Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


A nervous Dennis Weaver with the truck in pursuit

DUEL (1971 telefilm). Director: Steven Spielberg.

Tired businessman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is driving for an appointment when he inadvertently pisses off the psychotic driver of a tractor-trailer who first plays a cat-and-mouse game with him, then relentlessly pursues him with the former's death in mind. In this pre-Jaws telefilm which was deemed so good that it was slightly expanded and released theatrically in Europe, Spielberg skillfully fills everyday, sun-lit scenes and objects with terror [interestingly, the film takes place entirely in daylight]. In addition to Spielberg's very adroit and compelling direction, the film is bolstered by some superior editing by Frank Morriss, Jack A. Marta's crisp cinematography, and Billy Goldenberg's simple but effective scoring. And then there's the centerpiece, which is an outstanding performance by Weaver as the alternately brave and timid, frightened and outraged put-upon driver of the car; he's on top of every scene and pulls us into the whole experience from the start. Stunt driver Carey Loftin plays the barely seen driver of the truck, and Jacqueline Scott appears briefly as Weaver's wife. Lucille Benson plays the owner of a "snakerama" in one of the movie's most exciting scenes.That same year Weaver appeared in What's the Matter with Helen?

Verdict: Watch this on a double bill with The Car. ***1/2.

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