How well do you remember the movie Duel?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: tmdb

About This Quiz

This 1971 movie advertised as "Terror in your rear view mirror!" featured a riveting cat-and-mouse chase on the highway. Now, revisit this early Spielberg adventure with our quiz!

In what city does the action start?

The main character leaves Los Angeles and heads out into the desert on a business trip. Much of the film's action was shot outside the town of Acton, California.

Who played David Mann, the hapless driver?

The name "Mann" equates him with an "Everyman." In other words, he's the audience's stand-in in a classic man-versus-monster movie -- even though the "monster" isn't a force of nature.

What kind of car does Mann drive?

The car is a simple sedan, the kind that many middle-class guys might have driven in the early 1970s. Spielberg chose a red car so it would stand out in the desert landscape.

A caller to KBMJ claims to play what in place of a musical instrument?

Mann listens to the radio as long as the L.A. station will come in. One caller is complaining about not being able to claim "head of household" status on his census form because his wife works. The next caller, a butcher, wants to be on a variety show based on his ability to "play" meat. Sirius XM couldn't come fast enough for drivers in the 70s!

What happens in Mann's first interaction with the tanker truck?

Evidently, the only thing that Mann does to attract the driver's ire is to pass when the truck is going too slowly for his taste. This starts the cat-and-mouse game that will last the entire movie.

What is painted on the rear of the truck?

Just to make things really fun, the tanker is carrying something flammable. Oddly, it doesn't explode in the end, when going over the cliff (possibly because of real-life budget issues).

What color eyes does the Driver have?

Spielberg made sure the audience never saw the driver. He wanted the truck to be the real monster in the movie, comparing "Duel" to Japanese films like "Godzilla."

At the service station, what does the attendant recommend Mann replace?

Mann lets the attendant look under the hood, but dismisses his recommendation that the radiator hose be replaced. Will that decision come back to haunt him? Do you even have to ask?

What field does Mann apparently work in?

We don't learn much about Mann's career, but he does worry his boss is going to take away a certain "account," which is sales jargon. He also carries a briefcase, the classic salesman's accessory. (It will come in handy later).

Mann calls home to apologize to his wife. For what is he apologizing?

Mrs. Mann says that "Steve Henderson ... practically tried to rape me" in front of the party guests. She thought that Dave should have "said something," even if he didn't challenge Henderson to a fight.

What happens when the driver encourages Mann to pass?

This happens early enough in the film that Mann still thinks the driver was just a little annoyed at him for passing him earlier. But when the driver directs him right into a near-head-on collision, Mann begins to realize that things are serious.

What is the name of the cafe where Mann stops (well, crashes to a stop)?

Mann crashes into a fence outside Chuck's after a harrowing pursuit by the truck. He stays to use the restroom and have some lunch.

Which of these does Mann NOT request of the waitress?

Mann wants a simple lunch -- the sandwich -- plus more water and an aspirin. (Try asking a waiter or waitress for aspirin nowadays: You'd get a blank look and a directions to the nearest drugstore.)

What does Mann do when he sees the truck parked outside Chuck's cafe?

When he sees the truck, he is alarmed, but sits down again to think about things. A little later, he confronts various men he thinks might be the driver -- none of whom are.

Why doesn't Mann call the police from Chuck's?

Mann can't prove his story of being terrorized by the Driver, and the people at Chuck's have no reason to take his side. Plus, it really wouldn't help that Mann can't even identify the Driver if the police arrive promptly.

What kind of boots does the Driver wear?

The kind of boots the Driver wears are common enough that Mann sees more than one pair at Chuck's Cafe. This gives him several suspects to narrow down as he's trying to find and reason with the Driver.

When the truck pulls out of Chuck's lot, what does Mann do?

Really, Mann? What do you think that's going to accomplish?

What kind of vehicle is stalled on the side of the road?

The driver flags Mann down, wanting a push. Since it's implausible for one passenger car to push a schoolbus full of kids all the way to the nearest town, it seems that the driver was attempting a "bump start." That's a trick with a manual-transmission vehicle, where if you get it rolling, working the power train can cause the engine to turn over.

