Jaws of the highway
Spielberg’s Duel follows car delivery guy who is pursued and terrorized by the malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer. DUEL is Spielberg’s JAWS of the highway, a raucous nascar race of a film that was “made for TV”. Usually, the phrase made-for-TV makes me ill, but Universal TV executives had no clue what they had here. It was so good, the film got its fitting recognition in Europe, where it was released theatrically. Spielberg’s own idol, director David Lean, praised the film’s suspense and excitement. A testimonial from Sir David Lean is enough to get any career going. DUEL begins from the point of view of a driver, and never lets up. The fear Dennis Weaver encounters consists not only of the monster truck itself, which is on an unexpected death chase, but of the inability to see who (or what) is behind the wheel. It seemed like a great episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and Rod Serling would’ve been proud.
Spielberg’s Duel – A Cat vs mouse thriller
Speed kills and you may never pass a slow truck on the highway again after seeing this. There is no character development, no humor, no identifiable characters, but in this case, who cares? It is only 90 minutes long and Spielberg’s goal is to make you tired. To make you experience what this everyday salesman is going through for NO apparent reason. Besides a shark in the ocean, I really can’t think of another more frightful situation to be in. The truck itself is sinister looking, almost resembling one from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The only remnant of a human being in the truck is an arm. The arm waves much like the hitch-hiker in the famous TWILIGHT ZONE episode. Weaver is cheesy and silly looking in his Peter Fonda-esque shades, but it is a sign of the times. You don’t necessarily find yourself rooting for him to escape alive. Basically, you are held prisoner by Spielberg’s web of suspense, and stay wide-eyed the entire time. Great fun to watch on big or small screen.
Cast and Crew
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Richard Matheson
Stars: Dennis Weaver, Jacqueline Scott, Eddie Firestone