Peter’s Retro Reviews: Convoy (1978)

September 16, 2011

Convoy Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

C.W. McCall released the song ”Convoy” in 1975 and it became an instant hit on the country charts and actually on a couple of charts around the world too. It also helped boost the popularity of CB radio. Great song by the way…

The movie Convoy which was directed by Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Cross of Iron, The Wild Bunch) and released in 1978 was inspired by that song, and this is my chosen movie of the week. We’re now into the third installment of this trucker special/seminar and how do you like it so far? Have I put you off, or are you still with me here?

Ok? Ok!

So, gather around and have a seat. Coffee and assorted beverages are served at the small table over there, so please help yourselves… What? No, I’m sorry boys. No hard liquor! It is after all a trucker special, so no drinking and driving, ok?

Convoy is the story of a bunch of truckers, led by Rubber Duck, who are getting sick and tired of corrupt highway police-officers busting them for breaking the ridiculously low speed limit. The movie starts with Rubber Duck and his two friends Pig Pen and Spider Mike getting lured by Sheriff Lyle Wallace into breaking the law. In order not to have their rigs impounded, and thus robbing them of their livelihood, they’re forced to pay a steep fine.

Sheriff Lyle getting on Spider Mike's back.

Sheriff Lyle getting on Spider Mike’s back.

The police come down hard on them even for misdemeanors. In this case Sheriff Lyle has taken a special interest in Spider Mike and gets on his back a little extra hard. He’s a mean son of a bitch who likes nothing better than to push the truckers into doing something stupid, so he can bust them and throw them in jail.

“Dirty Lyle” is played by the great Ernest Borgnine (Escape From New York, The Wild Bunch, The Dirty Dozen), an actor who has portrayed everything from comedic good guys to evil rapists and Lyle Wallace is as dirty as they get. He’s the one who gave Rubber Duck his first ticket and has had a “thing” in for him ever since. He’s now basically busting Spider Mike’s chops just to get at “The Duck”. Nice guy, huh?

Martin Penwald or Rubber Duck is played by the awesome Kris Kristofferson (Lone Star, Flashpoint, A Star Is Born and the TV mini-series Amerika). For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Kristofferson is also a fantastic songwriter and is responsible for, among others, such hits as Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down and Once More With Feeling.

Convoy (USA 1978) Kris Kristofferson/ LKW, Truck, Trucker

Convoy (USA 1978) Kris Kristofferson/ LKW, Truck, Trucker

Things get kind of out of hand at a local diner and there’s a big fight. The truckers have to make a run for it and decide to head for New Mexico to avoid prosecution, ‘cause if you thought the Sheriff was mean before, well, let’s just say that he’s now royally pissed off too.

As the chase goes on, more and more trucks join in and they soon have themselves one big-ass convoy. Soon they gather attention from the public and the media too and they get the chance to speak their mind, so to speak.

Riding along with Rubber Duck is Melissa, a photographer, who basically just wanted a ride to the airport. She’s played by Ali MacGraw from The Getaway and Love Story for instance.

When Spider Mike breaks away from the convoy to go home to his wife who’s about to give birth to their first baby, the Sheriff sees an opportunity to get back at “The Duck”. He arrests Mike who’s then badly beat up in jail. Not by Lyle, mind you, but by some of the local police-officers.

Big-ass convoy

Big-ass convoy!

Lyle doesn’t really want anybody hurt, so deep inside there’s an itty-bitty tiny fragment of humanity left. Word gets back to Rubber Duck and you all know what happens next, right? Yup, they go and get Spider Mike of course! But things are not over yet! Oh no, far from it…

In the role of Pig Pen, or Love Machine as he calls himself, is the familiar face of Burt Young. I suppose he’s mostly known as Paulie in the Rocky-movies, but he also had a part in the mafia-story Once Upon A Time In America, just to mention one other movie

Franklyn Ajaye who’s had bit parts in Queen of the Damned, The ‘Burbs and Stir Crazy to name a few, plays Spider Mike.

Convoy is a great little drama that unfortunately didn’t do too well in the theaters at the time. It has since gathered somewhat of a cult-following and rightfully so, ‘cause it’s not a bad movie. Sure it has its faults and flaws but overall it’s a good ride (no pun intended) and it is a Sam Peckinpah-movie! Since it also stars Kris Kristofferson, whom I happen to think is an awesome actor, well then that’s good enough for me. And let’s not forget that wonderful theme-song…

So, my friends… Still with me so far? I hope you’ll join me next week as things get a little more intense when I look at the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg from 1971.

Until next time then…


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