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Posts Tagged ‘kris kristofferson’

Groovers Video Vault
Arizona, noon, on the seventh of June when they highballed over the pass,
Bulldog Mac with a can on back, and a Jaguar hauling ass.
He’s ten on the floor strokin’ bore, seat cover startin’ to gain,
Now beaver you a truckin with the Rubber Duck and I’m about to pull the plug on your drain.

Bulldog Mac with a can on back and a Jaguar hauling assFrom the moment Kris Kristofferson says “there ain’t many of us left” we know this is going to be a movie about changing times and a end of a era, but what should we expect, it is a Sam Peckinpah movie. John Ford was a pioneer, a pioneer in spirit and at heart and a pioneer of movies. This ideal is reflected in his movies, whatever the story, the subtext of his great westerns involved the settlement and taming of the west. Sam Peckinpah came along at a different time an era of despair and an era and a loss of innocence. While Ford’s work is a metaphor for the birth of a new nation, Peckinpah represents an established nation facing a crisis of fair and a loss of direction. It is therefore fitting that he should make a film like Convoy, a contemporary film that explore all the ideas of his westerns, in a lot of ways it is a western. It is also fitting that it should be his last significant film, and incidentally his most profitable.Convoy_film_poster

Three truckers: Martin Penwald aka Rubber Duck known as “The Duck” (Kris Kristofferson), Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye), Bobby aka Love Machine’ aka Pig Pen (Burt Young) Are lured into a speed trap by Sheriff Lyle Wallace (Ernest Borgnine) who gave them a false “Smokey report” using the CB handle ‘Cottonmouth’. Lyle considers himself independent (in other words corrupt) takes a bribe to let them off the speeding charge using the threat of locking them up awaiting trial and thus taking away their livelihood. After paying the fine the trio stop at a truck stop where Lyle tries to arrest Mike on a vagrancy charges (knowing that he has already extorted his remaining cash) . A fight breaks out between Lyle, two other cops and all the truckers in the place. Fleeing the scene along with Melissa (Ali MacGraw), a photographer looking for a lift after her car breaks down, the group head for the state line. By the time they cross the border into New Mexico the convoy has increased to fifty trucks. Before long a mile long Convoy is heading for Mexico, picking up support and attracting the attention of the police and the state governor.convoy Ali MacGraw Franklyn Ajaye Burt Young Ernest Borgnine

There have reports suggesting EMI who own had purchased the rights to the song that inspired the movie intended to make a light, comic action chase movie like Smokey and the Bandit that had just grossed over $60million. Although elements of this remained Sam Peckinpah had other ideas and crafted something more substantial, political and most importantly similar in style and substance to his westerns. It is true that the movie looses its way from time to time but on the whole it is a solid movie that is misunderstood and unfairly criticised. Made at time before internet it is a film surrounded by myth. One constantly mentioned point is that it is based on a song. That isn’t entirely true. The original version of the song does not include the plot or the characters from the film. A new version was written based on the screenplay, this is the one used in the film and played on the radio. It is true that actor and friend of the director James Coburn worked as second-unit director, it has been suggested this was favour to help him get his directors union card, however he didn’t actually direct anything after Convoy. It also isn’t clear how much of the film he actually directed when Peckinpah was “unwell” (unwell being a euphemism for his much publicised problems of the time).Convoy (USA 1978) Kris Kristofferson/ LKW, Truck, Trucker

Set at a time of rising fuel prices and the introduction of the 55mph speed limit, shortly after the Watergate scandal and the end of the Vietnam war, the film and the truckers in it represent the last bastion of American individuality and freedom in a increasingly state controlled country (and world). This is made clear in certain key scenes but is only suggested not resolved. This give viewers the opportunity to draw their own conclusions. Most people will take different things from the themes depending on what they bring to it. WARNING PLOT SPOILER COMING UP: For many The Duck’s apparent death and his ultimate survival/resurrection could just be a cop out by a filmmaker wanting a happy ending or afraid to kill his hero character. I see it more as glimmer of hope in a troubled time for the characters and what they represent. A message of hope for a nation and for the world as a whole, how far have we come from the despair of Vanishing Point (1971)? The cowboy spirit of the truck drivers has not been lost or broken, despite the hardship that the Duck and other drivers face in changing times. Furthermore the Duck’ survives because of his moral code and by surviving he defeats Lyle’s amoral code. The cowboy/truck driver being the hero and the corrupt authority figure reflects its own problems in society, but as already mentioned it was only a handful of years after the Watergate Scandal.Convoy

