Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Night of Terror #4: 'Duel'

I just got back from a showing of Steven Spielberg's Duel at The Alamo Drafthouse. But enough product placement, let's get on to my hastily recorded thoughts on the movie.

Duel has always been a favorite of mine since I saw it for the first time a few years ago. I like the novel sense of being helpless out on the open road, the pared-down thriller mechanics of the plot, and Dennis Weaver's increasingly unhinged performance as David Mann, the hapless boob that is selected by an evil truck driver for a little Most Dangerous Game action. I had never seen the movie on the big screen before, and I have to say that I think the rather bare-bones plot might actually play better on TV - this makes sense if you realize that it was originally produced FOR television back in 1971. In the theater, it seems the slightest bit "stretched to fit," but trust me, this is a small concern about an otherwise excellent suspense movie.

I'm a sucker for a movie that gets to the point. Sure, Duel might not have that wonderful sense of humanity that Jaws is chock-full of, but it has a kind of minimalist tension that Spielberg would never duplicate (or even attempt to duplicate) again. And that's not the only practically avant-garde element of the movie: Listen to the score from Billy Goldenberg. It's mostly atonal drones and bursts of sound, with the occasional Psycho screeches mixed in.

Anyway, I like Duel a lot, even though I never realized until tonight just how little happens in it. Then again, maybe that's one of the movie's strengths.

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