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The first part of this review was originally posted over a year ago at IMDB.com.
The second part was written for Amazon.com
for a then-anticipated upcoming [May 2002] DVD release.
This is a wonderful film.
It's my favourite Spielberg film.
Everyman vs the monster in an arena we almost all know well; the roads.
And you should definitely try to see the original, short version. The scenes added to make the longer version break the pace and interfere with the mood badly.
On the other hand, they don't interfere so badly as to make the film unwatchable; more as if Hitchcock had included an extensive sequence of Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly eating dinner and trying to figure out what was going on about halfway through "Rear Window", maybe.
The short version, on the other hand, rather reminds me of Ken Purdey's definition of a sports car -- "One that has nothing on it that doesn't make it go faster", which is what this film (in the short version) has.
Whichever version you watch (i think it's in both), keep an eye out for with the exterminator's car.
I was in charge of a mostly horror-themed film/video program for a science-fiction convention that ran over the weekend nearest Halloween one year many years ago. Just to be a smart-aleck, i ran "Duel" as the last film on Sunday afternoon -- so that people could see it and then drive home...
((Further review, posted on Amazon))
I haven't seen this DVD yet; i hope that the chapter breaks are so set up that i can program my player to show me the *original* version -- the one that was originally broadcast, at about 77 minutes, as opposed to the padded version (at about 92 minutes) that was prepared for release to local TV stations here in the States and was theatrically released in Europe.
In adding fifteen minutes of padding to the original version, the pacing and rhythm are broken at several points, losing the momentum of the film and requiring it to be built up again.
But even in the padded version it's a superlative example of the axiom that "less is more" -- what can be done with limited materials and a tightly-focused vision.
The three-star rating above is for the padded version; the shorter version is five stars all the way.
((I will say that much of the kudos here should go to Richard Matheson's script; expanded only slightly from his original "Playboy" short story, it is proof that horror may lurk in the everyday.))