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Sobriquet 35.7: Duel (1971)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
There's not much to say about the DVD re-release of Steven Spielberg's 1971 made-for-television film Duel. The plot of the movie is fairly straightforward: David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is, as his name suggests, something of an American everyman. He's a middle-aged businessman on his way to an important meeting. On the road, he passes a truck. Then the truck passes him and slows down. Then Mann passes the truck. Then the unseen trucker proceeds to follow Mann through an arid western landscape, trying to kill him. That's essentially it.

Of course, it is the film's aim to highlight the unexplained maliciousness of the trucker, which it does admirably, but not terribly memorably. Just as the brand of nihilism with which John Gardner infuses Grendel is stale in comparison to that found in writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O'Neill, and Horace McCoy, Spielberg's depiction of the aforementioned unexplained horror seems a hollow approximation of the dynamic Franz Kafka perfected in his nightmarish novels and Alfred Hitchcock explored cinematically in The Birds. Still, as far as low-budget thrillers go, one could do considerably worse than Duel and, it must be emphasized, the film makes no grand claim to be anything more than an entertaining ninety minutes, which it is.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

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