14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Robert I. Hedges
- Published on Amazon.com
"The Convoy Collection" is a single DVD containing a trio of trucker movies from the 1970s. During that time the trucker craze was huge with CB radios and television shows like "Movin' On" proving to be exceedingly popular. During a few years a bewildering number of trucker movies were made, and some hold up better than others. This set has two that are representative of the genre, while "Concrete Cowboys" (the box incorrectly lists the title as "The Concrete Cowboy") has very little to do with trucks except for an early scene of a stolen wrecker.
"Trucker's Woman" (it is not "Trucker's Women" per the credits) is a 1975 tale of trucking set in the Carolinas starring Michael Hawkins as the hard-hitting, sweet-talking trucker Mike Kelly and Doodles Weaver as his grizzled old companion Ben Turner. The film starts with a truck swerving dangerously and eventually careening off the road, killing the driver, Jim Kelly. After the saddest funeral in recent memory, Jim's son Mike decides to take the reins and go into the family business, interrupting a brilliant college career. Unexplained are why Mike and Jim appear to be about the same age, or where Mike got his death-defying close quarter combat skills. (Defending the keg at frat parties, perhaps?) Mike doesn't believe his father's death was an accident, which sets the stage for an hour and a half of the most contrived plot of motorized mayhem this side of "The Dukes of Hazzard," largely dependent on car chases (complete with banjo music,) romance of the least likely sort ever, fisticuffs, and organized crime.
Let's not kid ourselves: the movie is not very good. It has terrible acting, extremely jumpy editing, ludicrous plotpoints, numerous blown lines, and lots of music. Really bad music. Starting with the catchy opening song "Exit 52" (the best of the production numbers,) through the onstage performances at "The Flaming Pit" which must be seen in context to be fully appreciated, the musical score (recorded in Charlotte, NC) never ceases to amaze. Director Will Zens has lots of things going on here, and while I'm sure in production meetings the plot seemed gracefully nuanced, you may disagree after seeing the final product. Mike is also quite the ladies' man, and his smooth ways with Karen (Mary Cannon) are beyond the hilarious from a contemporary perspective. The whole relationship with Karen, in fact, while key to the movie (the title is "Trucker's Woman," after all) is one of the most implausible romances in screen history (you'll see why,) and its resolution is equal in audacity. A special honorable mention goes to the wardrobe department: this film features some of the very ugliest of the ugly fashions from 1975, particularly in the plaid leisure suit department.
After snooping around, Mike and Doodles figure out that Jim was murdered by the corrupt distribution center mogul and supplier of appliances to the mob ("Tell your boss he's got a Grade A shipment of refrigerators heading his way!") Jake Fontaine (Jack Cannon, presumably Mary's father...if that is so you will appreciate the humor and irony of the casting on a whole new level) is the evil bigwig, out to stifle the dreams of the independent truckers (some of this plays like an homage to unionization) and who is ultimately responsible to the mob "up north." Co-conspirators include Frankie (Sid Rancer, easily the least convincing actor present,) and Diesel Joe (Larry Drake,) a mechanic who can do a brake job faster than anyone in history. Before it's over there is some spectacular gunplay, some amazing stunts, a brawl in the parking lot of the shipping depot, a frame-up, an undercover investigation, Karen in an alarming salmon pantsuit, romance, justice, the opening of a new freight terminal, romantic abandonment, and even a quick ditty from Doodles Weaver, whose rendition of "Eleanor Rigby" is the most surreally definitive version ever recorded. (Sadly it is not on the soundtrack, but I urge you to seek it out with all due haste.) In other words, the plot concludes pretty much like you expect it would, despite the steep probabilities against the outcomes in any realistic world.
Despite the numerous flaws in the movie, and while it's utterly predictable, it is a fun flashback to the low-budget trucker films of the 1970s; the presence of musical and thespian muse Doodles Weaver assures its place in the annals of over-the-road adventure.
Veteran character actor Charles Napier pairs up with Sonny Liston (who comes in really handy in a fistfight with bikers!) in "Moonfire Trucker" (also known as "Moonfire,") one of the most bizarrely plotted of all the trucker movies that came out of the 1970s. Director (and writer) Michael Parkhurst has a ton of subplots going on here, all revolving around a secret satellite system named "Moonfire" and nearly incomprehensible intrigue in Mexico.
