Duel (1971 film)  

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"Until The Road Warrior (1982) and The Hitcher (1985), Duel is probably the best "road" chase movie ever made." --Horror Films of the 1970s (2007) by John Kenneth Muir

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Duel is a 1971 American television road thriller film written by Richard Matheson, which is based on his own short story. The film is the full-length film directing debut of American director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg.

Duel stars Dennis Weaver who portrays a terrified motorist driving a Plymouth Valiant who is stalked upon remote and lonely California canyon roads by the mostly unseen driver of an unkempt Peterbilt 281.


David Mann is a middle-aged salesman driving on a business trip. He encounters a dilapidated tank truck in the Mojave Desert. Mann passes the truck, but the truck speeds up and roars past him. When Mann overtakes and passes it again, the truck blasts its horn. Mann leaves it in the distance.

Mann pulls into a gas station, and shortly afterward the truck arrives and parks next to him. Mann phones his wife, who is upset with him after an argument the previous night. The station attendant tells Mann he needs a new radiator hose but Mann declines the repair.

Back on the road, the truck catches up, passes then blocks Mann’s path each time he attempts to pass. After antagonizing Mann for some time, the driver waves him past but Mann nearly hits an oncoming vehicle. Mann then passes the truck using an unpaved turnout next to the highway.

The truck tailgates Mann at increasingly high speed. Mann loses control and crashes into a fence across from a diner. The truck continues down the road. Mann enters the restaurant to compose himself. Upon returning from the restroom, he sees the truck parked outside. He studies the patrons and confronts one he believes to be the truck driver. The offended patron beats Mann and leaves in a different truck. The pursuing truck leaves seconds later, indicating its driver was never inside the diner.

Mann leaves and stops to help a stranded school bus but his front bumper gets caught underneath the bus's rear bumper. The truck appears at the end of a tunnel. Mann and the bus driver free his car and Mann flees. Shortly after down the road, Mann stops at a railroad crossing waiting for a freight train to pass through. The truck appears from behind and pushes Mann's car toward the oncoming freight train. The train passes, and Mann crosses the tracks and pulls over. The truck continues down the road and Mann slowly follows.

In an attempt to create more distance between him and the truck, Mann drives at a very leisurely pace as other motorists pass him. Once again, he encounters the truck which has pulled off to the side of the road ahead, intentionally waiting for Mann. He pulls out in front of him and starts antagonizing him again.

Mann stops at a gas station/ roadside animal attraction to call the police and replace his radiator hose but when he steps into the phone booth, the truck drives into it. Mann jumps clear just in time. The station owner cries out as the truck destroys her animals' cages. Mann jumps into his car and speeds away. Around a corner he pulls off the road, hiding behind an embankment as the truck drives past.

After a long wait, Mann heads off again but the truck is waiting for him again down the road. Mann attempts to speed past but it moves across the road, blocking him. Mann seeks help from an elderly couple in a car, but they flee when the truck backs up towards them at speed. The truck stops before hitting Mann's car; Mann speeds past the truck, which begins pursuing. Mann swerves toward what he believes is a police car, only to see it is a pest control vehicle. The truck chases him up a mountain range. The radiator hose of Mann's car breaks and the car overheats. He barely makes the summit and coasts downhill in neutral as the truck follows.

Mann spins out and crashes into a cliff wall and barely escapes being crushed by the truck but manages to restart his car. He drives up a dirt road and the truck follows him. He turns to face the truck in front of a canyon. He locks the accelerator using his briefcase and steers the car into the oncoming truck, jumping free at the last moment. The truck hits the car which bursts into flames, obscuring the driver's view. The truck plunges over the cliff, along with the car. Above the wreckage, Mann celebrates. He then sits at the cliff's edge and throws stones into the canyon as the sun sets.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Duel (1971 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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