After being shelved for about a year, Universal finally unleashes director Steven Spielberg's first movie onto DVD and it's just an early indication at how he'd go on to be one of the more respected filmmakers of the last thirty-years. Originally made as a "Movie of the Week" for ABC, this was expanded from it's original 74 minute running time to gain theatrical release in Europe and that's the version we get here.
Businessman Dennis Weaver ends-up in the middle of a relentless cat 'n' mouse game with a big, grimy tanker truck (whos driver we never get to see) when he accidently gets on the wrong side of the trucker who spends the entire movie toying with Weaver as he tailgates, tries to run off the road, and generally makes him fear for his life.
This one works on a mostly primal level because, really, the plot is so utterly simple and we're never really given any real motivations; but that's what makes it work because you have to use your imagination and a lot of times "not knowing" is a great way to rack up tension. Plus it helps that Spielberg shoots the movie like he's a veteran (he was a mere 23 years old at the time) bringing it a tight pace, lots of interesting camera angles (I love the mounted cameras on the back of the car when it's skidding out of control), and a fair share of tension.
This is basically a first-person drama/thriller but it's certainly a riveting one that plays out to a satsifying conclusion while lots of memorable moments (the best on is the tense "café" scenes that contain some effective internal monologues by Weaver's character).
This has gone on to inspire (and be copied) by many movies with a recent obvious one being 2001's Joy Ride.
Check out the Official DVD Site and the humourous Duel "Mastercard" Themed Commercial. (Chris Hartley, 8/18/04)
Directed By: Steven Spielberg.
Written By: Richard Matheson.
Starring: Dennis Weaver, Jacqueline Scott, Eddie Firestone, Lou Frizzell.
Picture Ratio: Full Frame.
Picture Quality: Kudos to Universal for bringing a thirty-three-year-old TV movie to DVD looking better than a lot of more recent films DVD transfers. This one looks great, handles colours well, and has next to no grain (in fact I don't remember seeing any). A transfer like this makes you wonder how movies made fifteen years later come out looking worse.
Extras: There's a good batch of extras here for fans of the film with a trailer, cast & crew bios, production notes, a stills/poster gallery, a cool "Conversation with Steven Spielberg" that runs over half-an-hour and makes for an interesting watch, a featurette on Spielberg's early television work, and scripter Richard Matheson (who wrote this based on his story) taking about the film.