The Great Villain Blogathon is already here! Hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy, this is the chance for me and my blog’s fellows to express our fear, our hatred or our “admiration” for those movie characters that we love so much to hate, but who, sometimes, add such a richness to the film. Of course, I’m talking about the villains, the mean characters. In the world of the 7th Art, everybody can be a villain: a boy, a girl, old or young, a ghost, a monster, a robot, etc. For the occasion, I decided to write about a very original villain: the truck (and the truck driver) in Spielberg’s Duel (1971). With this TV movie, shot in only 13 days, Spielberg started brilliantly his career. Four years before “Jaws”, Spielberg already knew how to terrify us and how to create a delightful suspense. He knew how to make something normally ordinary (a truck) suddenly a man’s biggest fear.
For those who haven’t seen it, the story of Duel is quite simple: David Mann (Dennis Weaver), an electronics salesman, is on his way back home. He drives a red car. On the road, he meets a big Peterbilt 281 tanker truck who is driving along very slowly. David is in a hurry, so he tried to exceed it. The truck starts to chase him and tries to kill David.
After Jaws, Duel is my second favourite Spielberg’s film. I think it’s very clever and so entertaining. After all, Steven Spielberg’s nickname is “The King of Entertainment”. And, let’s admit it, it’s nice to watch an “intelligent” film, but it’s also nice to watch and entertaining one. Well, Duel has both characteristics and that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy so much watching this film. I have to thank my parents, because it’s them who made me discover this masterpiece. They talked to me about it and, as it looked very interesting, I decided to rent it at my video club and watched it. The first time I saw it, I was so stressed and really wonder what would happen to the car’s driver. Like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, this is one of the movies where the emotions are at their best the first time you watch it, but you have a good time every time you watch it.
Our biggest question when we watch this film is: who is the villain? The truck or the truck driver? Well, in my opinion, it’s both. It’s the truck driver, because, of course, he drives the truck, but it’s also the truck because this element is the monster of the film. Also, one of the most terrifying things about this film is the fact that we never see the face of the truck driver. All we know is that he wears blue jeans and cowboy boots. That element adds a great suspense to the film. Sometime, we also have the impression that nobody is driving this truck and that this one is rolling on the road and attacking David by himself. And when we think about it, without his truck, the truck driver wouldn’t be very scary. For example, if he was driving a golf cart, this wouldn’t be the same thing… So, this big, ugly and dirty truck is noting but a terrible weapon.
In my introduction, I talked about the concept of “characters that we love to hate”. Well, this truck (and his driver) is really one of the villains that I love the most to hate. I remember, the first time I watched Duel, there were some scenes, especially when the truck was suddenly appearing, where I was thinking “Oh no…go away stupid truck.” I really wanted this truck to be destroyed, to vanish, especially because he attacked David Mann without any good reasons. As a spectator, you have to put yourself in David’s place and imagine what it will be to be chased by a truck who wants to kill you. That would probably be the biggest stress of your life. Well, the closest experience I’ve been through is when, a long time ago, I dreamt that a big yellow tractor was trying to catch me with his mechanical shovel. I was maybe 4 years old when I made this dream. I have a very good memory.
Some scenes in this film are so powerful and really proves us that the truck is a real road monster. I can think of this scene where David arrives next a railway and has to stop his car to let the train pass. Then, the truck arrives and tries to push him on the railway. It’s the real panic. I can also think of this moment when David tries to help a bus driver to move his bus. The two men are concentrated on their task and they don’t see the truck arriving slowly in the tunnel. But us, spectators, we see it. “Uh oh!” The truck stops in the tunnel and turn on his headlights like if it was two big eyes. You can imagine David’s surprise when he discovers that the truck is here, waiting for him to go so he can continue is pursuit.
What’s also terrible in this story, is the fact that nobody trust David. “What, a truck tries to kill you? That’s quite a story!” As a matter of fact, the only witnesses is us, but also the woman in the gas station. At this moment of the film, David goes into a telephone booth to call the police, but the truck arrives and he rushes straight at him. Fortunately, David succeeds to escape before being run over by the truck. Also, David can only run away from the truck, he can’t attack him back because it is too big. If you remember the restaurant scene, David suspects one of the clients to be the truck driver (because the truck is parked in the parking), but he can’t really be sure who it is, because the clients are all wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots, and also because David never saw the face of the driver.
There are many things to say about Duel, but I’m going to stop there, because if I told you everything about it, for those who haven’t seen it yet, your first viewing will be less fun, you’ll have less surprises. Well, one more time, it was a pleasure to participate to a blogathon. I want to thank the hosts for taking care of it and thank you for reading my article. Of course, don’t forget to read the other entries! You can click on the following link for this: