High Rollin’ by Jerry Reed. I don’t know why the song is called High Rollin’ and the movie is called High Ballin’. That seems like it could confuse people.
Interesting Dated References: Trucker culture and Citizen’s Band Radio in general.
Best Line: A bunch of C.B. talk; Peter Fonda in reference to his genitals and sex life: “Oh I keep the rust off.”
Social Context: Um, hitch-hiking is bad; referring to all women as “beavers” is okay. When wronged, take vengeance into your own hands, law enforcement is useless.
Summary: Okay, I know nowadays people like to look at old movies that concentrated around a certain subculture and make fun of how they talk and all that. You know, you look at the rash of hippie movies from the 60s and make fun of the way they dress, or you look at blaxploitation movies of the 70s and you can’t wait for the remastered soundtracks to come out. Well, what people forget when they do this is the films were derived from a legitimate sect of society. They were actually capturing a subculture and dumbing it down into film format. Sure, they may not have been totally accurate, but in some way, they got you up to speed with what went on in that particular movement. There are a lot of subcultures that never even get a film representation. Some just fade away and are left a memory. In the mid to late seventies there was one subculture that for some unknown reason had a huge swell in popularity: The Trucker Lifestyle Picture. Maybe truckers had some type of legitimate pull in Hollywood. Maybe at one time they were more than just guys with herpes delivering shit. Why did it catch on? There were movies, songs, fucking comedy albums about CB radio-talk, books about how to speak CB, home CB kits, people coming up with handles. It was like the 70s white-trash version of the internet.
It is on that note that I present High-Ballin’. The movie opens with a truck driver attempting to pick up a hitch-hiker (yet another oft overlooked 70s subgenre) and instead gets hijacked. Welcome to the conflict. Suddenly Peter Fonda rolls into town, conveniently an old friend of one of the truckers named Duke. Duke is played by the poor-man’s Kris Kristofferson: Jerry Reed (RIP). Like Kristofferson, Reed was in a few other Trucker Lifestyle pictures, and was a country singer in his own right. However, unlike Kristofferson, Reed appeared as himself in cartoon-form in an episode of Scooby-Doo, and, after co-starring in the first two Smokey and The Bandit films, he received the plum “bandit” role in Smokey and the Bandit 3. Lets not forget that Reed was the singer of the great “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).”
Now, in the diner where all truckers go to have meetings, we are introduced to the lone female, “Pick Up” (that’s a clever CB handle name). She proceeds to ridicule a man in a dizzying array of trucker lingo. Now the writer of the script didn’t make this shit up. There actually was (and is?) a lot of trucker rituals and lingo. For example, when the shamed man decides to fight Peter Fonda for being a “fag biker” and “wearing fag boots,” Fonda challenges him to a duel with “irons.” Exactly. I had no fucking clue what that meant either. Luckily everyone on the set did, and the group went outside and proceeded to pull out tire irons of some sort, and the men dueled with them like they were some type of sword. Of course Peter Fonda won. After several disorienting CB-talk sequences and another hijacking, Duke, Peter Fonda, and Duke’s son decide to take one last run together before Duke retires. More showboating CB-talk ensues.
Oh yeah, this is the first movie I’ve ever seen that showcases the CB as a dating service. At this point I’m so embroiled in trucker lingo and culture I realize the charm of the whole genre. These are the real people in the world. Doing the business of the country. However I was surprised to see Fonda and Duke, as expert truckers, fall for a trap in the form of what is obviously a hand painted DETOUR sign. You’d think they would realize it wasn’t government issue. Fonda and Reed have several scenes where they are drinking, and it appears that they are really drunk. I’m almost certain they are. Anyway, they escape, then I think they try to get revenge. I don’t know. Suddenly Peter Fonda and “Pick Up” shack up in a motel. While they are shacked up making love we get a cut scene of the Unionized truck company owner conspiring to put the independents like Duke and the rest of the contract drivers out of business, or force them to join up. So, yeah, then Peter Fonda is attacked at the motel and he and “Pick Up” go out for what seems to be the final showdown. But then it’s not the final showdown, it’s just the showdown where the girl gets captured. You know, I’m sure I’m not describing it right, but this isn’t really all that bad of a movie, despite Peter Fonda fighting people and breaking into warehouses in the same kind of yellow beanie snow-hat you wore all through grade school. Okay, so, yeah, the next morning Duke gets shot and Fonda makes that weird face a lot. Eventually, in true Trucker Lifestyle movie, 40 truckers convoy to the evil union boss’ headquarters and bust shit up, and Fonda has a showdown with the main bad guy. Typical happy ending.
In 30 years I’m going to watch some movie from nowadays about people meeting online and Twitter and Facebook and using the internet and smart phones and it will appear just as fucking dated, but it won’t have Peter Fonda, a bunch of cool-ass semis, and a nice country theme song.
Poster and Box Art: The poster and Beta box for High-Ballin’ feature some typical 70s action flick art. That is to say, the poster/box art attempts to sum up every little detail of the movie into one image. We get the semi, Reed and Fonda, cars falling off a semi, and a logo. The logo is rendered pretty nicely with some type of awesome hood ornament/woman’s ass thing in the middle. The box makes it look like a fun picture, which it is. Oddly enough, there’s a sheriff with a dog in the lower left corner (see above). They never make an appearance in the film, but that doesn’t really matter. Everything that you could possibly wonder from the movie is laid out for you on the cover, and that’s the essence of good 70s movie art. There’s no guess work, and no misleading.
High Ballin’ must have had a lot of studio support because it played in a bunch of countries. Of course the polish film poster is fucking awesome but has nothing to do with the film. I also found a French, Romanian and Turkish poster. Oh, and get this, in Spain the movie was marketed as Convoy II. Ridiculous.
Availability: No DVD, but used VHS seem fairly common on ebay.