Convoy (1978 film)
US film poster
|Directed by||Sam Peckinpah|
|Produced by||Robert M. Sherman|
|Screenplay by||B. W. L. Norton|
|Music by||Chip Davis|
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling, Jr.|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$45 million|
Convoy is a 1978 action film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Franklyn Ajaye and Burt Young. The movie is based on the 1975 country and western novelty song "Convoy" by C. W. McCall and Chip Davis. The film was made when the CB radio/trucking craze was at its peak in the United States, and followed the similarly themed films White Line Fever (1975) and Smokey and the Bandit (1977), and the television series Movin' On (1974).
In the Arizona desert, truck driver Martin "Rubber Duck" Penwald is passed by a woman in a Jaguar E-Type, which leads to an encounter with a sheriff's deputy. Proceeding on his way, Rubber Duck runs into fellow truck drivers Pig Pen/Love Machine and Spider Mike, when another "trucker" informs them over the C.B. that they are okay to increase their speed. The "trucker" turns out to be Sheriff "Dirty Lyle" Wallace, a long-time nemesis of the Duck, who extorts them for $50 each.
The truckers head on to Rafael's Glide-In where the Duck's sometime girlfriend, Violet, works as a waitress. Melissa, the driver of the Jaguar, is also there; the car broke down and she had to sell it and some of her belongings in an effort to leave Arizona, as she's due in Dallas for a job. The Duck offers Melissa a ride; Violet is unimpressed and ushers him away to give him a special birthday present. While away, Wallace shows up at the Glide-In checking plates. Pig Pen and Spider Mike start making fun of Wallace over the diner's base-station CB radio, leading to Wallace attempting to arrest Spider Mike for "vagrancy".
The Duck, having been warned by Widow Woman, enters and tries to smooth things over. But Lyle is determined and insults Mike, who is desperate to get home to his pregnant wife. Mike punches Wallace, leading to a brawl in the diner when some deputies arrive to assist Wallace. The assorted truckers prevail, and the Duck handcuffs Wallace to a bar stool. After pulling the spark plug wires and distributor caps out of the police cars, they all decide to head for the state line to avoid prosecution.
The truckers drive across Arizona and New Mexico, with Wallace in belated pursuit after he forces a local youth outside the diner to give up his vehicle when he finds him possessing drugs. He catches up with Duck, but matters are made worse when Melissa accidentally causes Duck to veer into the path of Wallace's vehicle, forcing him to crash through a billboard, through a barn's roof (causing its chickens to fly in terror) and into a sandy ditch, only infuriating him further, even having broken the family's car. The initial police pursuit is foiled when Duck leads the truckers off the main highway and down a rough dusty desert trail, causing several of the police cars to crash. Wallace in yet another vehicle, this time commandeered from one of the state troopers, is again thwarted when Pig Pen and Spider Mike crush his vehicle between their rigs while in motion. Additional independent truckers join them to form a mile-long convoy in support of the Rubber Duck's vendetta against the abusive Wallace. The truckers communicate with each other via CB radio, and much CB jargon is sprinkled throughout the film. As the rebellious truckers evade and confront the police, Rubber Duck becomes a reluctant anti hero.
It becomes apparent the truckers have a great deal of political support and the Governor of New Mexico, Jerry Haskins, meets Rubber Duck. At about the same time, Wallace and a brutal Alvarez, Texas, sheriff, arrest Spider Mike, who left the convoy to be with his wife after giving birth to their son. Wallace's plan is to use Mike as "bait" to trap Rubber Duck. A janitor at the jail, aware of the plan, messages by CB radio that Spider Mike has been arrested and beaten. Various truckers relay the message to New Mexico.
