Duel

 
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Release date: Nov. 13, 1971

Based on: Duel (1971 novel by Richard Matheson)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Dennis Weaver

Budget: $450,000

Box office: n/a
 

A commuter is terrorized by a semi truck.

Duel is a fascinating film. While made for television, it feels theatrical so much so that if it included breaks for commercials, they were done so well and subtly to make the film flow perfectly from scene to scene. Further, the tension felt throughout the story hardly ever lets up, constantly maintaining a sense of dread no matter what the protagonist is doing whether he’s walking into a diner or trying to stay alive. Had there been commercials interspersed during the film, this tension is constructed well enough it would keep viewers interested in continuing to see the outcome upon its return.

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The plot within this film is one seen in many suspense films, following a person who is hounded by someone or something sinister, yet it’s enticing. The protagonist is just trying to get home after a long trip and finds his life in danger due to an unrelenting truck which seems as if it’s a character unto itself. It’s a perfect villain, showing it knows exactly when to start playing mind games with the protagonist in order to lull him into a false sense of security. Despite its utilization of a plot seen numerous times before, the way it treats its villain and creates suspense make it more interesting than it has a right to be.

The cinematography is great for a film airing on television as well. Shots from the truck’s grill give it an imposing demeanor helping to make it such a great villain. In one scene, the protagonist pulls off to the the road behind an embankment in the hopes the truck will drive far away. While waiting, he falls asleep and the camera lingers on him. Seconds later, a loud noise is heard and he panics before the camera pans to the side and shows the source. It’s an excellent shot especially after the protagonist has spent so much time fleeing for his life.

This is an enjoyable suspense film, proving made-for-television films can have the same quality as they do in the cinema.

Awards

Won

Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Awards

  • Grand Prize

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Editing

Taormina International Film Festival Awards

  • Best First Film

Nominated

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA - Saturn Awards

  • Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (As part of the “Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection.”)

  • Best DVD Classic Film Release

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Movie Made for TV

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Entertainment Programming - For a Special or Feature Length Program Made for Television

Taormina International Film Festival Awards

  • Golden Charybdis