Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Smokey and the Bandit - Car Chases and an Attractive Sally Field

I'm no gearhead, but having a degree in mechanical engineering, I have a great appreciation for cars. They are magnificent machines that many people depend on everyday. And if they are featured right, a car can become the star of a film. Examples include the Dodge Challengers in Death Proof and Vanishing Point. And from my review today, the Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit takes the audience for a fun and wild ride.

Smokey and the Bandit was directed by Hal Needham in 1978. Bandit (played by Burt Reynolds) takes a bet that he can haul 400 cases of beer from Texas to Georgia in 28 hours. If he is caught, he'll be arrested because it's illegal to "bootleg" beer east of the Mississippi river. To complete the job, Bandit gets his buddy Snowman to haul the semi-truck of beer while he distracts the authorities with hi speedy Pontiac Trans Am. However, the major conflict lies with Frog (played by Sally Field) who was to be married to the son of Texas Sheriff Smokey (played by Jackie Gleason). Since the runaway bride was picked up on the side of the road by Bandit, Smokey is giving everything he's got to prevent the bootlegging team from getting away.

Whenever I heard of Smokey and the Bandit, I always avoided the film because it sounded like a boring redneck film. However after watching (looking for Carsploitation films), I enjoyed this film very much. It's an exciting movie that has real stunts with real vehicles. Cars are racing on the road, going off-track in the woods, jumping bridges, and being chased the entire movie. Smokey's police car is pretty much scrap metal by the end of the film. Maybe not a lot of substance to the film, but it's cool to see fast cars and demolition.

This movie also has a neat aspect of showing the camaraderie between truckers. They have a language of their own as they communicate across CB radios. Bandit's network will do anything for him, whether it's the truckers preventing police from passing or hiring ladies to keep the sheriff occupied.

Smokey and the Bandit has a lasting appeal. From now on, if I see it playing on TBS, I'll turn it on and definitely watch it. It has comical dialogue, fast-paced action, and a very catchy theme song that gets stuck in your head (Country Western song "East Bound and Down" by Jerry Reed). And Sally Field looks great in this film with her denim pants. I may have considered her in my Top Five if I was 25 years old in 1978.

So on Death List Five, Smokey and the Bandit ranks #4.

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