DUEL (1971)

Where did it all go wrong Mr. Spielberg? Duel was the last decent film that this little-known Director made before sliding into sentimental mediocrity. You may occasionally catch one of his snooze-fests pop up on a dreary afternoon, but he remains largely forgotten.

The plot is a simple one. Truck chases car.

The guy in the car being chased - the chasee - is Dennis Weaver, looking very 70's indeed (as he does in all the films I've seen him. All 70's films now that I recall, so perhaps not that surprising actually. Forget this bit in brackets).

But why is he being chased? And who's in the truck?

Rather refreshingly, this being the 70's, there are no obvious answers. This was a decade where film-makers didn't find the need to spoon-feed you every ending as if you were brainless idiots. You could argue that there were less brainless idiots about in the 70s I guess, but that's another debate, to be dealt with in another film (my as yet unfinished screenplay of 'Dracula in Space').

Horror rule #754: If the meaning of a horror film is unclear you can always get away with calling it a post 9/11 allegory

In my opinion, Duel is an incredibly prescient post 9/11 allegory. Dennis Weaver is the everyman American, happily and innocently going about his business when all hell is unleashed by a faceless, relentless enemy that just keeps coming and coming...

But maybe I'm reading too much into it (?) Maybe the point of Duel is just to enjoy the ride. Enjoy the scares, the screeches the thrills and the suspense. THE SUSPENSE! This film has buckets of it. And then, as the credits roll I suggest you go "Woah, cool!" in a slightly stoned voice and immediately forget all about it. Because the alternative means thinking about a question that there's no answer to. Which could lead to you spending most of your fruitless life posting ill-thought out missives like "Maybe he's dead!", "Maybe the truck doesn't exist!", "Maybe the truck represents fear itself!", on places like IMDB and other chatrooms and blogs. And what kind of idiot does that?


  1. I watched "Duel" (not for the first time) maybe three months ago, and it still holds up beautifully. Yes, OK, probably Spielberg's best work. It's riveting.

  2. I eagerly await Dracula in Space. I am certain it will be the biggest shift in how we think about horror since Frankenstein Goes Bananas and The Wolf Man: Disco Nightmare.

  3. Gawd I LOVE Duel!!! Used to freak me out completely as a kid. Still has the same effect today. Zowie!