Beyond any meaning or subtext that may or not be there, there are two things that make the film really work. The cast and the trucks. The cast is headed by Kris Kristofferson as Rubber Duck, he was at the height of his fame as an actor having made some great films: Cisco Pike and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (also with Sam Peckinpah) Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (directed by Martin Scorseese) as well as the rubbish but popular A Star is Born. Ali MacGraw had not made a film since The Getaway (also directed by Pecckinpah) six years earlier (following her divorce from Robert Evans and marriage to Steve McQueen) but was still a bankable star. Burt Young was recognisable after the success of Rocky. The film stealing performance comes from Ernest Borgnine as Lyle Wallace, the corrupt sheriff and The Ducks nemesis. The other stars, the trucks led by the Duck’s 1977 Mack RS-712 LST (Bulldog Mack with a can on back) are a representation of the pioneer spirit “From the covered wagons and trains to the 18-wheelers that keep this country alive”. They cut there way through the landscape the way the cavalry did in John Ford westerns creating emotive imagery, and they look cool!

We could tell by the smell it was trucker’s hell And the devil was Dirty Lyle

A few final thoughts on the movie: Re-watching the movie for my Video Vault series brings back a lot of memories. I first saw the film when I was about six years old and watched it constantly as a kid, possibly more that any other movie (until I came across The Terminator and Alien at the age of twelve, but that’s another story). Growing up in England it is this movie as much as Fandango (the movie that lends it name to my blog) that made encouraged me undertake a road trip around Americas south-west. I may not watch the movie as often as I did before, but I still love it. You can’t talk about Convoy without mentioning Sam Peckinpah’s other movies. It isn’t as hard hitting as Straw Dogs (1971) or as sublime as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) but just like Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) and The Getaway (1972) it shouldn’t be dismissed. Many people reading this may have seen the movie and forgotten it, others will not have seen it. I recommend regardless of your relationship or preconceptions you give it a chance and watch it.

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Have you seen the trailer for the new Jason Statham movie Parker? Does it look familiar, do you think you have seen it somewhere before? If the answer to the second question is yes, there is a good reason, you probably have seen it before! This isn’t the first time the story has been filmed. Based on the pulp noir crime novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake (using the pseudonym Richard Stark), the plot revolves around a criminal named Parker who is betrayed and left for dead by his partner and wife, who are having an affair. Parker survives and goes on (to quote The Bride from Kill Bill) “roaring rampage of revenge”. The character went on to appear in 24 and novels and has been adapted into several movies. The new movie is the first time he has gone by his original name, Parker having previously been called: Porter, Walker, Gou Fei, Earl Macklin, McClain and Stone.

The most famous and best of the movies is Point Blank (1967) directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. With a dreamlike unrealism the movie is very much of its era from the late 60’s. essentially a noir thriller it is a product of New Hollywood with elements of neo-noir and French New Wave influences. Often a harsh and brutal film it completely revolves around its star Lee Marvin in a towering performance.

point blank

Based on the novel of the same name, The Outfit (1973) is a different story staring the Parker character (there were 24 books in total) directed by John Flynn and starring Robert Duvall, Karen Black, Joe Don Baker and Robert Ryan. A more routine and straightforward movie than Point Blank but also well worth a look.The Outfit

Loosely based on the same source novel as Point Blank, Full Contact (1992) (original title: Xia dao Gao Fei) is a Hong Kong action movie directed by Ringo Lam and starring Chow Yun-fat. A by the numbers action movie but with the grit and flair you would expect from Ringo Lam. I haven’t seen the movie for a very long time but seem to remember enjoying it.Full Contact

Released in 1999 before Mel Gibson’s well published problems Payback is a stripped down and violent but more light hearted version of the story. Directed by first time director Brian Helgeland who is better known as a screenwriter. Gibson is having a great time in the lead and is well supported by Maria Bello, William Devane, Lucy Liu and Kris Kristofferson. Not a patch on Point Blank but great fun.payback

