Smokey and the Bandit on Blu-ray

Monday, 20 June 2016 23:00 Written by 

Smokey and the Bandit - out now on Blu-rayA daredevil truck driver called The Bandit accepts an $80,000 challenge to illicitly haul 400 crates of beer from Texarkana to Atlanta in 28 hours. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds – “Deliverance”) opts to run interference against the police (aka smokies) whilst his buddie Snowman (country and western singer Jerry Reed – “The Waterboy”) drives the 18-wheeler. Against them stands Sheriff Buford T Justice (Jackie Gleason – The Honeymooners).

Sally Field (“Forrest Gump”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”) co-stars as a hitch-hiking bride-to-be who jilts her partner, none other than the Sheriff’s son (Mike Henry – “Soylent Green”). Naturally this adds further fuel to the lawman’s fire. As the trio tear through the U.S. they leave a trail of devastation in their wake, and a growing tail of cop cars intent on bringing their crazy endeavour to a premature end.

“Smokey and the Bandit” has lost none of its charm since it was released some 40-odd years ago. The movie’s winning formula of fast and furious car chases, mad, vehicle-crunching stunts and zany humour keep things motoring along. The characters are barely any more developed that those in Wacky Races but they are a perfect fit for the slapstick antics.

Reynolds is charming and cheeky in the leading role, Field is light and flirty, and Gleason is brilliant as the scowling, self-inflated Sheriff who thinks he is top dog. This is a film all about egos, and it is a delight to see who will win the battle of wits and speed.

The Bandit’s black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (a forerunner to KITT from Knight Rider) is also a star of the show, with looks that could kill and a throaty roar that will have most men’s knees trembling. In the league table of American muscle cars, this is a bona fide, rubber-burning classic.

First-time director Hal Needham (a stuntman by trade) went on to direct other celebrated Reynolds vehicles including “The Cannonball Run” and “Hooper”. He also performed some of the stunts in this very film. The movie was a box office sensation – not bad for a beginner!

I cannot finish without also mentioning Reed’s theme tune ‘East Bound and Down’, a wonderfully catchy, feel-good number that had me tapping my feet every time it came around.

There are no special features on the disc, and the picture quality is really very good, full of detail and depth.

“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977) is out now, courtesy of Fabulous Film Ltd. The main feature has a running time of 96 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

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