It was only when I saw a short scene from the "Duel" (1971) from Steven Spielberg again that suddenly something come into my mind.

enter image description here
Wikipedia commons, Fair use

You see those car plates in front of the truck? I simply thought during the film it was like those other decorations people have...fox tail on the antenna, stickers, talismans.

Did the truck driver collected the car plates from former victims and present them openly as trophy knowing that very few (likely the next victims) will recognize their purpose?

The thing is: In the movie David never mentions it, even not in the monologue while being in the cafe after chased. Can someone verify that it is in fact intended by the script?

  • If you want to, you can provide that answer to your question yourself (with citations/quotations if so desired).
    – JAB
    Sep 7, 2017 at 20:12
  • While it is true that Spielberg made a claim about the multiple plates being taken from other cars, trucks that operated interstate needed to be registered in each state they operated in. The IRP Apportioned plates were introduced in about 1973 (formalized trucking related tax-sharing between individual US States and Canada). Duel was 1971, and the truck is an old Peterbilt from the the 50s. Did he lie because it was a better story that made him seem clever?
    – Yorik
    Sep 7, 2017 at 20:47
  • If you look especially for moving truck or tanker truck photos from the 60s, you will see multiple state plates.
    – Yorik
    Sep 7, 2017 at 20:53
  • forums.aths.org/PrintTopic127757.aspx
    – Yorik
    Sep 7, 2017 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


I missed the quote in the english wikipedia

Additionally, Spielberg said that the multiple license plates on the front bumper of the Peterbilt subtly suggested that the truck driver is a serial killer, having "run down other drivers in other states".

from the "Duel: Special Edition DVD (2005)"

But Yorik pointed out in a comment that during the days when Duel was made it was not an unusual sight at all that the trucks were plastered with multiple license plates. The reason was interstate trucks needed one plate for each state they were driven in, so it accumulated.

enter image description here

So until it is proven otherwise it may be possible that the truck was simply normal and Steven Spielberg added the remark later to spice the story.

  • 1
    I may have almost accused Spielberg of telling a fib (or at least mis-remembering), but it is possible he thought of this as a happy accident or it occurred to him as a possible interpretation of a "found object" when "auditioning trucks" as he called it.
    – Yorik
    Sep 7, 2017 at 21:44
  • @Yorik: Greetings from 2022! Spielberg is certain happy fibbing if it will improve the film -- he was told that shooting an oxygen cannister (In Jaws) won't cause an explosion but he replied something like, Trust me, it's better this way." I always felt the underlying principles of Duel were flimsy. The car is actually faster than the truck but the driver knows he can't keep up the pace in the long run or something... What??
    – releseabe
    Sep 25, 2022 at 0:24

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