Hey guys its Maddie and today we are super excited to show you guys the next episode of our Trucking Culture series, which covers all kinds of music, movies, and other media that have made a major impact on the trucking industry. In today’s episode #10, we will be taking a deep dive into the details of the making of the trucking movie, “Duel.”
But before we begin, we sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed our Trucking Culture series so far, and we’d like to thank you all so much for making it so successful. Although in the past we have put the series behind our Patreon wall and eventually on our Jack’s Chrome Shop YouTube channel – for future episodes of the series such as this one, we will be transferring Trucking Culture to our sister channel, Chrome and Steel Radio YouTube, where we will be bringing you 2 times the amount of Trucking Culture with not just 1, but 2 episodes each month. If you wanna continue to watch even more episodes of Trucking Culture, be sure to like this video and subscribe to the Chrome and Steel Radio YouTube channel using the link in the description box below. Thanks for watching and let’s get started!
“I don’t know, all I did was pass this stupid rig a couple of times and he goes flying off the deep end. He has to be crazy.” This quote, taken from the trucking TV movie “Duel” – describes the 1971 American action film rather well, in a nutshell. Written by Richard Matheson and based on his own self-entitled short story, this iconic trucking film was actually based on a real-life road-rage incident experienced by Matheson himself, who was relentlessly tail-gated by a truck-driver on November 22nd, 1963, the same exact day President J.F.K. was assassinated.
Showcased as a trucking TV movie turned psychological thriller, “Duel” debuted the story of an average American man being terrorized by a massive tractor-trailer. This fan-favorite freight-hauling film marked the feature-length directorial debut of the now highly celebrated Steven Spielberg, who at the time of “Duel’s” debut, was a mere 25-years-old. With much of the movie filmed on location in communities around Los Angeles county, California, Spielberg was originally given only 10 short days, and a $450,000 budget for filming. However, after almost 20 more minutes of theatrical scenes were added, the director was given 3 additional days to finish up the film.
Speaking of Spielberg and other cast and crew members… It was Steven himself who hand-selected star Dennis Weaver to act as main character David Mann. After watching Weaver’s compelling work in Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” Spielberg lobbied for Weaver to land the lead role in his film, “Duel,” as well. Although Spielberg had wanted Weaver from the get-go, it wasn’t actually until the evening before shooting was to begin that he was officially signed. Alongside actor Dennis Weaver was perhaps the movie’s true main character – the truck. Much like any other actor or actress, the truck itself also underwent an “audition” process – with Spielberg selecting the older long-nosed Peterbilt over the flat-faced cabover style trucks that saw heavy use during the time.
Spielberg stated that he chose the conventionally-styled semi-tractor because of its long hood, split windshield, and round headlights, which gave the truck a bit more of a defined “face” and also gave a better feel for its menacing personality. Additionally, Spielberg said he liked the look of the multiple license plates being on the front bumper – because it suggested that the trucker had “ran down other drivers in other states.” Altogether, 3 trucks were used in total for filming – with the first and original model being a 1955 Peterbilt 281, and the latter 2 Peterbilt’s being 351’s – one from the year 1961, and one from the year 1964. Of the 3 trucks, only 1 rig remains in tact to this day – and is currently owned by big rig connoisseur Brad Wike of North Carolina. Wike, who collects and restores classic trucks in addition to running his own trucking company, bought the beloved big rig back in 2009 – and despite dozens of offers – he won’t sell the truck or say what he bought it for.
Aside from the Peterbilt aggressor truck, the car driven by Dennis Weaver’s character, David Mann, was also carefully chosen for the film. Although Spielberg said he did not care specifically what kind of car was used for the film, he did insist that the model be red in color and small in size, in order to contrast the earth-toned California landscape and the towering size of the much taller semi-truck. The final car picked for the film was a red Plymouth Valiant, although much like the trucks, 3 cars were used in total. The models used in the movie’s original release were from 1970 and 1971 – with the later model 1972 Slant Six seen in the re-released theatrical version of the movie.
After the successful broadcast of the original made-for-television movie, “Duel,” as ABC’s Movie of the Week, Universal Studios opted to release a theatrical version of the video overseas in 1972. Following the film’s outpouring of positive reviews, overtime, it has been regarded by some as one of the best TV-movies ever made – earning it an Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Editing in 1972, as well as spot #67 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments in more recent years. Speaking of excellent sound editing… throughout the movie, there tends to be very little dialogue by characters, or between characters – and absolutely none whatsoever from the truck driving antagonist.
This, according to Spielberg, was done intentionally – in order to allow the setting and the scene to speak for themselves – which also in turn allowed the movie to center its focus around making visuals and menacing audio. This use of sound, or rather, the lack thereof, was a tactic used to keep the audience in constant suspense – something Spielberg said he was inspired to use from Alfred Hitchcock. Aside from a scary sound, the script made certain that the unnamed truck driver and overall villain of the film, remain sight unseen aside from small shots of his arms and boots. This was also done intentionally to focus on the real villain of the film, the truck itself, rather than the driver, and to also help portray a possible diabolic presence.
Serving as the first stepping stone into Steven Spielberg’s spectacular career in showbiz, as well as an iconic introduction of the trucking industry being brought to the big screen – “Duel” definitely out-did itself as the first official trucking television/movie series. In fact, many would credit this cult-classic film, for starting the trucking and CB radio craze that took the 1970’s by storm. Although the big rig movie might not seem very scary by today’s standards, at its debut, “Duel” saw rave reviews as the trucker flick tapped directly into perhaps people’s biggest driving fear of all time… the fear of the unknown…
Thank you so much for watching our all-new Trucking Culture series featuring Duel. Before you leave, make sure you like the video, check out the other videos on our channel, and subscribe as we continue to grow our Chrome and Steel Radio YouTube account. We have already surpassed our goal of 400 subscribers… so thank you all so much for your continued support for our channel and our sister channel Jack’s Chrome!
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