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Sunday July 15th 2018

Duel | 1971

Duel filming location: Soledad Canyon Road, Southern California
Duel location: the school bus at the tunnel: Soledad Canyon Road, Southern California

I saw Duel on its first release in the UK, as a support film. I don't recall the main feature, but I remember rushing out of the cinema to check the name of the director of this tightly directed thriller on the poster. If Steven Spielberg made any more films, I decided, I'd make a point of checking them out.

Steven Spielberg’s first feature (made for American TV but released theatrically in the UK) remains one of the great cinematic débuts, despite being made in a mere two weeks.

The simple plot has nerdy everyman driver David Mann (Dennis Weaver) threatened by a monster truck and its unseen driver.

The movie opens in downtown Los Angeles, where Mann drives down South Broadway, before heading north on Highway 5, the Golden State Freeway toward Bakersfield.

Most of the filming is on Route 14 and in the Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles. The gas station where Mann gets the warning about the radiator hose, and phones his wife from the launderette, is Acton, just south from Route 14.

Duel filming location: Le Chene, 12625 Sierra Highway, Southern California
Duel location: 'Chuck's Cafe’: Le Chene, 12625 Sierra Highway, Southern California

'Chuck's Cafe’, the truckstop at which a frazzled Mann tries to pick out the seemingly psychotic driver, looks much the same but has been transformed into an upmarket French restaurant. Not quite what you expect to find out in the desert wilderness. It's Le Chene, 12625 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce.

Duel location: Soledad Canyon Road, Southern California
Duel location: Soledad Canyon Road, Southern California

On Soledad Canyon Road, about a mile west of the Agua Dulce Canyon Road turnoff, you can see the eastern end of the tunnel alongside which Mann attempts to help the stalled school bus.

He finally trashes the monster at Soledad Canyon, off Route 14 toward Ravenna.