Breaker 1 9. Breaker 1 9.
I’m not sure if Redneck Hollywood is as deserving of a documentary as Australian or Phillipine exploitation cinema, but I’m sure it was a thing. From Deliverance to Smokey and the Bandit (the whole of Burt Reynolds’ career, in fact) and The Dukes of Hazzard, the southern states had a fair representation. Add Convoy to the list.
Convoy is a Sam Peckinpah film. This meant very little to me when I saw it as a ten year old, but I can see similarities to some of his Westerns now. It’s a PG, so there’s none of the blood of The Wild Bunch, but there are the sun-bleached vistas and the dust. The truckers are latter-day cowboys- tough men and women doing a hard job that few others want to- or can- do. It’s a lonesome existence, with comradeship based upon shared experience and snatched chances for love (or, more often, sex).
And then there’s The Man, always trying to punish them for just getting by the only way they know how. In Convoy, The Man is Lyle ‘Cottonmouth’ Wallace, played by Ernest Borgnine. Lyle’s a self important sheriff with a bad attitude toward truckers and a dubious line in CB based entrapment. After one run in too many with the corrupt cop a bunch of truckers, led by ‘Rubber Duck’, beat up Wallace and a bunch of his deputies then make a run for the state line. They pick up fellow travellers along the way and six trucks become a mile long convoy with popular support and overtures from politicians.
The problem is, it’s never made clear just what it is that the truckers want, apart from away from Lyle. With their disparate complaints and lack of coherent demands it’s like they’re Occupy the Interstate. The film, and the Duck, is saved from having to address this by the need to rescue a fellow trucker from a rotten border town and then escape to Mexico.
The final showdown on a bridge features more than enough bullets for a Peckinpah flick, and a big explosion to make up for the lack of blood. The Duck is a martyr to whatever it was he stood for, only to have his memory hijacked by a senator up for re-election.
Convoy was based upon a novelty hit song and cashed in on the CB craze, but it managed to squeeze some anti-establishment, pro working man propaganda into the mix.