There was a time in America when TRUCKS, TRUCKERS and C.B. RADIOS were a pop culture phenomenon. The professional truck driver’s life style was the inspiration for many songs, movies, T.V. shows and even a famous bumper sticker that informed us all to “Keep on Truckin’…”. It was a strange time of Shlitz beer drinking, cap wearing, chew spittin’, good ole boys who drove their big rigs hard and loved their women even harder. They were men of principals and they formed a brotherhood that had a code of ethics and language all of it’s own. Therefore a new genre of film called TRUXPLOITATION emerged that glamorized these blue collar road warriors in films like the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT trilogy, CONVOY (based on the hit country song) and let’s not forget the B.J. AND THE BEAR television series (as well as it’s spin-off SHERIFF LOBO). After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of American commerce, so it only seems fitting to celebrate this glorious bygone era of trucker-worship with an all-day movie TRUCKATHON, right? And whom better to host such an event than midnight movie cult leader Phil Blankenship and the nerd sanctuary that is the New Beverly Cinema, right? That’s a big 10-4 good buddy!
Phil handed out a list of trucker terms with translations included and in between the films we were treated to several truxploitation movie trailers that included, HIGH BALLIN’ (starring Jerry Reed and Peter Fonda), BREAKER, BREAKER (starring a clean shaven Chuck Norris in one of his earliest roles), CONVOY (Kris Kristofferson), CONVOY BUSTERS (an Italian action film involving trucks), a French trailer for Steven Spielberg’s DUEL, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT 1 AND 2, and RACE WITH THE DEVIL.
The first film up was a wacky little sex comedy from 1978 called C.B. HUSTLERS. The very “skimpy” plot had something to do with three big breasted hookers who service passing truckers from a C.B. equipped van on the side of the road in some redneck town. Practically every scene in the movie had a naked girl in it. The hookers and the truckers team up to outwit the local police that are out to “bust” them. OH!
The second movie of the day was a little gem from our old friends at CANNON FILMS called THUNDER RUN from 1986. The movie was a little like SORCERER if William Friedkin was missing a chromosome or two. Forrest (F TROOP) Tucker is offered 500,000 dollars to drive a big rig full of plutonium to a secret military base in an effort to flush out a dangerous gang of coed, multicultural terrorists that drive Volkswagen beetles armed with roof-rockets. If he can make it through the desert in one piece, he’s still got to deactivate the laser tunnel at the entrance of the army base or he’ll be incinerated. The fate of the free world in the hands of Forrest Tucker? Holy shit!
The third film was the working class hero epic WHITE LINE FEVER which is the NORMA RAE of trucking movies! Jan Michael Vincent is Carrol Jo Hummer, a simple young man who is living the American dream as an owner/operator of his very own big rig. But when he refuses to run illegal contraband, he’s blacklisted and forced to go to extremes to support his pregnant, beer guzzling wife. With shotgun in hand, Carrol Jo bucks the corrupt system and drives his big rig through a giant corporate sign! Yee-hah!
ROAD GAMES was the fourth movie on the schedule and my favorite movie of the night. Stacy Keach plays an American truck driver working the highways of the Australian outback who picks up a pretty young hitchiker played by Jamie Lee Curtis. In a plot borrowed heavily from Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, the two track a psychotic killer who is murdering young ladies on the road. The killer is played by none other than the infamous Aussie daredevil stuntman GRANT PAGE and the film features several awesome car stunts including one that involves two trucks, an anchor and a boat. This is a really cool movie with a tight script and terrific chemistry between the two leads, Keach and Curtis.
The final movie of the evening was 1998’s BLACK DOG, starring the late Patrick Swayze as an ex-con who needs to make some fast money in order to save his family home. He accepts a job for 10,000 dollars from a guy named Red (Meatloaf) to haul a rig to Atlanta, but the load he’s carrying is full of illegal weapons and he’s been set up. Swayze has to deal with the F.B.I., hijackers led by Meatloaf and the legend of the black dog itself, in order to save his happy home. This was a highly energetic way to end the marathon and a nice tribute to Patrick Swayze.
The TRUCKATHON was a long haul but I really enjoyed the ride. Once again, The New Beverly Cinema dropped the hammer down and kept the Smokeys off our backs. Until next time, keep your pedal to the medal and stay out of those bear traps, good buddy!