Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Duel (1971)
(50th Anniversary Edition)


Starring: Dennis Weaver
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £12.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 31 May 2021

David Mann is driving from California to meet a client. After overtaking a rusted truck, he finds himself being chased and terrorized by it...

I first saw Duel back in the '70s when it was on TV. As a young boy, I was riveted to the screen. I've probably seen it twice since then, but not in at least 20 years, so I was eager to see if it had aged well.

The original story, by Richard Matheson, was based on a real event that happened to him and some friends when driving. They were tailgated by a large truck, which was driving so recklessly that they had to swerve off the road to avoid a collision. Telling this tale to friends, Matheson soon discovered that quite a few people had similar tales.

A few years ago myself and my partner (she was driving) were tailgated by a large HGV for quite some distance. Then, on a dual carriageway it overtook us and cut us up. We followed it for quite some distance and watched as it harassed quite a lot of other cars. And, when the dual carriage way was about to run out, a car over took it. The HGV driver, didn't like that and overtook the car, almost running it off the road as it merged into single lane. My first thought, throughout all this, was of the events in Duel. So this is what really happens when a mad person gets behind the wheel of a truck?

This was Steven Spielberg's first full-length movie. Originally filmed as an American television movie, additional scenes were shot to make it long enough to give it a European cinematic release.

For a first movie, Spielberg hits the ground running. On first glance there appears to be little to no real acting on display, as Dennis Weaver merely reacts to events going on around him. The truth is Weaver's portrayal is what makes the move so tense. When he's nervous, angry, jubilant... The audience is right there with him, feeling the same emotions.

Sure, the film has aged, but there's no getting around the fact that the truck is scary as hell. In fact there are a few impressive sequences that still stand up well today. With the camera low to the ground, the truck thunders towards the audience as it struggles to take a corner.

It's also interesting how your mind can play tricks on you. The last time I watched the movie I was convinced that at the end of the film the little piece of material that was flapping in the wind was a red and black checkered material. When I first saw the film I thought that it was a clue as to who the driver was - which it's not as it's well known that the truck driver isn't in the restaurant at all. But when I watched it this time the material was just an off white piece of cloth, which could be anything. I also learned, thanks to the extras, that there's a hint that the driver has been doing this all over America and has kept trophies of his victims.

While it has aged considerably, Duel remains an important and nerve wracking movie that still holds up.

Extras include:

A Conversation With Director Steven Spielberg on Making Duel (35 min, 44 sec which sees Spielberg walking us through how he got the job. It was surprising to learn that he was budgeted 10 days to shoot it. The studio were not keen to have it filmed entirely on location. It ended up taking 12 or 13 days in the end. Spielberg points out the handful of times he accidentally makes it onto camera); Steven Spielberg and the Small Screen (9 min, 29 sec - Spielberg talks about his TV directing origins); Richard Matheson: Writing on Duel (9 min, 25 sec - Matheson discusses the origins of the story); Trailer (1 min, 01 sec); and Photograph and Poster Gallery (1 min, 46 sec).


Darren Rea

Buy this item online