The movie opens with a murder and hijacking in Mexico that starts the film off with a warning shot foreshadowing the present day better than Parkhurst could ever have predicted. The Moonfire aircraft maker sends Napier and Liston on a scavenger hunt across the desert southwest on a top secret mission related to a manned spacecraft flown by Richard Bull (who you will recognize from numerous television shows like "Mannix" and "Barnaby Jones," and in a related turn of events even "Movin' On,") and who now is a hostage in a secret Mexican facility run by a megalomaniac. This leads inevitably to the highlight of the film, a truly preposterous "when plots collide" highway rescue and forklift duel. How does all this work out? Well, you'll just have to watch the movie, but relax, it's actually strangely interesting.
The film is a B-movie trucker film from an era that was overflowing with them, but this one has such weird motivations and such an utterly wacky plot that it's enjoyable for what it is. Liston is not an actor, and Napier is none too subtle here either, but the duo is fun to watch, though frequent discussions (especially via CB radio) expose painful dialogue, though I did enjoy Napier's rant about the bloated federal bureaucracy: perhaps again Parkhurst was once again just ahead of his time. There's lots of footage of trucks on the road and vintage airplanes too, if you are so inclined to enjoy such things.
"Moonfire Trucker" is a trucker movie like no other: if you want a bit of over-the-road cheese, this is definitely on the menu.
"Concrete Cowboys" is a late 1970s murder mystery-comedy-buddy film starring Jerry Reed and Tom Selleck as two good-natured drifters having adventures of various sorts. The film begat a very short-lived spinoff TV series starring Reed, but Selleck is the clear star presence here. The film begins with some ill-advised fisticuffs, and results in the two buddies hopping a freight train to Nashville where they encounter many country music stars of the era in a variety of cameos. I was most amused by the way Ray Stevens' live act was incorporated into the film (much to Reed's extremely exaggerated amusement, particularly when Ray mentions "Fruit of the Looms,") while Barbara Mandrell and Roy Acuff get bit parts as well. Rounding out the primary cast is Morgan Fairchild in a dual role that must be seen to be believed (if you don't see this one coming you aren't paying attention,) and everyone's favorite heavy and star of "Movin' On," Claude Akins as Woody Stone, the biggest star in Nashville.
The plot is extremely farfetched and involves a case of mistaken identity, a private investigator with ulterior motives (that aren't supposed to be obvious,) a femme fatale and unrequited love subplot, and Jerry Reed in a hot tub. (To be fair, Tom Selleck is there too.) If you look closely you can see many significant Nashville locations, which are kind of fun to spot. The film has an unfocused feel at some points as it tries to walk a line between a serious life-and-death drama and a lighthearted buddy film. The dialogue underscores this dichotomy, with Reed getting most of the prize lines ("My stomach feels like a gas factory!") Even the villains get amusing names, e.g. a gangster named Mr. Hatcheck (Joseph Burke) who is the evil casino owner, and whose role in the plot does little but pad the running time.
The plot is easily deduced in the first third of the film, and actually plays more like a television show than a feature film. I won't divulge the wild plot "twists," the convoluted ending, or the theft, blackmail, and murder that make the film function on a basic level, but I will mention a couple of specific annoyances. First, the film is divided by incredibly amateurish title cards to section up the movie and let you reappraise where you are in the plot at any given time ("Chapter Six: 'Surprise at the Bone Orchard,'" which obviously foreshadows a chase in a cemetery, for instance.) Another is the use of flashbacks: they don't further the story, the tension, or the suspense in any way, but they do muddy the storytelling significantly.
The film is not unenjoyable, but understand that it is not the best work of anyone involved. Selleck and Akins come off as the best actors overall, though nobody is terrible in their roles. If you want to see Tom Selleck or Jerry Reed (who gets to sing) in their late-1970s form, this is a good bet. Likewise fans of country music will probably like seeing some of the big names onscreen, though I felt sorry for poor Roy Acuff who looks positively ill at ease in his role. The plot is neither complex nor difficult to figure out, but for a Nashville-themed comedic whodunit, this is a choice that fans will likely appreciate.
"The Convoy Collection" is certainly nothing fancy, but if you want to see some vintage trucker films from the 1970s and some interesting performances from the stars of the era, this is an affordable set that will sure to ease your case of white line fever.