A businessman on the road is chased across the lonely California highways by a homicidal truck driver. Based on a short story by Richard Matheson, DUEL was a television movie directed by Steven Spielberg, one that was so well-received in Europe, it was issued as a theatrical release, making it Spielberg's first feature film. All these years later, it remains one of his best films and certainly one of the top television movies from the pre-cable golden days of that much-missed genre, the movie of the week.
Although draggy at times, especially during the internal monologues Dennis Weaver delivers, DUEL is a suspenseful thriller/horror film in which Matheson and Spielberg turn an ordinary oil truck into a monster as memorable as. Weaver, handpicked by Spielberg, delivers the goods as the henpecked businessman who is driven to the edge of insanity by a truck driver he cannot even see. At its best, DUEL is pure film, relying not on dialogue, story or character but on editing to keep the audience on the edge of its seat. Although Spielberg makes some minor misjudgments, DUEL is still pretty much what you would expect from a screenwriter at the top of his game and an eager and talented director embarking on his first film. - JB