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Duel

Year: 1971
Studio: Universal TV
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Dennis Weaver

Here's something I don't think's ever been said about a Steven Spielberg movie at all, let alone this one. Duel sucks.

Before you react, ask yourself how long it's ben since you watched it. I last saw it on TV in the mid 1980s, and I'd be willing most people who love it so much are in a similar position. Try it today. It doesn't come close to standing up, and it's not just Dennis Weaver's sideburns that are badly dated.

His performance is dreadful. The voiceover as he sits in a diner, terrified and wondering whether he should approach the other diners in case they're the trucker trying to kill him, ridiculous. The pace (ironically, given the subject matter) is glacial. I watched it with somebody next to me watching another film on a screen of their own and my eyes kept flicking across, bored. Worse yet, it was one of the Twilight movies.

What it has going for it is great editing. It's certainly a proto- Jaws like you've heard – of a simple man pursued by a relentless, dispassionate killer throughout an evocative landscape. And ensuring the continuity and cohesion as the hero's car and his pursuer charge through an ever-changing backdrop would have been a gargantuan task – more so than pointing a camera out to sea at Martha's Vineyard.

But not even Brody was as much of a squealing nancy boy as David Mann (so named because he could be anybody?) He sees the truck parked in the diner he stops at and he knows the driver's been trying to terrorise him. Wouldn't you walk inside with a spanner, clang it against the door and yell 'who the fuck owns that truck?'

You probably remember it as stripped back and minimalist, but the pace just makes it repetitive and dull. Matheson's script does its best to eke out some different obstacles and attacks for the truck to put in David's path (the train scene is still a standout), but they all amount to much the same thing, and the whole story could have been told in half an hour.

Watch it again, see if I'm wrong.

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