Rubber Duck ends the meeting with Haskins and leaves to rescue Spider Mike. Several other truckers join him and head east to Texas. The truckers eventually destroy half of the town, concluding the garden center and supply areas and the jail, and rescue Spider Mike. Knowing they will now be hunted by the authorities, the truckers head for the border of Mexico. On the way, Rubber Duck gets separated from the rest of the convoy when the others get stopped by a traffic accident. The film culminates with a showdown near the United States-Mexico border where Rubber Duck is forced to face Wallace and a National Guard unit stationed on a bridge. Firing a machine gun, Wallace and the Guardsmen cause the truck's tanker trailer to explode, while Rubber Duck deliberately steers the tractor unit over the side of the bridge, plummeting into the churning river below, sending Duck presumably to his death. The other truckers honk their horns, depressed of the Duck's disappearance; even Melissa arrived a bit too late at what was going on.
A public funeral is held for Rubber Duck, in which Haskins promises to work for the truckers by taking their case to Washington, D.C. Disgusted with the politics of the situation, Pig Pen abruptly leaves the funeral. A distraught Melissa is led to a school bus with several "long-haired friends of Jesus" inside. There she finds Rubber Duck in disguise sitting in the back. He asks, "You ever seen a duck that couldn't swim?" The convoy takes to the road with the coffin in tow, abruptly ending the politicians' speeches. As the bus passes Wallace, he spies the Duck and bursts into laughter.
- Kris Kristofferson as Martin 'Rubber Duck' Penwald
- Ali MacGraw as Melissa
- Ernest Borgnine as Sheriff Lyle "Cottonmouth" Wallace of Natoosha County, Arizona
- Burt Young as Bobby "Love Machine" "Pig Pen"
- Madge Sinclair as Widow Woman
- Franklyn Ajaye as Spider Mike
- Brian Davies as Chuck Arnoldi
- Seymour Cassel as Governor Jerry Haskins
- Cassie Yates as Violet
- Walter Kelley as Federal Agent Hamilton
- Billy Hughes as Pack Rat
- Jorge Russek as Texas Alvarez Sheriff Tiny Alvarez
- Patrice Martinez as Maria
- Donnie Fritts as Reverend Sloane
- Tommy Bush as Chief Stacey Love
Convoy was filmed almost entirely in the state of New Mexico. Production began in 1977 when the CB radio/trucking craze was at its peak, made during the same period as such films as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Handle with Care (1977), Breaker! Breaker! (1977) and High-Ballin' (1978), as well as the television series Movin' On (1974–1976) and B. J. and the Bear (1979–1981).
During this period of Sam Peckinpah's life, it was reported he suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction. His four previous films, Cross of Iron (1977), The Killer Elite (1975), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) had struggled at the box office and the director needed a genuine blockbuster success. Unhappy with the screenplay written by B.W.L. Norton, Peckinpah tried to encourage the actors to re-write, improvise and ad-lib their dialogue, with little success. In another departure from the script, Peckinpah attempted to add a new dimension to the film by casting a pair of black actors as members of the convoy including Madge Sinclair as Widow Woman and Franklyn Ajaye as Spider Mike. The director's health became a continuing problem, so friend and actor James Coburn was brought in to serve as second unit director. Coburn directed much of the film's footage while Peckinpah remained in his on-location trailer.
Sam Peckinpah's original director's cut of Convoy which he and his long time editor Garth Craven put together in early 1978 was around 3 1/2 hours long. The closest estimated running time is 220 minutes. According to the book If They Move . . . Kill 'Em!: The Life and TImes of Sam Peckinpah by David Weddle and the documentary about Convoy Passion & Poetry - Sam's Trucker Movie (which includes old audio interviews with Peckinpah in which he talks about the troubled production of the film and the studio taking it away from him), Peckinpah's director's cut did not have any musical score other than the title song and one more song which played in the original unedited version of the famous ending scene where Rubber Duck drives his truck across the bridge towards the tank while Lyle shoots at him with a machine gun, causing his truck to fall into the river while its tanker explodes. The song was Blow The Gates To Heaven by Richard Gillis, who worked with Peckinpah on The Ballad Of Cable Hogue (1970); he wrote all songs in the film. Jerry Fielding, who composed music for lot of Peckinpah's previous films, was also hired to do the score for Convoy.
