When considering Sam Peckinpah’s resume, Convoy is an odd entry. Known for his innovative and explicit approach to violence particularly in the Western genre, Convoy deals with a group of struggling truckers. However, by the time 1977 rolled around, Peckinpah was struggling as much as anyone. He had such a reputation as a troublemaker and addict that many felt that his once great talent had been laid to waste. Many in the cast had worked with Peckinpah before and wanted to help their director for ‘one last go-round, doing it right.’
Based on the country song of same name C.W. McCall, the film follows Martin ‘Rubber Duck’ Penwald (Kris Kristofferson) and his fellow truckers “Pig Pen” (Burt Young) and “Spider Mike”(Franklyn Ajaye), as they find themselves on the run across much of the United States from a corrupt police officer known as Dirty Lyle (Ernest Borgnine) Wallace. Rubber Duck, who owns his own business and needs to bring in a haul from across the southwest from Arizona down on into Texas, still manages to get involved with a young photographer named Melissa (Ali MacGraw) who had just wanted a ride to the airport.
As they traverse the highways, Rubber Duck and the others use their CB radio skills to communicate with each other and keep Lyle from cornering them. As news of their exploits spread across the CB airwaves, other truckers join their convoy as a show of support. Dirty Lyle is forced to bring in reinforcements throughout the southwest, in an effort to stop Rubber Duck and his convoy. Eventually, the governor of New Mexico (Seymour Cassel) is forced to get involved and agree to meet Duck. Politician that he is, the governor hopes that his meeting with Duck and endorsing his cause (whatever that is), will secure his reelection. But when Duck refuses to play along and Spider Mike gets beaten in a Texas jailhouse, all hell breaks loose.
The cinematography by Harry Stradling, Jr. (The Way We Were) is the films highpoint. Each chase is beautifully staged, huge trucks crossing endless desert landscapes, police cars crashing through billboards. Kristofferson is watchable as the charming, if reluctant hero and actually looks as though he’s shifting those gears; Ali MacGraw looks good, but her dialogue is ridiculous. Sadly, the rest of the cast is given next to nothing to do.
All that said, Convoy is nostalgic fun. Having grown up at the time when CB’s were everywhere and C.W. McCall’s song was a huge hit, watching Convoy brought back some nice memories. As a movie, it’s pure cheese and should be thought of as such. Sadly, by the time the film hit theaters, it had gone wildly over budget, effectively ending Peckinpah’s career. Peckinpah would direct one more film, The Osterman Weekend (1983), before dying at age 59, on December 28, 1984.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Kino has given Convoy a strong 1080p transfer. Color reproduction is strong and detail is impressive. While there are some small white specks that show up from time to time, print damage isn’t a major issue. Black levels are consistent throughout. There’s no evidence of DNR or edge enhancement.
The DTS-HD Mono track is solid for what it is. The clarity is striking, whether it be the dialogue, or a scene featuring roaring trucks. Background noises are also clear throughout. Levels are well balanced and there are no distortions to speak of.
There are no subtitles included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary by Film Historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons & Nick Redman: All three are Peckinpah experts and offer interesting thoughts. They discuss small details about the film, the stunts, inconsistencies, the shooting process, difficulties, and more. Well worth a listen.
- Passion & Poetry: Sam’s Trucker Movie (SD, 70:02) Taken from Mike Siegel’s documentary film Passion and Poetry: The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah, included are interviews with Kris Kristofferson, the late Ernest Borgnine, Ali MacGraw, EMI executive Michael Deeley (1977-1979), and Peckinpah biographer Garner Simmons, etc.
- US Radio Spots (SD, 2:58) Animated with color and black and white photos. Four in total.
- US TV Spot (SD, 0:59)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:38)
- Promoting Convoy Featurette (SD, 5:21) Posters, lobby cards, promo stills, magazine covers, and photographs from the U.S., Germany, Hungary, Finland, England, France, Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Australia, Thailand, and Japan.
- Three Deleted Scenes (SD, 5:33) a collection of production stills with original text descriptions from the shooting script. These stills are from scenes that did not make it into Sam Peckinpah’s final version of Convoy.
- Injokes, Friends, & Cameos (SD, 5: 44) Footage and stills highlighting various jokes and showing cameo performances by members of Sam Peckinpah’s crew.
- Trucker Notes from Norway (SD, 3:04) Anders Lofaldli, a Convoy fan from Norway, explains why the film has achieved cult status in Scandinavia.
- More Production Stills (SD, 3:05) A collection of production stills from the shooting of Convoy.