Stuff I Watch in October: Duel (1971)


Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
They Live (1988)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Predator 2 (1990)
The Addams Family (1991)
Alien 3 (1992)
Army of Darkness (1992)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Crow (1994)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Scream (1996)
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Scream 2 (1997)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Scream 3 (2000)
28 Days Later (2002)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Ring (2002)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Identity (2003)
AVP: Alien vs Predator (2004)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
Halloween (2007)
Grindhouse (2007)
Halloween II (2009)
Predators (2010)
Absentia (2011)
Prometheus (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
Oculus (2013)
Before I Wake (2016)
Hush (2016)
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Happy Death Day (2017)
Get Out (2017)
Gerald’s Game (2017)
The Predator (2018)
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Halloween (2018)
A Quiet Place (2018)
Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Us (2019)
Ready or Not (2019)
Doctor Sleep (2019)
The Invisible Man (2020)
The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Army of the Dead (2021)
Midnight Mass (2021)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Duel (1971) (Recommended by Candace Perri)


DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg. Seems so weird to have gone this far without a Spielberg joint in here, but that’s the kinda list this is.

WHAT IS IT?: Steven Spielberg’s very first feature film, written by the late, great Richard Matheson, author of such novels as “Hell House” (made into a film we already covered), “Stir of Echoes”, “What Dreams May Come” (made into two films of the same name), “Bid Time Return” (made into Somewhere in Time), and “I Am Legend” (made into the forgettable film with Will Smith). It’s a hell of a film, Hitchcockian in execution.

THE PLOT: David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is a salesman on a business trip. He’s on the outs with his wife and alone, driving several miles through the California backroads. When he approaches a tanker truck with black smoke billowing from it, he passes around it and succeeds — but not before he impatiently honks at the driver. After continuing on his way, the truck approaches at a high rate of speed and passes him as a sign of childish revenge.

When the two cross paths one more time, Mann nearly gets into an accident after the driver of the truck tries to wave him around. After passing and leaving him in the dust, Mann stops at a gas station — only to find that the driver of the truck has stopped there, too. And even after this, Mann finds that the driver of the truck has no interest in leaving him alone, goading him into a life-threatening mechanical duel.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The film received a couple awards for its troubles and it also earned Steven Spielberg his entire career. Over the years, the film is seen as a classic, inspiring a multitude of filmmakers and films, The movies JoyrideBreakdown, and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof are inspired by Duel.

WHAT DID I THINK?: I first saw Duel with my Mom who rented it for me after selling me on the simple premise: “This truck driver won’t stop following this guy…and you never see the truck driver’s face.”

She’s right. The movie has an insanely simple concept — but, considering all the copycats who have tried to do the same thing Spielberg did in the 1970’s — and failed — the movie is a classic.

The film starts with Mann’s car backing out of a driveway and gives us his point of view: driving through the city in which he lives, through some of the tunnels on the outer edges of Los Angeles, and then he treads deeper into the unknown where he eventually meets The Driver. The truck is ugly, brown, stained, emitting black smoke and it’s portrayed as a mechanical monster to Mann’s smaller car.

Dennis Weaver is the perfect everyman in the situation. You buy his fear, as well as his resourcefulness.

At times, Spielberg films the charging truck with the “Vertigo Effect”, making it appear as though the truck is going to eat and swallow Mann’s vehicle whole — just like the shark in JAWS.

It never relents until the final frame where Mann, exhausted from the ordeal, sits on a cliff, overlooking a valley drenched in the sun.

Duel is an amazing film.


Leave a Reply