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Duel: Collector's Edition

Steven Spielberg launched his feature filmmaking career with this tight and tense 1971 made-for-TV thriller that provided for no doubting of his talents. Dennis Weaver stars as an uptight businessman traveling a desert highway en route to a vital appointment. With one eye on the clock, he jockeys for pole position with an ominous rig that mischievously speeds past him in the passing lane and slows down once in the lead. However, what starts as a frustrating game quickly turns malevolent, as Weaver foolishly challenges the rig's stamina with his sporty sedan. He soon finds himself fighting for his life against the behemoth truck, which begins preying on Weaver — stalking and goading him into a series of death defying battles for the open road. Adapted by suspense master Richard Matheson from his own short story, Duel is a smashing lo-fi entertainment. Spielberg confidently infuses the limited scenario with a focused but versatile range of visual creativity. Beyond the action scenes, however, Duel also feeds on some very primal urban anxieties that have been ample grist for the thriller mill ever since. Not only does the picture exploit to great effect most drivers' anxieties in the shadow of crushingly huge tankers (see also: Road Games [1981], The Hitcher [1985], Joy Ride [2001]), but it also thrives on the city slicker's fear of rural folk (see also: Texas Chainsaw Massacre [1974], Breakdown [1997]) and the sense of emasculating domesticity that has separated white-collar men from their survival instincts (see also: Straw Dogs [1971], Unlawful Entry [1993]). While Weaver does well as the only principal actor, ably centering the film, his character is a mite too schmucky to the very end, and his (unnecessary) panicky, wussy voiceovers can be tough to take. Universal's Collector's Edition of Duel presents the movie in a good full-frame transfer (1.33:1) with the original monaural audio (DD 2.0) as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS remixes. The disc also includes three featurettes, the first of which is a half-hour of interview material with Spielberg, during which he enthusiastically riffs about lens lengths. There also is a 10-minute look at Spielberg's pre-film career as a TV director, and a 10-minute interview with scenarist Matheson, who also was responsible for authoring classics like The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Omega Man, and The Legend of Hell House, as well as several episodes of the TV series "The Twilight Zone" (including the famous episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"). also included are a trailer and photo gallery. Keep-case with paperboard slipcover.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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