Toward the end of the 1970s – a decade in which he would output work like Straw Dogs, The Getaway, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – Sam Peckinpah would make a trucker movie. Not just any trucker movie though, this would be a trucker movie that was based on a song and would feature a lead character named Rubber Duck. That movie would be Convoy and it would be awesome.
Convoy is not one of the more celebrated works of Peckinpah’s career, and perhaps unfairly so. It’s certainly not as groundbreaking as The Wild Bunch, as revered as Straw Dogs or as contested as Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, yet it is 100% Peckinpah through and through. Playing out like more of a drive-in B-movie than a testosterone fueled ode to yesteryear, Convoy almost feels like a comedy and, to be fair, it is pretty damned funny at times – provided that you can accept humor in your slow motion bar fights. It showcases a Peckinpah that is undoubtedly tamed from the decade prior – nearly ten years pass between the release of The Wild Bunch and the release of Convoy as well as one that is at the top of his form. Plus, it’s a trucker movie!
Trucker movies were a strange sub-genre of 70s action cinema and don’t really get the due they deserve now – even if 90s movies like Black Dog and Breakdown tried to bring them back. Titles like Duel, White Line Fever, High-Ballin’, and Breaker! Breaker! are all different sorts of wonderful and tread the line between road movie and more rough cut action cinema than you’d expect. Convoy fits into that sub-genre rather well, with an emphasis more on the truckers (and trucks) themselves than the action. And it works!
The story of Convoy is pretty simple – it does cite a song as its source material, after all – and predominantly concerns the efforts of Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson) to evade the law in his trucker rig following a slow motion bar fight gone wrong. His “protest” gains traction and he is eventually joined by dozens of truckers and their rigs on the open road with law enforcement in pursuit. It’s basically one big trucker chase film for 110 minutes and it rarely lets up. This isn’t as personal of a story as Peckinpah traditionally told, but it works really well. The machismo is front and center, as one would expect, and the trucks may serve as a not-so-subtle metaphor for whatever it is that you want them to. Regardless, this is one of the filmmaker’s more flat out fun pieces and has been unfairly overlooked in favor of more ‘serious’ films from his career. Stop overlooking this one and join the convoy.
Kino have presented this on Blu-ray in a 1080p transfer that looks very solid. Blacks are deep and colors are reproduced nicely, with a fine layer of film grain consistent throughout. I see no evidence of DNR and I can’t imagine this looking much better than it does here. The only audio track is in the form of a DTS-HD 1.0 track and it fares just as well as the video does. Being a mono track, you may have to crank your sound up quite a bit to properly hear the mix but it’s very well balanced and should please fans.
The extras on this release are the real treasure. Honestly, I didn’t see this coming. Kino are very hard to predict when it comes to supplements but when they’re provided they’re usually excellent and that’s how it goes here. First up is a commentary by a few film historians that shed some light on the history of the film, Peckinpah and all sorts of trivia and banter. It’s a fun listen and highly anecdotal. The real gem here is a 73 minute long doc titled The Passion and The Poetry: Sam’s Trucker Movie. This is actually part of a bigger film – the 2005 The Passion and The Poetry: The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah – but its inclusion here is very, very welcome. It features tons of interviews with people involved in the film, including cast and is just a really enjoyable watch all around. After that, we get three smaller features: Promoting Convoy, Three Lost Scenes, and In-Jokes, Friends, Cameos. They’re all pretty self explanatory as to what they’re going to be but all three are worth a watch with Three Lost Scenes being the most interesting – and vital – of the features, they all add up to about 20 minutes of content. After ALL of that, we still get a ton of promotional materials and a 3 minute video from a Convoy super-fan saying why the movie is great. An awesome package all around.
Convoy may not get the same attention as other Peckinpah films but that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve to. Kino have put out a fantastic release of the film with a great transfer and a treasure trove of supplements for Peckinpah fans. This is one of my favorite releases of the year so far and I can’t recommend it highly enough.