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Breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck!

The phrase, "Breaker one-nine, this here's the Rubber Duck!" must surely be one of the most famous movie lines of all time. It's hard to believe the famous film, Convoy, celebrating the Citizens' Band radio and trucking craze of the 1970s, is 40 years old this week.

Convoy

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, it was released in 28th June 1978. Convoy followed on from the success of earlier trucker films, such as White Line Fever in 1975 and Smokey and the Bandit in 1977. The idea for Convoy came from the quirky song of the same name - a country and western hit, released in 1975 by CW McCall and Chip Davis.

The song reflected the popularity of CB radio and was number one in both the US country and western and the pop charts. In the country chart, it held the top spot for six weeks and it was also number one in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It reached number two in the UK and Ireland.

 

Plot and characters

The plot of the film revolves around a truck driver called Martin Penwald, whose CB moniker is Rubber Duck. Driving through the Arizona Desert, Penwald (played by Kris Kristofferson) encounters fellow truckers Love Machine (Burt Young) and Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye).

En route, they have a run-in with the sheriff, "Dirty Lyle" Wallace (Ernest Borgnine) who tricks them into incurring speeding fines of $50 each.

Rubber Duck also meets Melissa (Ali McGraw) - a woman on her way to a job interview in Dallas, who gets stuck at a "greasy spoon" truck stop without transport. The scene looks set for a romance between the unlikely duo.

Further down the road, Spider Mike is wrongfully arrested by the sheriff on a trumped-up charge of vagrancy, after he leaves the convoy to go to his wife when she goes into labour. Rubber Duck heads off to bail him out of jail in Texas, communicating with other truckers along the way via CB radio. Soon, he has a convoy of truckers following him on his mission.

 

Final showdown

The mission ends up in a massive showdown after the truckers destroy half the town to spring Spider Mike from jail. Things get worse after Melissa accidentally causes Rubber Duck to veer across the road in front of Wallace's truck. The ensuing accident wrecks a billboard and a barn, causing escaped chickens to flap about everywhere, adding to the general chaos.

Wallace chases the convoy across two states, with Rubber Duck picking up more truck drivers on the way. They end up in a stand-off, at the United States-Mexico border. Rubber Duck plummets over a bridge after Wallace begins firing a machine gun, causing a tanker to explode.

The other truck drivers honk their horns, presuming their leader has plunged to his doom, while Melissa arrives on the scene too late and thinks she has lost Rubber Duck forever. How could he possibly survive such a horrific accident?

 

Box office

Convoy was a big hit and made a fortune at the box office. It cost $12 million to make and raked in $45 million worldwide. This equates to $226 million in today's money, taking inflation into account.

After the film was released, screenwriter BW Norton wrote a novel to re-tell the story. However, it was much darker than the film, and with less humour. There was a marked hatred between Rubber Duck and Wallace in the book, rather than the Dukes of Hazzard-style rivalry of the film.

Published in 1978, it made a few changes to the plot, including Rubber Duck and Wallace having a fight with each other. Melissa was also given a background story in the book. In 2015, Convoy was released on DVD and Blu-ray.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Convoy, a special Rubber Duck car ornament, in various colours and finishes, has been manufactured to fix to the bonnet. Rather than a sleek jaguar, or a Ferrari-style horse, it's a quirky kind of caricature that resembles Donald Duck! There's also a special pink duck, which is being sold in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness.

Here at Coruba, we don't manufacture rubber ducks - but we do make a whole range of other rubber products. We are a leading UK provider of high-quality rubber products and rubber safety matting for various applications and sectors. For enquiries, please call 01702 560194.



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