Bullet Points: Convoy
It has never been uncommon for movies to be based on novels. The past few decades have also made movies based on comic books/graphic novels and video games a common occurrence. But in 1978, a not so common thing happened when a movie based on a country song was released at the height of America’s CB radio craze, that movie was Convoy.
Convoy was based on the song “Convoy” performed by C.W. McCall that topped both the country and pop charts in the United States when it was released in 1975. The movie, directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, stays true to the lyrics of the song, even incorporating the “Jesus freaks on grass”.
- Introducing: The movie wastes no time establishing all of the main characters in the film. We meet Martin “Rubber Duck” Penwald (Kris Kristofferson of Vigilante Force fame). Rubber Duck is a trucker who becomes the unofficial leader of the “Trucker’s Rights Movement” as the movie progresses. As Rubber Duck makes his way down the road in our opening scene he can’t help but notice a flirtatious (and panty-less) photographer in a convertible named Melissa (Ali MacGraw). Rubber Duck is not the only trucker on the road either, he has two of his truckin’ brothers not far behind. First is Bobby (Burt Young of Rocky fame) who uses the CB handle of “Love Machine”, but since he is carrying a truck full of swine, is also referred to as “Pig Pen”. Second is Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye of American Yakuza fame). Mike is just looking to get home to his pregnant wife who is about to pop. Last but not least is a lawman who is the walking definition of “abuse of power” Sheriff Lyle Wallace (Ernest Borgnine of The Dirty Dozen fame). Wallace sets up a speed trap and Duck, Bobby and Spider Mike all fall for it all so the dirty Sheriff can shake them down for money.
- Truck Stop Brawl: After their run in with Sheriff Wallace, Duck, Bobby and Spider Mike decide to stop for a bite to eat at the next truck stop. There they run into Melissa the photographer, who is looking to hitch a ride to Texas after her own run in with local law enforcement. That asshole Sheriff Wallace shows up at the truck stop and in typical asshole fashion he can’t help but harass the truckers, in particular Spider Mike, who he tries to bring in on a bullshit charge. Mike ain’t got time for jail with his pregnant wife waiting for him at home. Words are exchanged and then things get physical as an all out truck stop brawl breaks out with the truckers taking on the law. With the cops and their vehicles temporarily incapacitated after the fracas, Rubber Duck decides it is time to leave Arizona and head to New Mexico… and the convoy was born.
- We Got a Great Big Convoy: Rubber Duck is behind the wheel of the truck leading the way. Duck has Melissa in the passenger seat and all of his fellow truckers from the truck stop are following behind. As word spreads of their encounter with Sheriff Lyle over the CB radio frequencies, more and more independent truckers, sick and tired of law enforcement preventing them from doing their jobs fall in line and we find ourselves with a great big convoy. The convoy in essence is a mobile protest on 18 wheels and Rubber Duck, whether he wanted to or not, becomes the defacto leader of this movement. With Sheriff Lyle and the authorities in hot pursuit, we get some great vehicular action, including one semi not surviving a sharp turn, Sheriff Lyle’s police cruiser sandwiched in between Spider Mike and Bobby’s rigs and some good old fashioned roadblock busting!
- Twists and Turns: Things get derailed for the convoy after Spider Mike gets the call from his wife that she is going into labor! Mike leaves the safety of the convoy and is heading home… unfortunately he is stopped in Texas, roughed up and thrown in jail before he can get home to his wife . When word gets back to the convoy that Spider Mike has been wrongfully imprisoned, the convoy goes to the little Texas town that has Mike behind bars and tear it up! Building after building gets bulldozed by trucks just ripping through them like a hot knife through butter before they free their friend. But the law isn’t done yet, they call in the National Guard and it all leads to an explosive final showdown between Sheriff Lyle and Rubber Duck!
Convoy is more than just a movie filled with on the road shenanigans and mayhem, it is a slice of the 1970’s in the United States. Long before cell phones, social media and the Internet, CB (That’s short for Citizens Band) radios were all the rage. It was reported that even former First Lady of the United States, Betty Ford was caught up in the craze using the handle First Mama. Movies like Convoy, Smokey and the Bandit, Breaker! Breaker! and the hit television show The Dukes of Hazard just added to the popularity of the CB radio.
Now I hope these Bonus Bullet Points will add to your enjoyment of this review…
- Familiar Faces: Seymour Cassel (Eye of the Tiger) plays the Governer of New Mexico, Jerry Haskins. Haskins attempts to help his own political ambitions in Washington D.C. by getting in on the groundswell of support that Rubber Duck and the other members of the convoy have with the American people… Madge Sinclair plays a female trucker named Widow Woman. Sinclair will always be Queen Aoleon from Coming to America to me.
- Handle with Care: Some of the other CB handles used in Convoy included Big Nasty, Old Iguana, Lizard Tongue, White Rat, Pack Rat and Septic Sam.
- Direct Your Attention To: The man who played the news crew director was actually Director Sam Peckinpah. Peckinpah directed several action classics in his day including The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Killer Elite and The Osterman Weekend.
- Parental Advisory: C.W. McCall re-recorded his hit song “Convoy” for the movie featuring saltier lyrics than the original. You can enjoy the movie version of “Convoy” below…