Steven Spielberg's First Movie Is Still His Most Ripped Off

Before 'Jaws' there was an inexplicably evil truck.
Steven Spielberg's First Movie Is Still His Most Ripped Off

It’s no secret that filmmakers often less-than-subtly borrow from the work of legendary director Steven Spielberg – hence the time McDonald’s basically remade E.T. but with more Big Macs and deadly police shootings. But one of Hollywood’s most frequent sources of creative pilfering is also one of Spielberg’s lesser-known (yet no less awesome) films: the 1971 TV movie Duel.

Based on a short story by Twilight Zone/crappy Dan Aykroyd movie legend Richard Matheson, Duel (Spielberg’s first proper feature) is simply about a regular dude who is randomly terrorized by a big rig, either because it’s all an existential examination of post-Vietnam American masculinity, or a trucker just had a bad reaction to some off-brand caffeine pills that day.

This past weekend, TV viewers were quick to point out certain similarities between the Spielberg classic and the set-up of the new show The Tourist starring Jamie Dornan as an amnesiac who gets “rammed off the road in the Australian outback.”

The Tourist isn’t the only recent project to shamelessly crib from Duel; a few years ago, there was 2015’s Wrecker, about two young women terrorized by a tow truck. Presumably, Spielberg would have sued had he stumbled upon the movie while drunkenly buying DVDs from a 7-Eleven at 3 a.m.

And before he made a cottage industry out of recycling Spielberg tropes, J.J. Abrams co-wrote Joy Ride, the 2001 Duel-inspired thriller starring Paul Walker.

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, we got a ton of movies in which our humble protagonists are forced to face off against sinister trucks, from Road Games to Breakdown to the cocaine-fueled majesty of Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive. One Duel rip-off actually used footage from the original; an episode of The Incredible Hulk reused a chase scene from the movie, intercut with new shots of the show’s characters pretending to drive.

Yes, there was a time when Marvel-based entertainment was so cheap, they literally had to steal footage from other movies.

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Top Image: Universal Pictures


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