When Overdrive (briefly) went Hollywood
Now we meet Napier’s character, Robert W. Morgan, who leaps from his cab brandishing a wicked-looking tire thumper. “My trailer’s light,” he says, “but my eyes are heavy.”
The downed pilot, Hawkins, has similar thoughts. “I’m very tired,” he tells the owner of the ranch he’s blundered into. “Is there a bed?”
His sinister host, Fuentes, is played Dayton Lummis, who usefully resembles John Carradine. During their conversation, Fuentes seems to crush an actual roach. Was the Humane Society present for filming?
The abrupt cut in mid-conversation – during which the director switches our attention from the pilot’s bunk to the guard standing watch outside – leaves us lacking crucial information about who the pilot is and what he’s up to. The cut also ends with the pilot lacing his boots and zipping up his jump suit while his host smokes contentedly, which could make smart-alecks in the audience wonder what exactly the two men were up to after the guard was sent away.
At the time, iOverdrive was known not only for strident advocacy on behalf of the independent trucker but for cheesecake photos of attractive women posing in, on and around big rigs. Was the young woman playing the Tucson Package Delivery receptionist in this movie one of the iOverdrive models, we wonder? She doesn’t seem to be credited at the end.
In the early 1970s, Howard Hughes was the nation’s most famous wealthy recluse, and a lot of Hughes-inspired characters cropped up in pop culture, for example Willard White (played by Jimmy Dean) in the James Bond movie iDiamonds Are Forever. Here, the Hughes stand-in is aerospace magnate Leslie Russell, the brains behind the Moonfire launch.
The unseen Russell’s second in command (played by William Wintersole) schemes with his associates (one of whom seems to be wearing Groucho Marx makeup) about how to transport the $2 million ransom for their pilot and their capsule. One asks: “How much do we tell the truck driver?”
“Truck drivers don’t ask questions,” the executive replies. “You find me the dumbest-looking truck driver you can, and we’re in business.”
As if on cue, Egan wakes up Napier: “OK, fun-lovin’, hit the deck. What did you do last night, set a record?”
Note that Napier is instantly wide awake at the prospect of earning 75 cents a mile, and that Egan’s shipper “can’t guarantee delivery without two trucks.” Is this a testament to the trustworthiness of long-haul trucks circa 1972, or of business as usual in the industry in the days before deregulation and just-in-time delivery?
Until they’re summoned, Egan tells Napier, they’ll spend their time at the truck stop doing “the same thing that every trucker spends half his life doing – waiting.” Napier ogles the waitress, who doesn’t seem to mind, although Egan seems dismayed by the exchange for some reason.
Immediately thereafter, Egan’s character gets an emergency call that summons him home – and gets Egan, apparently, completely off the set of iMoonfire, as he’s absent from the bulk of the movie. The truck-stop employee who brings this news while Napier is in the barber chair is played by the late Ira Morris, founder of the Triple T Truck Stop and a NATSO president.