DUEL’s 50th Anniversary: Let’s celebrate the most unknown classic

Los Angeles, October 1971. A small film, made for television, is being shot near LA under the direction of a young and unknown director. The movie tells the story of “a man, a truck and an open road”. It has attracted no attention at all. It’s not based on a famous book. It has no film stars. It has a modest budget. It will be filmed in only 13 days. But film lovers all over the world will still show their admiration for it 50 years later. The film is called DUEL.

Dennis Weaver
Dennis Weaver in Duel

Present-day. Fans from all over the world regularly visit the film locations in the desert next to Los Angeles. They know every angle of the film. They go to visit the surviving truck of the movie. They can quote lines of dialogue from it. Steven Spielberg’s first known work has become a top cinematic reference. How come this tiny film, made cheaply and quickly for TV, has generated such a passionate, international and undying cult?

Young Steven Spielberg
Young Steven Spielberg

What happened in those 50 years between now and then? The film opened to rave reviews on November13th, 1971. On Saturday it will be 50 years old. It was only “a man, a truck and an open road”. What’s the magic?

It’s many people’s favorite film. Although it may not be remembered by the title, the moment you describe it as “that film about a truck chasing a lone driver along the LA highways”, the film comes straight to mind.

Alternative Duel popster by Casey Callender
Alternative Duel popster by Casey Callender

A documentary has been made: The Devil on Wheels, a feature doc about the making, the cult, and the influence of Steven Spielberg’s first film, Duel. A website has just been launched containing all the information both on Spielberg’s film and on the documentary about it. It’s thedevilonwheelsmovie.com, please feel free to visit and say hi.

Above all, congrats to Duel for some wonderful, ever-growing 50 first years!

Here is the original trailer of the movie:

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Posted in: FILMMAKING, POSTS on filmmakingTagged under: , , , ,