Duel – 1971 TV Movie

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Duel is a 1971 television thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Richard Matheson, based on Matheson’s short story of the same name. It stars Dennis Weaver as a terrified motorist stalked on a remote and lonely road by the mostly unseen driver of a mysterious tanker truck.

Duel is often named as one of the best TV movies of all time. Following a successful TV airing, Universal released Duel overseas in 1972. Since the TV movie was not long enough for theatrical release, Universal had Spielberg spend two days filming several new scenes, turning Duel into a 90-minute film.

Although this is normally considered Spielberg’s feature-length directorial debut, it’s not. He directed an episode of the NBC series, “Name of the Game” a year earlier, preceded by a “Night Gallery” segment and several other TV episodes.

From an interview with Dennis Weaver (discussing the film):

It was so exciting to work with Steven. What I remember about him was that the studio were absolutely right: he was very imaginative and very creative. The thing that impressed me more was that, despite being so young he was absolutely fearless about using whatever was necessary to make the movie work. He wasn’t concerned about budget particularly. Or if he was, he certainly hid it. I saw no fear in him. It was like he had a bunch of toys and he was just having a ball with them. It was like Christmas Day morning, getting up and seeing all these fantastic toys he had been looking for. And now they were there. For instance, as the truck finally goes over the cliff — and this was 1971 remember — I had never worked with a director that had used more than two cameras at any one time. And this guy had six cameras out there shooting that scene. I said, “Boy, he’s got a lot of gall.” He’s probably shooting with 12 cameras these days. – Full interview here

An article about the film’s locations

The Devil on Wheels, a documentary about Spielberg’s Duel – Kickstarter project

An excerpt from the book “Steven Speilberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career”

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