What happens when you combine alcohol bootlegging, high speed pursuits, innuendo, bar brawls, a basset hound and one flustered small town sheriff?
You get a slice of retro goodness, all wrapped in one slick package of well timed comedy and enough one-liners to start a meme-farm.Smokey and the Bandit is a special film to me. It’s a bonding movie, a film that myself and my father can watch infinitely and quote lines from with precision and accuracy. It’s Americana at it’s finest hour, fast car chases, fighting the authority and a love story, all mashed into one 90 minute spectacle.
It’s got an easy to follow plot as well, with numerous threads, yet it never confuses. You’ve got Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed, taking on a crazy bet to bootleg some alcohol across state lines, while having to evade one tenacious lawman in the process, after Reynolds picks up a runaway bride portrayed by Sally Fields.
And while the cast shines, from Reynolds delivering his trademark charm, Reed getting revenge on a bar of bikers and Fields sugaring up the scene as the lovable Frog, it’s Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T Justice that steals the show.
Everything, everything the man does, is measured and performed with utmost perfection. The mannerisms, the style of speech, the facial expressions, they’re all dead perfect. Heck, when you can utter a line revolving around infidelity and physical assault on ones life partner while still illiciting some chuckles, then you know that you must be talented.
And as awesome as the late Jackie Gleason was in that movie, the car chases and HOT PEERSOOOOOTS! were even better. Director Hal Needham had some talented stuntmen on this project, as the amount of car crashes, Trans-Am chases and getaways were magically performed. And of course, Jerry Reed composing his signature trucking tune, an anthem for every driver who signs off with “10/4 good buddy”, Eastbound and down.
Smokey and the Bandit was a big hit at the box office in the summer of 1977, becoming the fourth highest grossing film of that year, with the original Star Wars leading the pack. It inspired a fantastic sequel that added the late Dom Deluise to the cast, a third film that shall not be mentioned, and an obscure, short-lived TV show.
And it’s also the reason with why I’m obsessed with tracking down a diner that serves diablo sandwiches when I’m in a gorram hurry.