David Mann is a salesman travelling across California. When he passes a truck driver, the driver takes offence for some reason and pursues him relentlessly across the State.
"Godzilla Versus Bambi" is Steven Spielberg's high concept encapsulation for Duel. Tapping into the hidden terrors on the open road, this originally made for TV opus is consummate storytelling in pictures. Like most early efforts, it overflows with a delight in the potential of movies, but matches it with directorial proficiency and unflagging excitement to match.
The premise could not be leaner: a timid businessman (Weaver) travelling along anonymous American highways is teased and taunted by a giant truck hellbent on killing him. Offering only brief glimpses of the truck driver, Spielberg infuses the vehicle with devious strategies allowing the menace to evolve gradually. As it progresses, the journey is ingeniously augmented with shocks, red herrings and delicious black comedy (mid-combat, the lorry stops to help a kiddies schoolbus). Spielberg, to his credit, never affords the truck any rational motivation - the relentless pursuit takes on its own logic where societal rules quickly become superflous.
Despite a clever use of sound effects - the truck's primal groaning contrasting with Mann's whiny engine - Duel achieves the frantic energy and striking simplicity of silent film: ironically, considering its small screen origins, it is pure cinema.