Convoy

Breaker on-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck/ You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon?” so begins C.W. McCall’s epic trucker tale, and the inspiration of director Sam Peckinpah’s classic road comedy “Convoy” (1978), starring Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw, featured July (2022) on MGM HD.

 

 

“Convoy” has all the pleasures of a seventies action-comedy: car chases, big rig trucks, inept lawmen, bar fights, goofy sidekicks, and a freewheeling hero accompanied by a pretty woman on the run. With action set in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, “Convoy” plays like a modern Western, but because it’s set in the 1970’s instead of the 1870’s, the cast reflects the times. Besides Kristofferson and McGraw, the other truckers include African-American characters played by actress Madge Sinclair as a fellow trucker, and comedian Franklyn Ajaye as a driver who’s desire to make it home for the birth of his child makes him a pawn in a plot by a corrupt county sheriff (Ernest Borgnine) to catch Kristofferson’s “Rubber Duck.”

 

 

Much of the fun of the movie comes from the C.B. radio lingo spoken by the truckers in the film. For example, “Shaky Town” (Los Angeles), “front porch” (the lead truck in the convoy), and of course, every driver knows the exhilaration of putting “the hammer down.” The action sequences with the big rigs were notoriously difficult to coordinate. Kristofferson described the task of resetting a shot with a hundred semi-trucks on a two lane highway for additional takes as being like organizing the D-Day invasion. However, the efforts pay off on screen. Watch for an unscripted accident involving a sharp turn and the truck driven by Madge Sinclair’s character that made its way into the plot of the movie.

 

 

Truth be told, as a piece of cinema, “Convoy” makes about as much sense as a movie based on a song about a long line of trucks driving “’cross the U.S.A.,” can make. But the plot isn’t really the point. The movie has earned its beloved following for its action scenes and celebration of the spirit of individualism. “Convoy” is kind of like viewing a core sample drawn from a specific American subculture that thrived in the late seventies; blue-collar Americans who lived on the road and yearned for a sense of bygone of freedom. Although the movie is based on C.W. McColl’s country hit, it’s a line from star Kris Kristofferson’s own song, “Me and Bobby McGee,” that might best sum up the movie’s theme: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

 

 

As the chorus in McColl’s song says: “Come on and join our convoy,” July (2022) on MGM HD.