Film / Convoy

Vanishing Point... with trucks!

Convoy is a 1978 action film directed by Sam Peckinpah, based on the 1975 country/western and novelty song "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. In 1978, the National Maximum Speed Law which prohibits speeds exceeding 55 mph is in full force, and the country's truck drivers don't much like it. Martin "Rubber Duck" Penwald (Kris Kristofferson) is one such driver, just going about minding his own business. When he and some friends - Mellisa (Ali MacGraw), Pig Pen (Burt Young), Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye), and Widow Woman (Madge Sinclair) - run afoul of corrupt Sheriff "Dirty Lyle" Wallace (Ernest Borgnine), a fight breaks out at a truck stop and the bunch are forced to flee in their trucks, the police in pursuit. Heading for the Mexico border, dozens of other truckers join them in their own trucks, until the epononymous convoy emerges, over a mile long. They communicate by means of CB radio. Rubber Duck, heading up the front, is thrust into the status of a folk hero. Will they evade the authorities and make it?

Production was somewhat troubled. Sam Peckinpah's earlier films, Cross of Iron, The Killer Elite, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid had struggled at the box office, and Peckinpah needed to do a successful blockbuster if he was to get on. EMI had bought the screen rights to McHall's song that chronicled the story of a convoy blasting past the fifty-five mph limit with an army of police attempting to enforce it. The screenplay was written by B.W.L. Norton, and was originally comprised with fast and furious action backed up by cartoonish characters and slapstick dialogue. Given the massive success of the similar Smokey and the Bandit, Peckinpah saw an opportunity in the script for the successful blockbuster he needed. However, unhappy with Norton's screenplay, Peckinpah tried to encourage the actors to re-write, improvise and ad-lib their dialogue, with little success. At the time, Peckinpah was struggling with drug addiction, 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. The picture finished 11 days behind schedule at a cost of $12 million, more than double its original budget. Surprisingly, Convoy was the highest-grossing picture of Peckinpah's career, notching $46.5 million at the box office. But alas, 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.

See also Easy Rider, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Two-Lane Blacktop, Smokey and the Bandit and Vanishing Point.

Has little if anything to do with Optimus Prime's Japanese counterpart.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bring My Brown Pants: "We'd appreciate it if you'd bring a new car and a... and a new pair of pants."
  • Bystander Syndrome: Rubber Duck is really kind of careless about some things and does a great job of showing it by nearly running off with out his compatriots, letting strangers and other truckers follow him, and risking the lives of alot of people by assuming it isn't his problem.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Rubber Duck is sly, cunning, and wily in all regards.
  • Diner Brawl
  • Faking the Dead: During the final confrontation with Sheriff Wallace on the bridge over Rio Grande, Rubber Duck deliberately steers his tractor unit over the side of the bridge, plummeting into the churning river, seemingly to his death. Later Mellisa finds him attending his own funeral in disguise, where he explains his survival with the line: "You ever seen a duck that couldn't swim?"
  • The Film of the Song: Convoy is based on the eponymous C.W. McCall song. McCall actually re-recorded the song with new lyrics for the movie, making it a Song of the Film of the Song.
  • Folk Hero: Rubber Duck becomes this by the movie's end.
  • Follow the Leader: Follow Smokey and the Bandit.
  • Hero Insurance: Considering the damage, wrecks, and loss of other things you figure the heroes all have it.
  • Jerkass: Lyle seems to mostly just want revenge for getting his ass handed to him but he is also a Corrupt Cop who extorts money from people and has power trips off pushing others around.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: The Long Haired Friends of Jesus following the Convoy certainly counts.
  • Non-Action Guy: Rubber Duck isn't much of a fighter; and lets his truck, wits, and friends do the work for him.
  • Noble Fugitive: Rubber Duck is mostly a noble person when running from the law, even asks if people need help, stops to see if his crew is okay, and honestly cares for others.
  • Plot Armor: Every trucker in the movie apparently comes pre-equipped with this, but especially Widow Woman, Pig Pen, Spider Myke, and Rubber Duck.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: We rarely learn any of the main characters real names.
  • Run for the Border
  • The '70s
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Rubber Duck appears to do this at a few points in the movie.