I first heard about the movie Duel back in 2007 and ever since then it has been on YouTube in some form or another. That's great, because it might just be my favorite car movie.
Duel is a bit of an odd movie. It was made for TV. The main villain is an inanimate object. It was directed by Steven Spielberg, but nobody's ever heard of it. The entire thing is a chase scene.
To say that the plot of Duel is simple is an understatement. The entire movie follows one man (played by Dennis Weaver) driving a wimpy orange Plymouth Valiant, locked in a chase with a mysterious, ominous, rusty 18-wheeler. The explanation is almost immaterial — Weaver passes the truck on a windy road, then the truck slowly (at first) and surely tries to force him off the road or crush him to death.
But saying that the movie is just about a guy getting chased by a truck is selling Duel short. Like I said, the entire movie is a chase scene. It's a little over the top (it was made in 1971 what do you expect), but Spielberg actually keeps the tension high through the whole thing.
And a lot of that is down to the truck. If you ask me, the truck in Duel is one of the greatest on screen villains in Hollywood history. It has no lines of dialogue. It has no motive. It has no subtlety. It has only a blank, uncaring, skull-like stare and a kind of brooding bulk that plays off the fear of every driver passing a trucker on the highway. When you yourself go for a drive after watching Duel, your heartbeat goes up just like going to the beach after watching Jaws.
So you end up with a kind of art-film like movie. A chase scene deconstructed and stretched to an hour and a half. A classic villain that preys on your very modern fears of highway driving. And it's all on YouTube. You have no excuse not to watch it.