A little research tells me the character also appeared in four other films I haven’t seen: Made in U.S.A (1966) a French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and unofficially based on the novel The Jugger. Mise à sac (1967) (also known as Pillaged and Midnight Raid) also a French film, directed by Alain Cavalier and based on the novel The Score. The Split (1968) directed by Gordon Flemyng starred Jim Brown and based on the novel The Seventh. British film Slayground (1983) is based on the novel of the same name, directed by Terry Bedford and starring Peter Coyote.The Split

Parker was released in America at the end of January and is due out her in the UK later this month. Unsurprisingly, reviews are reserved but relatively positive, Jason Statham is after all, a reliable if predicable action star. Obviously I will reserve judgment until I have seen the movie, but fear they have made one vital mistake. At just two minutes shy of two hours, it is clearly going to be too long. Point Blank is 92minutes, Full Contact 96 min and most notably, the cinema release of Payback was 100 minutes but the director’s cut (take note Peter Jackson) is 90 minutes.

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When I was a kid (from the age of around five) The Dukes of Hazzard was my favourite program on TV. It was therefore no great surprise that when as a family we got our first VCR I gravitated to a certain type of movie. I don’t know what to call it, a genre or sub genre I guess, I’m not sure if anyone has ever given it a name. Sometimes B movies, others were high grossing blockbusters. Usually featuring bootleggers, truckers and small town sheriffs and nearly always set in America’s southern states. Typically the men (it is a very male genre) are simple talking, rough tough men with rough edges but a heart in the right place. The characters often spent their time just the wrong side of the law or taking the law into their own hands. These films were all made in the 70’s and they belong in the 70’s, there have been attempts to recreate the style many times but they don’t really work in the modern era. Quentin Tarantino has given us a nod at the genre but Strangely Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson has probably come closest with the remake of Walking Tall and Faster, but you have to go back to the original movies of the 70’s to appreciate the genre.

Although it’s a 70’s genre its roots go back before that to films like the Robert Mitchum bootlegger classic Thunder Road (1958). Mainstay of 70’s cinema and the genre, Burt Reynolds stars as Bobby “Gator” McKlusky in White Lightning (1973). Reynolds plays a moonshine runner who is let out of prison to help bring down a corrupt sheriff (Ned Beatty) who was responsible for the death of his younger brother. Cars are an important part of the genre and this movie is no exception. Gator’s vehicle isn’t an exotic sport car but a working class hero, a suitably anonymous muscle car, a souped up Ford Custom 500. From the same year Last American Hero sees a young Jeff Bridges as Elroy Jackson Jr. a character based on real life moonshiner turned NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. Also from ‘73 the original Walking Tall stars Joe Don Baker and is loosely based on the life of Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser who cleans up his small town at great personal cost. Forget the remake and watch the classic original.

An underrated actor, Jan-Michael Vincent. Is probably best know in the UK for the TV show Airwolf, his first entry on this list is in White Line Fever (1975). Returning home from Vietnam and setting himself up as an independent truck driver that predates Convoy by three years. A lot of the movie is of its time, but the themes of fighting against corruption and oppression are timeless.  I started by talking about The Dukes of Hazzard, Moonrunners (1975) was actually the origin on the TV show: directed by Dukes of Hazzard creator Gy Waldron, the Balladeer (Waylon Jennings) introduces us to cousins, Grady and Bobby Lee Hagg, who run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse. A lot of the elements of the movie were toned down for the family friendly TV show but were reinstated for the (rubbish) 2005 movie. Although fictional Moonrunners was inspired by the life of bootlegger turned stock car racer Jerry Rushing. Rushing was a contemporary of and raced against Junior Johnson mentioned above. The movie is dated but worth a look for fans of the genre. I’m not aware of it ever being released on DVD and the hard to find VHS copies date from the early 80’s but you can find it streaming online with the claim it is now in the public domain.

Burt Reynolds returned in Gator (1976) a sequel to White Lightning, with a similar story to the first movie it is very much a case of more of the same, it is most notable as Reynolds first feature as a director. Continuing the theme of returning Vietnam veterans, Rolling Thunder (1977) is the story of Major Charles Rane (William Devane) a former POW who returns home to a small town in Texas. A brutal revenge drama the movie has more in common with Walking Tall than the other films on the list. It is also one of the best movies from the ever reliable William Devane and an early film role for Tommy Lee Jones.  Possibly the most well known movies of the genre Smokey and the Bandit (1977) was a huge hit and spawned two sequels and countless imitators. A lighter more fun and comic film than the others mentioned, the movie is basically one big car chase from Texas to Georgia. Reynolds may be the star of the movie but Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice has all the best lines and steels the movie from under him.

