Duel (1971): Spielberg Thriller Starring Dennis Weaver

After some work on episodic TV, Steven Spielberg got his first chance at directing a feature film in 1971 with Duel, a thriller that was scheduled to be broadcast as a TV movie-of-the-week. The story centers on a mild-mannered traveling salesman (Dennis Weaver), who’s is relentlessly pursued along a remote highway by an unseen, homicidal driver in a huge semi-trailer truck.

Using his already established technical virtuoso and relying on skillful cross-cutting and fast pacing, Spielberg, then only 24, maintains nail-biting suspense for the duration of the story, at the end of which the salesman succeeds in outwitting the anonymous hunter-trucker.

Shot in just sixteen days for $350,000, Duel grossed more than $5 million, when it was released theatrically in Japan and some European countries.  The movie also won several foreign awards.

Despite the fact that it has never been shown in theatres in the U.S., Duel has attracted a large cult following.  Some film critics consider it to be one of the strongest TV movies made.