FT Top 100 Films
36: DUEL

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the central reservation…

There is something wonderful about early Spielberg films, and that something is simplicity. Up until 1941 (the film, not the year unless it was time travel and piss poor research that made that film so rubbish) they were films which had pitches almost as short as their names. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind had a pitch shorter than its name. UFO’s!!!

Duel = scary truck movie. Trucks are not naturally scary, (especially when you give them the face of the Green Goblin off of Spider-Man – Stephen King) and lack of motivation, plot or personality ought to make Duel dull as dishwater. Instead its remarkable simplicity and lack of explaination leaves the audience gasping. Its just us, Dennis Weaver and that bloody truck.

With nothing to work with Spielberg thinks about shots, montage and sound to do the work. Made for television, but shot with a cinematic eye. The truck is big, and fills the TV screen, probably not a shot you would do for the cinema. Instead it pushes the source of fear, the truck, in our faces – and in that of the poor businessman. In this day and age when everything has to be explained the random acts of violence in Duel are the source of real fear. And the sound of that truck horn is better than anything John Williams invented for Jaws. HONK HONK!!!!