What happens to Mann when he attempts to push the schoolbus?

Mann gives the push a valiant try (sorry!), but it's no good. He only succeeds in getting his front fender wedged under the bus -- while the kids mock him through the back window.

What is Mann's license number?

We see Mann's license plate and those of the truck several times. The truck has six plates in front -- getting licensed in multiple US states is a way of paying tax.

Which is NOT a state license plate on the truck?

The truck and Driver seem to operate in the Western states. Spielberg mentioned that the multiple plates the truck bears imply that the driver has been menacing motorists all over the West.

What is unusual about the second gas station at which Mann stops?

Suzy's Snakerama not only has glass cages of snakes, but tarantulas and a coyote on a chain. It wasn't uncommon, in the mid-20th century, to run across gas-station-plus-roadside-attractions in the rural West.

When Mann attempts to call the police from the phone booth, what does the Driver do?

The truck has been waiting for Mann just down the road from Suzy's Snakerama. When the Driver sees Mann making a phone call, he speeds to the booth, flattening it seconds after Mann has jumped clear.

What does Mann do after the Snakerama incident?

The Driver has gone on ahead. Mann thinks that if he lets the tanker truck get an hour's worth of road ahead of him, the sorry incident will be over. Of course, that's not the case.

Who does Mann flag down on the road?

Mann flags down a lovely vintage 50s car and asks the couple inside to call the police for him when they reach the nearest town. The wife gets nervous, saying they don't want any trouble -- and when the truck starts to back rapidly toward them, they flee.

What does the police car on the roadside turn out to be?

Mann is relieved to see a black-and-white car on the roadside, thinking it is a police officer manning a speed trap. Instead, it's a two-toned exterminator's car, with something red -- maybe a fire ant? -- on the roof, that looks like a siren.

What goes wrong as Mann's car ascends the grade?

The Valiant starts spewing smoke from the tailpipe, and the needle on the temperature gauge rises to the maximum. This is bad news for Mann, who was sure he could outrun the Driver on an uphill grade.

What item comes off the Valiant in the chase on the grade?

In the climactic chase, the Valiant loses a hubcap. Then, at the summit, Mann puts his overheating car in neutral and coasts it down the other side of the grade, letting the engine cool.

In the climax, what does Mann wedge against the gas pedal?

Mann is through running -- he's going to crash the driverless Valiant into the truck. To do this, he uses his briefcase to hold the gas pedal down, and stands up half-in, half-out of the doorway as he guides the car straight toward the truck, then jumps clear. Macho!

What does Mann do as the credits roll?

A lot of 1960s and 1970s movies didn't believe in epilogues. Nowadays, the screenwriter probably would have shown us Mann back in his suburban life, a new, tougher man. But back in the day, the attitude was, "The bad guy's dead; roll credits!"

Why, does it turn out, was the Driver fatally harassing Mann?

We never learn the Driver's name, see his face, or learn his motivations. This was in keeping with Spielberg making the Truck like the shark in "Jaws" -- an unknowable, brutal force.

The screenplay for "Duel" came from what source?

Matheson was a very prolific novelist/screenwriter/short-story writer. He wrote episodes for "The Twilight Zone," but the "Duel" story, inspired by a real tailgating incident, wasn't one of them.

Bits of "Duel" could be seen as stock footage in what TV show?

Because Universal owned "Duel," it was legally allowed to provide the footage to flesh out a truck-driver storyline in "The Incredible Hulk." Spielberg was reportedly not happy about his movie being parted out in that fashion.

Which of these Spielberg movies preceded "Duel"?

"Duel" was Spielberg's first feature film. The first cut was so short that Spielberg had to go back and shoot extra scenes to make the movie an appropriate length for theatrical release.

Which Quentin Tarantino movie has strong parallels with "Duel"?

In "Death Proof," a psychotic movie stuntman stalks the highways in a "death-proof" car. He targets the wrong group of women, though, setting off a deadly chase through rural Southern California much like the one in "Duel."

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