(1970, GB, 100 min) Dir Joseph P Pritchard. Cast Harry H Corbett, Hans Pickert, Melanie Marie.
It’s no Convoy and despite its jokey title it’s no comedy either – the title was pasted on by the producers who also furnished the film with posters that suited both their new title and leading man’s Steptoe persona but didn’t spend any money in recutting the film, perhaps surmising that no amount of editing could transform what they had into something more amusing. It’s hard to disagree with them on that point though they seem to have missed the gem of a film they had too. Corbett – a Shakespearian actor once dubbed “the English Marlon Brando” but forever typecast by Steptoe & Son – plays the transcontinental lorry driver Oliver Brady, a man who lives in the perpetual grip of existential woe writ large across his doleful features. No matter that he traverses epic vistas in the shape of the snow-capped Alps, the vast Bavarian forests and so on, his face betrays no joy in any of this splendour. It seems his only relief is in people watching at the various truck stops along the way, particularly the prostitutes that work the drivers but don’t talk to him. It seems as though at some point something’s might give… A quiet, low-key film that shares its namesakes documentary realism and Corbett’s a fine lead too, effortlessly suggesting the great depths of feeling that run inside this lonely man. Unfortunately the film was unloved by comedy fans for not being a comedy and serious film aficionados were put off by how it was presented. Both sides lost out on a true classic.