Duel - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
From a short story and script by Richard Matheson, Steven Spielberg's Duel marks the legendary filmmaker's first feature-length film, which originally aired on television. Centering around a man being chased and terrorized by a creepy semi-truck, the thriller is an impressive display of skill and talent where the director shows how to generate suspense through camerawork alone. Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings the movie to Ultra HD with a shockingly beautiful 4K HDR presentation, an impressive Dolby Atmos track, and the same bonus material as the two previous Blu-ray releases. Overall, this UHD edition is Highly Recommended and makes for an excellent addition to the library.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Steven Spielberg began his career directing episodes for several TV shows, amassing a body of work that impressed Universal Studios enough to sign him for a couple of picture deals. Although initially made and planned as a "movie-of-the-week," Duel is considered by fans and historians as the legendary filmmaker's feature-length debut partly because it is a shockingly good film but also because it was later released to theaters on a limited run. But, such particular details are quickly overlooked when an incredibly simple story about road rage, from a script by Richard Matheson, is turned into a nightmarish scenario of a man feeling defenseless against a 1955 Peterbilt tanker truck. Dennis Weaver plays the terrified family man on a business trip in his Plymouth sedan, a vehicle that could easily be crushed. Making it all the more unnerving is the mystery behind the mostly-unseen driver's bloodthirsty pursuit.
The only crime or insult Weaver's character ever committed, as far as we're aware, is that he passed the slow-moving truck on a two-lane California highway. If that cat and mouse chase weren't enough to be frightening, Spielberg employs a variety of stylish camerawork demonstrating impressive skill and talent as a visual storyteller. His aptitude for churning out effective thrills with limited resources is one of his best gifts as a director. Most apparent are a variety of simple dolly shots, such as when a panic-stricken Weaver sits in the diner and the camera fluidly moves into a close-up, generating a nervous, unsteady feel. Arguably, the most memorable scene is the truck's introduction, a lovely shot that starts with the bright red Plymouth and smoothly glides screen-left to show the size and grimy, creepy ugliness of the truck creeping along. It wouldn't be for another four years that the director finally made his mark with Jaws, but Spielberg's Duel foreshadowed the future of a hugely influential master filmmaker.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings Steven Spielberg's Duel to 4K Ultra HD as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy, unlocking the 4K Dolby Vision HDR version with Dolby Atmos audio. The triple-layered, UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a dual-layered, BD50 disc on the opposing panel, and both discs are housed inside the standard black keepcase with a glossy cardboard slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a silent static screen with the usual selection along the bottom and music playing in the background.
The underrated Spielberg thriller terrorizes the Ultra HD highway with a remarkably impressive HEVC H.265 encode, which was likely struck from the same master used for the 2014 Director's Collection set. The native 4K transfer arrives with razor-sharp definition throughout, from the stitching of the clothes to the oily, rusty unique features of the semi-truck and the individual pebbles along the dirt roads. For a fifty-plus-year-old film, the picture is truly striking, even during the few softer moments that never distract or stand out from the rest. And with the addition of Dolby Vision HDR, the video is all the more remarkable thanks to an improved contrast and brightness balance, boasting cleaner, more brilliant whites and inkier, more accurate blacks. Specular highlights are crisper with a more dramatic shine and sparkle along each vehicle, the chrome detailing and the clouds in the skies while shadow delineation remains strong with excellent visibility of the finer details. Primaries, likewise, are richer and more sumptuous with reds, in particular, looking fuller and more animated than its HD brethren, and the secondary hues focusing on earthy, brown colors are more dynamic and varied. Facial complexions are highly revealing with natural, realistic tones in the cast.
Awash in a very fine layer of natural grain, the 1.85:1 image is simply beautiful and film-like. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 94/100)
The biggest surprise of this UHD edition has to be the inclusion of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack for a fifty-year-old movie. And even more surprising is that the new 3D-audio upmix is actually good and shockingly complements the movie better than would be expected. While still remaining a front-heavy presentation, the made-for-television film smashes home theaters with a broad and impressively expansive soundstage, as background activity spreads across the fronts and top heights without feeling artificial or forced. The surrounds and heights are reserved for the more suspenseful sequences with subtle atmospherics and a few incidents of panning effects fluidly moving overhead, creating an enjoyable and satisfying hemispheric soundfield. However, Billy Goldenberg's score benefits the most, filling the entire screen and top heights while also lightly bleeding into the rear and ceiling channels. Overall, imaging exhibits a sharp, detailed mid-range with room-penetrating clarity and a healthy, accurately responsive low-end that provides a menacing weight and presence to the truck. With outstanding, well-prioritized vocals from start to finish, the object-based track quite impressive with a great deal to admire. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 88/100)
For this UHD edition, Universal ports over the same set of supplements as the accompanying Blu-ray disc, but they are now joined by one new bonus to entice fans.
- Original TV Movie Version (HD, 90 min) is a chance for fans to enjoy Spielberg's first feature-length film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
- A Conversation with Steven Spielberg (SD, 36 min)
- Steven Spielberg and the Small Screen (SD, 9 min)
- Richard Matheson: The Writing (SD, 9 min)
- Still Gallery (HD)
- Trailer (HD)
Although it originally premiered on television, Steven Spielberg's Duel marks the legendary filmmaker's first feature-length film, and as such, the thriller is an impressive display of skill and talent where the director shows how to generate suspense through camerawork alone. From a script by Richard Matheson, which he adapted from his short story that centers around a man being chased and terrorized by a creepy semi-truck, the TV film is a must-watch for Spielberg fans. Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings the movie to 4K Ultra HD with a shockingly beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a surprisingly satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Featuring the same bonus material as the two previous Blu-ray releases, this UHD edition is Highly Recommended and makes for an excellent addition to the library.
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review.
Order Your Copy of Duel on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
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