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A picaresque tale in which a trucker steals a truck, picks up a tramp for company and heads west. En route he encounters an array of bizarre characters including a mysterious man in black, who drives a hearse and seems to incarnate the American past.
Trucker Cooper and three accomplices stop a semi truck filled with carburetors, kill the driver, then repaint the truck and change its identification numbers. Cooper and his partner plan to drive the truck and sell off the carburetors, but Cooper, a volatile, erratic hillbilly, locks his partner in a store and flees alone. Thrilled, Cooper crows to a blowup doll sitting in the passenger seat. In Virginia, he picks up a hitchhiker, who hides his alarm at Cooper's aggressive driving. Later in a bar, Cooper strikes up a conversation with a hotheaded, mean trucker dubbed "The Duke of Interstate 40," ignoring the man's disinterest. Cooper, who passes the hours by keeping abreast of current events on radio programs, stops with the hitchhiker at a drive-in, where they watch the film without sound and discuss the existence of Jesus. Cooper states that he once tested Jesus by putting pieces of a broken clutch under his truck overnight to see if he would fix them, but in the morning, the clutch was still broken. In a hardware store farther down the highway, Cooper asks with studied nonchalance whether the owner would like 14,000 carburetors, and although his efforts are unsuccessful, the hitchhiker has negotiated with a farmer and the owner of a brick plant to transport two additional loads: pipes and chickens. Hoping not to have to leave the truck until they can unload, they steal some junk food and soda to consume along the way. While driving, Cooper coaches the hitchhiker about how to throw empty soda bottles out the window to hit targeted signs. In one town, Cooper freshens up, buys flowers and brings the hitchhiker to a trailer park to visit his wife, but finds that she has left without word. Cooper's haphazard driving frequently attracts the attention of the police, to whom the driver gives a variety of colorful excuses. In another town, Cooper visits an old flame, Donna James, and awkwardly begins making love to her. When he takes off her top, however, he sees that someone has attached a harness and leash to her, and realizing that she has become mentally incompetent, he wraps her back up tenderly. That night, Cooper, who does not want to pull off the road to sleep, begins to nod off while driving. This time, a policeman pulls him over and checks his logbook, then notes that his license plates are irregular. Even though Cooper claims to have leased the truck, the policeman instructs him to unload four tons of cargo onto the side of the road, where his cohorts can pick it up later for illegal resale. Cooper and the hitchhiker dump out some chickens and pipes and move on, unaware that they have left the truck's back door open, spilling pipe out behind them as they speed away. Later, when the truck stalls, Cooper leaves to walk back to town, after which the hitchhiker is awoken from a nap by a man wearing all black and driving a truck whose entire body and windows are painted black. Introducing himself as Johnny Mesquitero, the man diagnoses "overdriving" and fixes the engine. As he leaves, he warns the hitchhiker that they must take ten pounds of pressure off the front tires, or will risk jackknifing. When Cooper returns, he identifies Johnny as a trucker who died years earlier in a jackknife accident, who is alleged to help out drivers along the highway. At a diner that evening, Cooper learns that the police are looking for him, and when he approaches a weighing station the next day, he devises a scheme to evade having his extra cargo impounded. To that end, he enters the station screaming that his partner is drunk and trying to kill him. He tells the policemen inside to drive down the road to investigate, and when they attempt to take Cooper along, he insists that he is too afraid, forcing the police to leave him behind with an inexperienced patrolman. In the office, Cooper easily outwits the man by claiming to hear a noise outside, then knocks him out, steals his gun and runs back to the truck. He and the hitchhiker reach a detour, but Cooper ignores the signs and follows the closed road out of the state, where they celebrate their escape from the law at a roadside diner. The next day, they attend stock car races in Fontana, California. The hitchhiker asks Cooper for money with which to gamble, but Cooper refuses, then loses all his wagers. Back on the road, the hitchhiker loads a gun and levels it at Cooper, demanding his money. Unperturbed, Cooper reveals that he has only $19, as he buried his fee back in Tennessee. The hitchhiker insists on combing through Cooper's belongings, and when he climbs into the back of the truck, Cooper overpowers him and locks him in the back. Cooper drives off, stopping in a bar, where a drunken barfly drops her glass eye into her beer, winning a bet that she can look at him from the bottom of her glass. Having failed to sleep for the past eighty-four hours, Cooper veers all over the road as he drives, almost killing a couple. Finally, he parks the truck at a barn and releases the hitchhiker, who first apologizes, then attacks Cooper. Cooper punches him, unhooks the cab and drives off. Unable to sell it to a used-car salesman, Cooper leaves it behind, hitchhiking down the road.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||R||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1982||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Pangloss Productions, Inc., Biplane Cinematograph, Inc.|
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