richard Matheson concocted an exercise in paranoia, featuring Dennis Weaver as the salesman, in which the truck driver's face is never shown and his motives are never clear. Thus the story has a Kafkaesque quality, as the salesman is psychologically tortured while being physically terrorized. Spielberg shows a firm grasp of the action, even if it occasionally becomes repetitive. It is hard to imagine, from this spare, economical film, that he would go on to a career as an impresario of big-budget, special-effects blockbusters.