After seeing Peckinpah's director's cut, EMI and their executive producer Michael Deeley fired him and Craven from the film and hired another editor, Graeme Clifford, to completely re-edit the film down to one hour and fifty minutes and make it more like Smokey and the Bandit (1977), since a year earlier that movie was a huge hit, and they also removed Fielding from composing the score and Blow The Gates To Heaven song by Gillis, although this rejected song was included on his album with the same title, and the Passion & Poetry documentary also includes an edited version of the bridge scene with the song, showcasing how the original scene would have looked. Peckinpah was furious after he was fired, he later said how the released version of the film was not a Peckinpah film and how some of Ali MacGraw's best scenes were cut out, along with many others. He also said how he had not seen the final version and how if he did, he would have probably "done violence to those involved". Garner Simmons, author of Peckinpah: A Portait in Montage saw the original cut back in 1978 and he said how EMI and Clifford did not care about the film and "cut the guts out of it". He also said that although it wasn't perfect, that first cut of Convoy was much better than final released version.[verification needed]
The picture finished eleven days behind schedule at a cost of $12 million, more than double its original budget. Convoy was the highest grossing picture of Peckinpah's career, notching $45 million at the box office. But his reputation was seriously damaged by rumors of increasingly destructive alcohol and cocaine abuse. Peckinpah would make just one more film, The Osterman Weekend in 1983, before his death the following year.
The famous scene where the tanker truck goes off a bridge and explodes was filmed in Needles, California, on a one-way bridge over the Colorado River between Arizona and Needles. The Needles City Fire Department provided fire protection during this scene. The bridge was soon removed thereafter as a new span connected the two sides of the river.
Peckinpah has a cameo as a sound man during an interview scene. Rubber Duck's truck is generally represented in the film as a 1977 Mack RS712LST although several other Mack RS700L series trucks were used as a double and as stationary props. The original 1977 Mack truck, its on-road movie double, and the only original remaining tank trailer are on display at the Museum of Transportation outside St. Louis, Missouri.
A paperback novelization of the film by screenwriter B. W. L. Norton (ISBN 9780440112983) was published in 1978. A more serious edge and less humor was given to the film's story and there are some changes and additions, such as no mention of Spider Mike being African-American, a definite hatred between Rubber Duck and Wallace, a fight between Rubber Duck and Wallace after Spider Mike is broken out of jail, Widow Woman getting married (for the fifth time) and a background story given to Melissa.
- "Convoy" by C.W McCall (a new version, written especially for the film, with saltier language)
- "Lucille" by Kenny Rogers
- "Cowboys Don't Get Lucky All The Time" by Gene Watson
- "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Crystal Gayle
- "I Cheated on a Good Woman's Love" by Billy "Crash" Craddock
- "Okie From Muskogee" by Merle Haggard
- "Southern Nights" by Glen Campbell
- "Blanket on the Ground" by Billie Jo Spears
- "Keep on the Sunny Side" by Doc Watson
- "Walk Right Back" by Anne Murray
Home video release
- "Convoy, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
- "Internet Movie Database, Filming Locations for Convoy". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
- Weddle, David (1994). If They Move...Kill 'Em!. Grove Press. p. 514. ISBN 0-8021-3776-8.
- Weddle, David (1994). If They Move...Kill 'Em!. Grove Press. p. 515. ISBN 0-8021-3776-8.
- Simmons, Garner (1982). Peckinpah, A Portrait in Montage. University of Texas Press. p. 232. ISBN 0-292-76493-6.
- If They Move . . . Kill 'Em!: The Life and TImes of Sam Peckinpah
- Passion & Poetry - Sam's Trucker Movie (2013)
- Weddle, David (1994). If They Move...Kill 'Em!. Grove Press. pp. 517–518. ISBN 0-8021-3776-8.
- "Internet Movie Database, Trivia for Convoy". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
- Trucks from the film Convoy