Duel 1971

Duel was a TV movie that came out in 1971. It’s a great suspense movie that will keep you entertained.

It was Steven Spielberg’s first full-length movie. It came out as a TV movie in the US but after some scenes were added it was released in theaters in Europe and Australia. It starred Dennis Weaver. This is a very good first movie by Spielberg. It had some grit to it that some of his movies lack…probably because of it’s low budget.

Duel was much better than your regular TV movie. Dennis Weaver was superb in it. Another star was the Truck itself. It had its own personality. This is one of the best TV movies ever made.

Steven Spielberg told Dennis Weaver at one time that he watches this movie at least twice a year to see what he did as far as techniques.

The story is simple but effective. It still works today.

It’s about a man who is driving to a business meeting and part of his journey is through the desert. He starts being followed by an ugly as hell diesel Peterbilt truck. The truck starts passing Weaver and then starts bumping him later on. The suspense in this movie is great. You cannot see the truck driver but he has plates from all over the US that makes you think he picks random people out and starts harassing them.

It reminds you of a Hitchcock film. The suspense builds and builds and you feel Dennis Weaver’s fear.

Weaver is run off the road by the truck and he sees a diner.

He stops at a diner and phones his wife about a fight they had the night before… He gets off the phone and thinks he finds the truck driver that’s been targeting him for miles inside the cafe…

If you like suspense movies the movie is worth a watch.

Gunsmoke the Early Years

I grew up watching the hour-long color episodes (seasons 12-20) of Gunsmoke in reruns and I liked the show. Now I’m watching the first 6 seasons…they are black and white and very different. There is no Festus or Newly…we have Chester (Dennis Weaver) and he is a refreshing character. They just never played these episodes on television when I was younger. There still is Doc Adams  (Milburn Stone)and a very young good looking Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake).

These episodes dealt with murder, rape, human trafficking, and plenty of Matt Dillon (James Arness) decking bad guys with his fist or the butt of his gun. They are 30 minutes long which is great. They got to the point quickly. Some of the stories were grim but it matched the look of the series.

I was surprised at how rough, violent and authentic they were and that is not knocking the later episodes but there is a difference. The violence was toned down as the series continued.

The later color episodes centered more around the guest stars and the old black and white ones centered more on the local cast of Dodge City.

Have Gun Will Travel was also on CBS along with Gunsmoke. You will see some of the same character actors and sets. Some Have Gun Will Travel scenes were filmed in a redecorated Long Branch… Too bad there wasn’t a crossover at least once.

Chester…I’ve always liked Dennis Weaver as an actor…in McCloud, Duel and anything he was in… He brings his character Chester alive as a real person. Chester had a limp on the show and Dennis Weaver said he would take yoga classes so he could do things like putting on a boot look believable with a bad leg…he also put a pebble in his boot on his right foot so he would not forget which leg was lame.

Chester could be lazy but he was invaluable and loyal to a fault to Matt Dillon. Dennis Weaver left the show after the 9th season with no explanation on what happened to Chester as was the way back then with TV shows.

If you are a fan and have seen only the later episodes…check these out.