Steven Spielberg made his feature film debut at the age of 24 with Duel, an ABC television Movie of the Week about a mild-mannered motorist’s desert highway battle with a menacing truck. Richard Matheson penned the teleplay from his own short story, which was first published in Playboy. It was Spielberg’s secretary at the time, Nona Tyson, who passed the story along to the nascent filmmaker and suggested it might be a good fit.
Spielberg had just 12 days to shoot the film. A scant 3 1/2 weeks after wrapping principal photography, Duel debuted on ABC in November of 1971. The ratings were so impressive that within a month of Duel’s television premier Spielberg was sent back out to capture additional footage so that the 74-minute running time could be padded in order to release the movie theatrically overseas.
For more Duel info, check out Edgar Wright’s recent interview with Spielberg or Steven Awalt’s book Steven Spielberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career. You can also find a three-part “Making Of” doc about the film on YouTube. The first part is posted below.