Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition (Uncut) Blu-ray Review

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Even Sam Peckinpah didn’t like it.

by Casimir Harlow Sep 29, 2013 at 1:35 PM

  • Movies review


    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition (Uncut) Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray Review

    Sam Peckinpah’s penultimate movie, 1978’s Convoy, actually ended up being his biggest financial success.

    Despite this, the cast, crew – and Peckinpah himself – along with critics and audiences alike, failed to see anything particularly noteworthy about the lightweight trucker movie before, during or after the troubled production. It doesn’t feel like a Peckinpah movie, it doesn’t look like a Peckinpah movie and, whatever strand of sense he wanted to make of the pathetic script simply does not come across in the finished product. Running over-schedule and over-budget, with cocaine, alcohol and subsequent health problems stifling his art, and with long-time collaborator James Coburn drafted in to shoot half of the footage himself, the film ended up losing to the massively successful, similarly-themed 1977 flick, Smokey and the Bandit, which hit cinemas before Convoy was even completed (although not before it was due to be completed). Hell, Peckinpah was even fired midway through the editing process, and the film was recut and rescored without his approval. Watching Convoy, it feels like a lifelong Peckinpah admirer shot a fairly meaningless commercial trucker flick as a tribute to his idol, and that Peckinpah wasn’t even involved at all – and that’s almost literally what actually happened.

    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Whether or not you think Convoy deserves it, this 35th Anniversary Special Edition release leaves it looking thoroughly impressive on Blu-ray, sporting a newly-minted 1080p High Definition remaster in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. I'd be hard pushed to note anything which couldn't be viewed as a source problem (i.e. the filming lens is probably the reason why a few of the shots are framed around the edges) and so, technically, this is an excellent presentation. Detail is oftentimes surprisingly good considering the age and budget (and shape Peckinpah was in), with some well observed close-ups revealing skin texture, clothing weave, hair detail and fine object detail, whilst also taking note of what the surroundings had to offer. Edge enhancement doesn't cause any trouble, and excessive DNR doesn't seem to be an issue either, with most defects, although, if you look closely, the very opening shot has a slightly warped centre-mass. The colour scheme is well rendered and, even given the movie's vintage, this remastered presentation arguably nudges its way into demo territory.

    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition (Uncut)
    Given the movie's vintage, this remastered presentation arguably nudges its way into demo territory.

    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray Sound Quality

    The accompanying remastered DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio also does a fine job, although the inherent technical limitations leave it falling short by modern-day demo standards. Dialogue gets presented clearly and coherently - across the fronts and centre channels of course - and, indeed, most of the remainder of the material gets the same sort of limited-focus channelling but, who can really complain? The movie was recorded in mono and was never supposed to sound expansively dynamic. Effects are about what you'd expect, both from this kind of vintage, and from Peckinpah's wok in general, although here there are far fewer gunshots to ping out of your array. The score seldom suits the piece, oftentimes playing for laughs, but gets decent presentation on the track. Overall it's probably the best that the film has ever sounded.

    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray Extras

    Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition (Uncut) Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray Extras

    Despite some decent audio and truly excellent video, the highlight is actually in the extras department. The accompanying feature-length documentary is so good that they could have arguably released it as a main feature, with the movie as the supplemental feature, and the end result would have be a much more enjoyable, informative and compelling ride.

    Passion & Poetry – Sam’s Trucker Movie
    runs at over an hour in length and features contributions from all of the surviving cast and crew members who track back to their memories of the troubled production. There’s no holding back here, this is a brutally honest reflection on the shoot and on Peckinpah himself, who was on his last legs. Almost all of the cast members – in particular Kristofferson – have a tear in their eyes when they talk about the man, and with the ever-jolly Borgnine trying to keep his chin up, McGraw offering her female perspective on Sam’s very male world, and some of the crew members on board too, this is a gripping, must-see feature, much much more worthy of your time than the main film itself. They discuss every single aspect, taking us through the weeks of the shoot and into overtime, explaining where things started to go wrong, highlighting Sam’s increased Cocaine usage (he carried a razor around his neck which is visible in press stills – it’s for cutting cocaine) and the producer-edited end result. Perhaps the best elements come in the form of vying opinions of both the producer, and of Peckinpah himself, which are juxtaposed to give you an idea of how at odds they were; Peckinpah offering what feels like almost a little Commentary on the Documentary through cleverly-edited audio interview segments, relating specifically to this film of course. Don’t miss this Documentary.

    Promoting Convoy – Stills is just a montage of alternative poster designs for the film.

    Three Lost Scenes – another montage-style offering which attempts to recreate three deleted scenes for which the video footage was lost, with excerpts from the script displayed on screen, as well as stills from the scenes. Although none of them looked integral to the proceedings, it would have been nice to see them, and they appear to have been a part of Sam’s original vision for the film, before the Studios cut it to shreds.

    In-Jokes, Friends, Cameos – here we get a look at the references to other films and bit-parts for his friends and crew, like the names of the truck drivers which all relate to their previous starring roles in other films.

    More Production Stills offers up yet more stills, this time not in montage format.

    Trucker Notes from Norway does what it says on the tin, offering some more detail on the trucking company who purchased the original truck from the movie.

    US Radio Spots, TV Spot and Trailer rounds out the proceedings.

    Is Convoy - 35th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray Worth Buying

    Peckinpah: “It’s not a Sam Peckinpah film.”

    Watching Convoy, it feels like a lifelong admirer shot a fairly meaningless commercial trucker flick as a tribute to his idol, and that Peckinpah himself wasn’t even involved at all – and that’s almost literally what actually happened. Although it ended up being his most commercially successful feature, the troublesome 1978 production marked one of the last nails in the legendary filmmaker’s coffin, cocaine now tipping his already-alchohol-soaked mind over the edge once and for all, and leaving the final film a producer-cut, producer-scored, and second-unit-shot botch-job that has little of any merit – or even coherence – to it. The performances were (understandably) stifled; the action was clumsy and infrequently spectacular only as a result of on-set accidents (!!) and the story simply goes nowhere... slowly. For all his sins, and for all of their flaws, I simply love the works of Peckinpah, and even those with more fatally troubling productions still have much of merit within them. Convoy, however, doesn’t deserve to be even classed as one of his films, even at the lowest end of the scale.

    On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get excellent video presentation and a solid aural reproduction – far better than the film deserves and undoubtedly the best that the feature has ever seen. It’s the extras that really tip the balance, though, with the feature-length Documentary included alone proving to be considerably more worthy of your time than the film itself! Hell, it even features a little running Commentary from Peckinpah himself. If you’re somehow, inexplicably, a fan of the film, then this package is unquestionably must-have.

    Otherwise, the only reason you’d pick this up is if you’d seen – and owned – every single one of Peckinpah’s other films. Then maybe – just maybe – adding this to your collection would be vaguely justifiable.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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