DUEL, one of Steven Spielberg's first vehicles, foreshadowed the blockbuster film JAWS. Using minimal dialogue and effects, Spielberg defines the characteristics of his prolific oeuvre in this early work. Through tight cinematic narration, he effectively conveys the sudden and shocking horror that develops over the course of the film.
On a deserted stretch of California highway, businessman David Mann (Dennis
Weaver) settles into his red Valiant for the long drive to an urgent meeting. Ahead of him on the road is a slow-moving diesel truck, which David innocently decides to pass. So begins the long duel between David and the Goliath-like rig in this nerve-wracking TV movie. Menacing David at every twist and turn of the highway, the truck tries to push the Valiant onto a train track, run David down in a phone booth, engage him in a high-speed chase, and tailgate him into oblivion. Hoping to lose the rig, David stops at a roadside cafe only to realize that the driver of the truck is also in the restaurant. The driver is never seen, except one shot of his beefy
arm waving the Valiant ahead into oncoming traffic. Instead, Spielberg uses
the monstrous truck itself, much like the way he used the shark in JAWS, to
harass and taunt. After its broadcast on television, DUEL was released
theatrically with extra footage added.