Universal Pictures orginally planned 'Duel' to be a major motion picture.
The studio wanted Gregory Peck to star in the film, but he passed up the
role. Universal then decided to make 'Duel' a TV Movie.
Steven Spielberg was sneaking around the Universal Pictures mail room when he came across the script for 'Duel.' He loved the story so much that he
begged management to let him direct the film. Universal complied with
Steven Spielberg dropped out of film school to work for Universal Studios
in 1969. He was frustrated by his first project, an episode for the show
'Night Gallery.' He then took a one year break from filmmaking and returned
in 1970 by filming 'Duel'. Spielberg never finished his degree at film
'Duel' originally aired on the CBS network in 1971 as a Saturday Night
Movie. The original film was only 74 minutes long. 'Duel' was rated
extremely high by critics. Many beleive 'Duel' was responsible for
making suspense films so popular in the 1970's. Soon after 'Duel',
The Airport films, Spielberg's Jaws, and many more suspense films were
'Duel' is now a film many professors at colleges require for film
students. Many professors feel 'Duel' represents a triumph in visual
presentation of emotions & insecurity. Some even consider it a silent
film because there is so little dialogue.
Following 'Duel's successful TV airing, Universal released 'Duel' overseas
in 1973. Since the movie's 74 minutes was not long enough for moviegoers,
Universal had Spielberg spend 2 days filming several new scenes. These
new scenes turned 'Duel' into a 90 minute film. The new scenes were the
railroad crossing, school bus, and David Mann's telephone conversation
with his wife. Profainity was also dubbed in to make the film look like
a major motion picture.
In an Incredible Hulk Episode (Episode #9: Never Give A Trucker An
Even Break, Airdate: 4/28/78), the episode literally revolved around
'Duel.' The episode involved a truck being stolen (the very same greasy
Big Rig from Duel) by thugs. To escape, David Banner (Incredible Hulk)
and a women happen to find a red 1970 Plymouth Valiant. All the chase
scenes were taken directly from 'Duel'. The stunt truck used in the added theatrical scenes was used in this episode.
Knight Rider was heavily influenced by 'Duel.' The Season 2 opening movie,
'Goliath' starred an unstoppable 18 wheeler driven by a pyschotic man.
There were loads of similarities between 'Duel' and these 'Goliath'
episodes. For example: The animal howl the truck makes when it passes
and how both vehicles meet their demise by flying off the side of a
In 1991, yet another 'Duel' imitation was made. The film, titled 'Wheels
Of Terror,' starred Joanna Cassidy as a spunky bus driver whose daughter
is kidnapped by a child molestor with a derelict muscle car. The film
was crappy, but it is funny to see how many scenes were stolen from
'Duel.' The bad guy's vehicle also meets it demise by flying off
a cliff (twice actually).
In 1997, an excellent film named 'Breakdown' was released. Instead of
imitating 'Duel', it created similar sequences but with 90's special
effects. The film stars Kurt Russell and was release by Paramount
Pictures. Notice that even Kurt Russell wardrobe is identical, the blue button down shirt with khaki pants (Dennis Weaver wore the same thing in Duel). Also, both characters drove red Chrysler vehicles (A Plymouth Valiant and in Breakdown a Jeep Grand Cherokee).
Recently, a Saturn Automobile commercial spoofed Duel. A man in an Camry 'owns the road.' But, suddenly out of nowhere, a Saturn chases it down in the Arizona desert. The owner of the import tries to accelerate away from the new sedan, but it catches up. The import owner gives up and pulls of the road (very David Mann-like) and screams "What do you want?" 'No some-souped up diesels, my car's not powerful enough' comments though.
All the wreckage was removed and scrapped in 1971 after the film wrapped. The final crash sequence was filmed in Agua Dulce Canyon in Arizona. All the driving sequences were filmed on the Sierra Highway, Soledad Canyon Road, Agua Dulce Canyon Road, and Indian Canyon Road (the road to the finale).
TRIVIA: The pest-control car with the "Greblieps" sign on it (in the final action sequence) is "Speilberg" spelled backwards.
SURVIVORS: Chuck's Cafe is still standing. But it is now a french restaurant. All Plymouth Valiants in Duel were harmed (destroyed) in the filming of this movie. One of the diesel trucks still survives. Dennis Weaver's career highlights were probably McCloud, Duel and Gunsmoke. Steven Spielberg never amounted to much after Duel :)