Fig. 1. Duel poster.
Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971) is a film that was originally made for TV in 16 days, it is the first feature film that Spielberg directed and arguably led him to direct much bigger films. It is a mystery/thriller film that is filled with suspense. The film itself leaves lots of questions unanswered and has a very simplistic plot; however as a whole the film is extremely effective.
Fig. 2. Truck still.
The film as a whole is actually very chilling; the plot is easy to follow in the sense that our everyman Mann overtakes a truck driver on the freeway and the truck driver then proceeds to try and kill him. At no point are we shown the truck driver, the only visual reference we have for him is his cowboy boots and his hairy arm. The film is horrifying in the sense that Mann stops on many occasions to explain his situation to people and no one believes him, leaving him alone and isolated. As Gore points out ‘Eventually it becomes clear that only he can do battle with the truck driver if he wants to survive.’ (Gore, 2008). As Gore suggests the story leaves our everyman to fend for himself and try to outsmart the ominous truck driver that is attempting to kill him.
Fig. 3. Mann still.
Duel has an interesting story in the sense that perhaps it is more about a delicate man standing up for himself and no longer being a push over then a truck driver that’s on a rampage. It gives us hints that Mann isn’t a strong manly man quite early on, as he stops for petrol he calls his wife who makes a statement which makes him appear to be a spineless man, as the story progresses there is a scene in which he is in a diner, trying to figure out who his killer is. He is in a nice, neat tidy booth that looks quite feminine while he is surrounded by big men that are all smoking and drinking, the contrast is very distinct. As Milne states in his review ‘There are no explanations and no motivations, except perhaps for a hint of allegory in the script (the motorist's name is Mann) and an intriguing visual suggestion that this is the old, old battle between the shining, prancing, vulnerable knight and the impervious, lumbering dragon.’ (Milne, 2006). Milne suggests that the story takes on the old tale of a knight defying all odds to fight against a dragon; this reflects the delicate side of Mann and the relentlessness of the truck driver.
It is easy to see that Spielberg appreciated and admired Hitchcock’s work, Spielberg creates a suspense filled 90 minute film only using two vehicles. As Anderson points out in his review ‘Not even Hitchcock could have shot or paced Duel any better. Spielberg understands precisely where to insert his silences and pauses, and when to make them restful or tense. He knows how to pour it on for the exciting chase scenes. And, unlike most of his later films, he knows how and when to end the thing.’ (Anderson, 2004). As Anderson states Spielberg paces the film very well, which leads to tense moments and epic chases. Successfully creating a suspense packed film that ends with a bang.
Overall Duel is an exciting horror film that brings a whole new meaning to road rage, 90 minutes of an intense battle that will have you gripped from start to finish. A extremely effective film that has dated very well and is still extremely viewable now.
Spielberg, S. (1971). Figure 1. Duel poster. http://www.agentsofguard.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/duel-movie-poster-1971-1020376106.jpg (Accessed on 22/02/2015)
Spielberg, S. (1971). Figure 2. Truck still. http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/amandabynight/15951495/40154/40154_320.jpg (Accessed on 22/02/2015)
Spielberg, S. (1971). Figure 3. Mann still. http://www.empireonline.com/images/uploaded/steven-spielberg-moment-duel.jpg (Accessed on 22/02/2015)
Anderson, J. (2004). combustiblecelluloid.com. http://www.combustiblecelluloid.com/classic/duel.shtml (Accessed on 22/02/2015)
Gore, L. (2008). esplatter.com. http://www.esplatter.com/reviews.php?id=754 (Accessed on 22/02/2015)
Milne, T. (2006). timeout.com. http://www.timeout.com/london/film/duel (Accessed on 22/02/2015)