Long delayed, Steven Spielberg’s feature directorial debut has finally found a home on DVD. The story of an everyman terrorized by a 40-ton truck bent on killing him, it established Steven Spielberg as a new voice in cinema and laid the groundwork for his future mega-hits, especially “Jaws”.
Par for the course, there is no commentary track from Spielberg, but in its place we do get three terrific documentaries made exclusively for the DVD that provide fascinating insight into the making of the TV movie.
The 34 min. “Making of” Documentary really delves into the process and is filled with refreshing and candid observations by Spielberg. According to him, he had to fight for the right to shoot the film entirely on location. There was tremendous pressure to shoot plates and do most of the interior car work in studio as process shots. Knowing that this would really harm the look and feel of the finished film, he lobbied to get his way. Spielberg was given three days to shoot and if he could keep the production on schedule, he’d be allowed to continue. Fortunately for the world of filmmaking, he met the challenge and the rest is history.
Spielberg also discusses how he has evolved as a filmmaker and that his early films benefited from his naivete. Commenting that had he made “Duel” now, it would have been radically different and probably not for the better.
Another Documentary covers Spielberg’s career as a TV Director and how that prepared him for his feature work. It’s interesting to note that back in the early 70s being young was a major hindrance and Spielberg was wise to play by the rules to avoid being pegged as a maverick.
In the third Documentary, Richard Matheson discusses the genesis of the short story and remarkably how it ties into the Kennedy Assassination. He also notes how, Duel, being his final short story, was a culmination of a theme he had developed over the years.
The sound and picture quality are top notch. For purists there is the original mono track, but it’s worth checking out the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. The enhanced sound of the truck adds a new dimension to the experience and amps up the tension as well.
It is obvious as you watch the film that it is in the hands of a master. Generally considered one of the best (if not the best) TV movies ever made, “Duel” could have wound up run of the mill had it not been for the tenacity of its fledgling Director. This is a must own DVD for any fan of not only Spielberg, but of those who appreciate a finally crafted Hitchcockian thriller.