3 Featurette - A Coversation with Steven Spielberg, Spielberg and the small screen and The Writing of DUEL.
Photo gallery - photos and posters.
DTS trailer - piano
Duel - Special Edition
R4 . COLOR . 85 mins .
PG . PAL
I can recall many, many years ago, being a young movie buff, staying up late one night and watching a movie about a truck chasing a red car for the duration of the late night time slot. I sat enthralled for the entire time, on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, jumping at any sign of that truck. The movie had a lasting impression on me and since then watching scenes of trucks chasing people or cars just brings back those feelings again such as the classic chase scenes in Terminator and T2.
It wasn't until a few years later I discovered that Duel was one of director Steven Spielbergs first efforts in feature film-making and the beginning of his stellar career. As a young up and coming TV director, Spielberg took on the role of director for this made for TV movie based on the short story by Richard Matheson. With a limited budget and only a 10 day shooting schedule, he managed to turn a possible mediocre story into a gripping suspense thriller that has certainly stood the test of time.
Half time pit-stop.
The story is so basic in its telling yet so effective in its execution. David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is on his way to a meeting with a client way out woop-woop, driving his nice and shiny new red Plymouth (much like the valiant my father used to own) when a short 'incident' with a very run down truck triggers off a sequence of events that can only really be described as pre-meditated road rage. The rest of the movie becomes a Duel between truck and car with Mann being the face of our anti-hero and the truck the persona of evil.
We never get to see the driver at all, or understand his motives which just adds to the suspense 100 fold. The truck thus takes on an apparent life of its own as it appears around every corner and in the most unlikely of situations. Spielberg uses every trick in the book of cinema suspense to bring us easily his most simple and yet effective depiction of terror. Sure we've enjoyed some thrills on the other rides he has crafted over time such as the T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park but it would have never have been pulled off with a smaller budget. Here, with his 10 days of shooting stretched out to 13, he has made do with his short comings and used creativity and ingenuity to pull off an incredible cinematic experience.
Given the age of this movie and the nature of the budget way back then, the quality of the visuals are surprisingly good. The tone of the movie lends itself to a dusty and rusty piece, out on stretches of highway by some dry cliff beds with dirty road side diners collecting dust from passing speeding vehicles. It all looks great. My only qualm is that in the opening title sequence, the 4x3 framed picture is bordered by a black matte around the entire image which opens up fully once we're out on the open highway with our hero. Weird!
Audio on the other hand has been given the 5.1 remix treatment with Spielbergs own favored dts sound format included as part of the deal. Does an old made for TV movie warrant a remix? Probably not. Is the treatment it gets a good effort to 'enhance' the movie. You bet as it sounds awesome when it needs to.
The most obvious use of the full 5.1 spectrum is the life that is given to the behemoth of a truck as it terrorises Mann. When it is driving slowly in front of him taking up lane space, when it passes by him at thunderous speed or when it sits quietly at a refueling station and commands attention with its bellowing horn it makes you jump in your seat. Directionality and spatial positioning are used to commanding effect here. One note to fans of the movie though, don't expect to hear that dinosaur groan the truck makes during the climax of the movie. The audio is all re-done for this moment and to good effect.
With the well documented years of delays this DVD went through to get to this point, it's surprising that we're not blessed with anything spectacular in the extras department. Something like a directors commentary would have been great. Alas, we're supplied with 3 still very decent featurettes in A Coversation with Steven Spielberg, Spielberg and the small screen and The Writing of DUEL.
Do not overtake turning vehicle.
The first of the 3 is the pic of the bunch with Spielberg unleashing a torrent of information about his early days in the film industry, something that he discusses passionately as someone who knows where he had come from and what they had gone through to appreciate where they are at this point today. Interspersed with some rare footage of Spielbergs earlier TV work, this is a treat for all fans of this great director. The latter 2 features look at Spielbergs work on the small screen and the adventures of making the transition from a student director trying to get his first job to the big break of his first big movie. Richard Matheson then follows up with his humble story telling of how a short article for Playboy magazine turned into a screenplay for Duel. Concluding the collection of extras are an array of photographs and a poster gallery as well as a theatrical trailer.
With its simple premise, small budget and tight shooting schedule, Duel is easily the best bang-for-your-buck suspense car-chase, truck hounded thriller ever. Other movies of this genre, if there are enough to count on one hand, can only wish they were this good. Even a recent so called Duel inspired homage in Roadkill/Joy Ride starring Paul "I need NOS" Walker, which uses the dark of night to emphasize the fear, fails to capture what was achieved in Duel; In broad dayhlight.
Easily a must have for Spielberg and suspense fans. A piece of history for your collection.