The world of the made-for-T.V.-movie may begin and end with the Lifetime and Hallmark channels these days, but there was once a time where the format was a mainstay on network television, where such major players as CBS and ABC plied their small screen wares for a rapt and attentive audience on a weekly basis.
Many of these films, predictably enough, fell within the horror and thriller margins, with these films packing in scares on a budget with storylines ranging from psycho killers and supernatural frights to animals-on-the-loose and destructive disasters. One of the most memorable films from the era was from a young filmmaker by the name of Steven Spielberg, and told the tale of a most murderous case of road rage. Duel was its name, and its 1971 debut scored big ratings and success for Spielberg, who at that time had yet to achieve his massive success with the legendary blockbuster known as Jaws.
A lot of the film’s success was due to the tension and pulse-pounding atmosphere achieved by Spielberg and screenwriter Richard Matheson, although there was another, perhaps unsung aspect of the film which certainly added to Duel and its reputation as one of the most fondly remembered television films of the era. This was the understated yet powerful score from veteran composer Billy Goldenberg, a selection of cues which has thankfully been preserved here by Intrada in all of its small screen glory.
Billy Goldenberg’s career as a musical composer reads with a myriad of impressive credits from across the world of television and film, from comedies and drama to the action and suspense pictures for which the educated composer, conductor, and songwriter is most closely associated. The New York City native has worked on such films and series as the cop drama Busting, as well as small screen detective icon Kojak and comedy classic Rhoda, delivering just the right vibe and atmosphere for the task at hand.
Goldenberg’s score for Duel exhibits atmosphere in spades, eschewing big band bombast in favor of a stark ‘n stripped down approach, which mirrors the taut tension and suspense Spielberg achieves with his film. Eerie waterphone and synthesizer stabs make “The Duel” a particular highlight, while the strings of “Truck and Car Encounter” attack the listener with an intense aggression, mimicking the cat and mouse game taking place upon that cinematic stretch of highway.
The skills of Goldenberg as a particularly talented pianist are set to both beautiful and malevolent use here on Duel, as the composer and musician sets up a jarring, almost Friday the 13th styled jab on “Truck Stops,” with only the bonus instrumental tracks of source material music-with their jaunty bluegrass twang-sounding a bit out of place when compared to how effective the rest of Duel is at creating an uneasy and nightmarish mood of dread.
Intrada’s CD of Duel sounds predictably great, once again arriving with the same sort of care and attention paid to all releases by the label. Much of the music here on Intrada’s disc is being released here for the first time, as quite a bit of Goldenberg’s score was apparently nixed for the film’s original television premier. As such, this is a no brainer for both Goldenberg and Spielberg fans, as this Intrada release of Duel takes listeners back to those glory days where each “Movie of the Week” ushered in a new chance for fear, fright and fun.
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