Peter’s Retro Reviews: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

September 9, 2011

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) movie posterby Peter Nielsen

Welcome to the second edition of my trucker special. I’m happy to see that many of you came back this week too. Let’s see some hands here! How many of you came for the movie? Ok! And now… How many of you came for the free cake and coffee? Aha, ok! Interesting!

The movie I’m going to review today, is one I’ve seen close to 30 times or more!! Yeah, I know, I know… But I happen to think Smokey and the Bandit is a fantastic little comedy. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. Namely a straightforward, tire-screeching comedy!

The story is simple enough. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) is approached by Big and Little Enos Burdette, who want him to haul 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, across the county line into Atlanta! In 28 hours! If he succeeds in winning the bet, they’ll pay him 80000 dollars, so of course he takes them on. Since he himself is going to drive as “blocker” in the iconic black Pontiac TransAm, he needs someone to drive the truck for him. This is where his old buddy Cledus Snow comes in.

The Snowman (Jerry Reed) and Fred

The Snowman (Jerry Reed) and Fred

The Snowman is played by the awesome and sadly missed Jerry Reed (Gator, High Ballin’). For those of you who don’t know, Jerry Reed was also a fantastic singer/songwriter and wrote the theme-song “Eastbound and Down” for Smokey and the Bandit. It went on to become a HUGE hit!

They go and get the beer, without much hassle, and on the way back, the Bandit is stopped by a girl wearing a wedding-dress. He picks her up and this is actually where their troubles begin.

The girl’s name is Carrie and is played by the lovely Sally Field (Norma Rae, Not Without My Daughter). She’s had second thoughts and is running away from a wedding, where she was to marry the son of Sheriff Buford T. Justice. He has taken this much more personal than his son and they’re now chasing after her.

Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason)

Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason)

Jackie Gleason (some of you might remember him best as Ralph Kramden on the TV-show The Honeymooners but he was also in the movie The Hustler for instance) is an absolute scene-stealer as the sheriff and almost everything coming out of his mouth is either insulting or a profanity, but always hilariously funny.

He ends up chasing after the Bandit too, in a statewide high-speed pursuit with lots of funny moments and crashing police-cars, crashing police-cars and more crashing police-cars!

Some of you are probably still thinking, yeah, but c’mon… 30 times? Ok, I’ll tell you why… This movie became an instant hit with me and my best friend at the time. We’ve known each other since we were 7 years old, so we’re going on 36 years now, and he’s still my best friend. He’s living in England now, so we don’t see each other all too often these days, maybe once or twice a year, but we talk fairly regularly.

No bridge... No problem!

No bridge… No problem!

Anyway… we made it a tradition to watch Smokey and the Bandit at least once a year and that’s the reason for the many viewings! AND… we had a blast every single time we watched it. Just watch the first scene between the Bandit and Big and Little Enos Burdette and you’ll understand why. Hilarious!

Big Enos is played by Pat McCormick (Hot Stuff) and Little Enos is played by the great singer /songwriter Paul Williams who, among other things, was responsible for the music in another favorite movie of mine… Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise from the early 70’s. He also had one of the leading roles in it.

Carrie (Sally Field) and the Bandit (Burt Reynolds)

Carrie (Sally Field) and the Bandit (Burt Reynolds)

The director of Smokey and the Bandit is Hal Needham, a former stuntman for many years. He also directed, among others, The Cannonball Run and a little western comedy called The Villain aka Cactus Jack starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve talked about that in an earlier review. Mr. Needham was an old friend of Burt Reynolds who of course plays the Bandit.

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Reynolds for many years and have seen, not all of his movies, but a whole bunch of them, that’s for sure. Deliverance, White Lightning, The Longest Yard, Gator, Sharky’s Machine, The Cannonball Run 1 & 2… Take your pick! I’m sure you’ve seen at least some of them too. I’ll most likely return to one or two of his movies further down the line, if I keep doing these reviews long enough.

That’s it for me this week! Join me next time when I talk about a movie that most of you probably think of, when I say “trucker-movies”! Yeah, that’s right! I’m talking about Sam Pekinpah’s Convoy.

So until next time my friends… “That’s a big 10-4, good buddy!”

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