When Overdrive (briefly) went Hollywood
Could Parkhurst afford Egan for only a couple of days? Or did something else happen – perhaps illness, perhaps a dispute of some kind — after Egan had filmed only a few scenes, leaving the writer-director to make do with his in-the-can Egan footage the way Ed Wood Jr. made do with his footage of the deceased Bela Lugosi when filming iPlan Nine from Outer Space? Whatever the reason, the true stars of the movie from here on are Napier and Liston, whom we’re about to meet as a hired tough guy called only “>the Farmer.”
“What about my old friend Sam Blue?” Napier asks the executive in the warehouse. “This is his production. I just inherited the starring role.” True enough!
The executive helps Napier load his cargo. That should make Napier suspicious right there. CEOs don’t do the work of lumpers without ulterior motives. The executive immediately strips off his shirt, which makes us wonder what those ulterior motives are. The Farmer strips off his shirt, too, and the three sweaty men bond through physical exertion. Napier and Liston even keep their shirts off to drive the Mack back to the truck stop.
What follows is a confrontation between the truckers and a motorcycle gang that plays like a very slow-moving precursor to a later hit trucking movie, Clint Eastwood’s iEvery Which Way But Loose. Come to think of it, trucker Jerry Reed has his own dustup with a motorcycle gang in iSmokey and the Bandit. Truckers and motorcyclists must have been seen as natural enemies in 1970s pop culture, groups that would assault one another on sight, like the rival gangs in iWest Side Story.
The members of the gang ride up and wait for the Farmer to react by deliberately removing his jacket. The Farmer punches out No. 69, but the rest of the gang seems not to care. They keep staring. Then they go for the Farmer one at a time, in time-honored Hollywood fashion, because if they went for him all at once – as iMad magazine explained, decades ago – they’d beat the hell out of him.
“They was about to make me mad,” Liston says. This is one of the best lines in the movie, but it’s said while the Farmer’s back is turned, perhaps because the line was dubbed in later.
The Mack has 200,000 miles and is “just getting broken in,” Napier says. He also explains the CB radio to Liston. Soon no one in the United States would need to have the principles of citizens band explained to them.
The most passionate and engaging scene in the movie has Napier seething with resentment while he’s being shaken down by sleazy ICC agents, whom he calls “a bunch of pigs that sweat beer.” This confrontation has much more energy than the previous scene with the motorcycle gang. It suggests the scenes between the Norman tax collectors and the Saxon peasants in iThe Adventures of Robin Hood.
“I paid more than 4,000 bucks last year in highway taxes!” Napier says.
“Smile, buddy,” the ICC agent replies. “Next time it’ll be more.”
We presume these are meant to be Interstate Commerce Commission agents, but they are referred to in the dialogue and the closing credits not as ICC but ACC. Was there an ACC in the early 1970s that was widely hated by truckers? (Not the Atlantic Coast Conference, surely.) Since iOverdrive the magazine pulled no punches in its vitriolic condemnation of the ICC, why would this iOverdrive movie fudge the regulatory agency’s name?
The trucks pass the Lordsburg city limits, which reminds the Western-movie fan of iStagecoach.
“I don’t dig all this mumbo-jumbo jazz,” Napier tells his mysterious contact. Yes, it was the 1970s.
A little boy in a cowboy suit pulls a cap pistol on Napier. One theme of this movie seems to be that truckers are robbed all day long.
Note that unlike truckers today, Napier has to place all his phone calls from coin-operated booths and receive all his messages at truck-stop bulletin boards. Cell phones, laptops and Qualcomm have changed all that.