Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Film Review - Duel (1971)

Fig.1 Duel (1971) Movie Poster

Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971) is a brilliantly tense film that shifted from television to the big screen. It marks the begin of Spielberg's incredible career and demonstrates his trademark use of soundtrack and camera angles, that we are now accustomed to. The simplicity of the story takes nothing away from the thrill ride that you'll experience. Tom Milne summaries the film by saying that it is "Simply a rivetingly murderous game of cat and mouse" - (Milne, 2006).

Fig.2 David Mann (Played by Dennis Weaver)

The film's story-line is easy to follow, but Spielberg still manages to keep us on the edge of our seats. As David Mann (played by Dennis Weaver) persistently struggles to escape the clutches of the oil tanker that continues to endanger him, the camera shots and soundtrack become more and more dramatic. It is because of this that we understand how much danger David is in, and he will never escape the oil tanker that continues to haunt him. Throughout the film, we see the evolution of Dennis Weaver's character, as we first meet him when he's a seemingly average man with a family and then by the end, it is clear that he will do anything to protect himself.

Fig. 3 David driving behind the Oil Tanker

There are obvious similarities between Duel and "Jaws" (1975) in that it includes a lead male character that continues to encounter a vicious beast. Rob Humanick also refers to the link between Duel and "Jaws" by saying that "The film's rusted, growling tanker truck is an obvious predecessor to the man-eating Great White of Jaws," - (Humanick, 2011). This highlights Duel's importance as it may be considered as preparation for one of Spielberg's biggest and most successful films. It is because of this similarity that we are able to get to grips with the story quicker and will make us wonder as to why the Oil Tanker is trying to kill him and what it represents. It is quite incredible that Spielberg manages to create so much suspense just through the use of two vehicles. 

Fig.4 David watching the Oil Tanker

Overall, Duel is Spielberg's experiment which allowed him to use his, now well-known, camera shots and soundtrack. The simple, yet suspenseful, story will keep you gripped to the wheel in pure excitement. Donald J. Lamb wonderfully analyses the film by saying that "...You are held prisoner by Spielberg's web of suspense, and stay wide-eyed the entire time." - (Lamb, 1999)

Illustration List:
Fig.1 Duel (1971) Movie Posterhttp://www.conceptualfiction.com/images/duel.jpg - (Accessed 14/04/2015)

Fig.2 David Mann (Played by Dennis Weaver)http://thisdistractedglobe.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/duel-1971-dennis-weaver-pic-1.jpg - (Accessed 14/04/2015)

Fig. 3 David driving behind the Oil Tankerhttp://popculture101.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/ay.jpg - (Accessed 14/04/2015)

Fig.4 David watching the Oil Tankerhttp://www.chud.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/duel-600x350.jpg - (Accessed 14/04/2015)

Humanick, Rob (2011) - Duel: 1971 B+ - http://projectionbooth.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/duel-1971-b.html - (Accessed 14/04/2015)

Lamb, Donald J. (1999) - Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back on the Highways... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067023/reviews - (Accessed 14/04/2015)

Milne, Tom (2006) - Duel - http://www.timeout.com/london/film/duel - (Accessed 14/04/2015)


  1. Nice succinct review Dan - just mind your spelling... you have a 'viscous' beast there, which is something completely different to a 'vicious' one! :)