Reynolds was back again in Hooper (1978) reunited with Smokey and the Bandit director Hal Needham and co-star Sally Field. It also featured Jan-Michael Vincent. Although very different to the other movies I have mentioned in story and setting, it has the same spirit of character as many of them so I felt compelled to include it. Reynolds plays a veteran stuntman and Vincent the new up and coming rival. It is as much a story of an end of an era as it is a tribute to movie stuntmen. Very fitting as Reynolds and director Hal Needham both began their careers as stuntmen. Is Convoy (1978) an attempt to cash in on the CB radio craze of the time? Or a protest at the 55 MPH speed limit? Or even an exploration of equality or race? Its probably a combination of all three. Like Hooper above it is also the story of an end of an era, and this is the speciality of director Sam Peckinpah. Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw are perfectly cast, but the real star is Ernest Borgnine.

By the 80’s the genre was dead having become a pastiche of itself with movies like The Cannonball Run. But we still have a whole decade of movies to enjoy and to remind us the 70’s was about more than New Hollywood, Jaws and Star Wars.

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When I posted Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (ten pairs of very different movies with the same or similar titles) last year Katie from The Stories That Really Mattered commented that she “hadn’t realised there were so many movies with the same titles”! there are lots more where that came from. Here are another ten:

Convoy (1927): A silent-film set in the in the time leading up to the first world war starring Dorothy Mackaill about a New York socialite who is recruited Secret Service agent to befriend a man believed to be a spy for the Kaiser.

Convoy (1978): Sam Peckinpah’s road movie/ modern western is based on a country song of same title by C.W. McCall and stars Kris Kristofferson as an independent truck driver and Ali MacGraw as his passenger.

The Black Swan (1942): Notorious pirate Henry Morgan turned governor of Jamaica staring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara.

Black Swan (2010): Natalie Portman Oscar winning perforce as a ballet dancer on the edge in Darren Aronofsky’s physiological thriller that owns a debt t European horror movies of the 70’s.

Notorious (1946): Loosely based on the same source novel as Convoy (1927) (see above) Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant star, Alfred Hitchcock directs.

Notorious (2009): The rise and fall of rapper Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.

Shame (1968): Haven’t seen this one so my synopsis is copied from IMDB “Ingmar Bergman’s psychological study of how humans react in a situation of war. The film takes place on Gotland, where invasion forces arrives.”

Shame (2011): Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good in Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a man living with sex addiction.

Heat (1986): Burt Reynolds was for a time one of the most bankable stars in the world, this Las Vegas set mid 80’s crime thriller came shortly after that time.

Heat (1995): Focusing on two men on opposite sides of the law, Michael Mann’s crime thriller is both the directors finest hour and the last great performance (so far) from both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Crossroads (1986):Director Walter Hill’s little known gem sees classical music student (Ralph Macchio) teaming up with old bluesman Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) on a road trip to the Crossroads where Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil.

Crossroads (2002): Britney Spears vehicle about a group of friends who go on a road-trip to LA to take part in a karaoke contest. Originally dismissed as a movie for Britney fans only it is actually now more significant for an early appearance by Zoe Saldana.

Jersey Girl (1992): I had not actually heard of this Dylan McDermott, Jami Gertz romance until Mark Kermode mentioned it. I have no plans to see it!

Jersey Girl (2004): The other Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez movie! The good news it is considerably better than Gigli. It doesn’t live up to Kevin Smiths earlier films but has its moments and Liv Tyler is good.

Twilight (1998): A retired ex-cop turned private detective gets involved with a twenty year old Hollywood murder case. Worth a look for Paul Newman who is as great as ever and Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman who provide good support but the plot is a little to thin and it runs out of steam.

Twilight (2008): Catherine Hardwicke’s surprisingly good adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire yarn.

The Avengers (1998): Disastrous movie adaptation of the classic 60’s TV show.

The Avengers (2012): Due for release later this year, the origin of Marvel’s team of superheroes.

Wonderland (1999):Michael Winterbottom’s stunning social realist movie that features a stunning performance from Gina McKee.

Wonderland (2003): The true story of porn star John Holmes and the wonderland murders.

Check back soon for Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood 3

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