A couple of drivers, Bandit and Snowman, undertake to transport a truckload of contraband beer from Texarkana to Atlanta in 48 hours. The scheme is simple: while the Bandit distracts the police, the Snowman calmly drives the truck after him. At the same time, the Sheriff of Buford Justice decides at all costs to catch the Bandit, since his son’s bride ran away from the wedding and got into the car with the Bandit …
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The massive box office success of Smokey and the Bandit in 1977 came as a pleasant surprise to all the people who created it. Nobody took Hal Needham seriously at that time – well, what big studio would finance the film of some former stuntman, especially since the project hardly even matched a ‘B’ category film? Moreover, the producers did not attract Jerry Reed, who was supposed to play the Bandit, and indeed the very idea of ââa comedy ‘road movie’ did not really warm the wallets of the movie moguls in the 70s. It is safe to say that if the script had not been caught by Bert Reynolds, one of the most iconic films of the era might not have been.
Reynolds worked with Needham back in the 1950s, when both were only stuntmen and uncredited extras. When Reynolds, who by that time was already a very famous actor and guarantor of box office success, read the script of a friend and himself proposed his candidacy for the role of the Bandit, Needham felt more confident and finally managed to agree on the filming of the film at Universal. It seems to me that after the release of the film, those who rejected Needham’s stupid script did not just bite their elbows, they ate them to the core! In 1977, ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ took second place at the box office, and if you consider that the first was ‘Star Wars’, from which America was absolutely delighted, we can say that the share of Needham, Reynolds and others fell the real triumph! The film, staged as a stunt ‘road comedy’, devoid of any thoughts at all, unpretentious and stupid, became one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time, received an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, ‘started’ the careers of all its participants from half a turn, gave Needham was a long-term ticket to big cinema, and became a real nationwide darling. And when the first pirate cassettes appeared in the Soviet Union, Smokey and the Bandit became the favorites of our public as well.
The film literally charmed the viewer. I think there was some magic here, otherwise how to explain that such an ordinary film took such places of honor? or did the audience just miss the days of ‘Air Adventures’, ‘Big Races’ and ‘This Crazy World’?
Of course, there was some magic in it. First, the magic of the plot – the viewer loves not being fooled and feels smarter than the filmmakers. Needham did not go far in search of a plot. The viewer loves westerns and, having transplanted typical western heroes on steel horses, he shot a typical western, where an unfair but principled sheriff is chasing across America for a charming and noble cowboy who turned out to be ‘outlaw’ and his no less pleasant friends.
There is magic in the style of the film as well. After all, this is an exemplary entertainment cinema – a formula developed long before Needham, but successfully used by him. Someone is chasing someone non-stop. The main thing is not to let the viewer come to his senses, the main thing is that everything spins, flew, darts from its place, rushes and spins. So that the viewer’s eyes do not have time to switch to some other object, and the brain – so that it does not turn on at all. So that a stupid joke thrown in time would cause a wild rzhach, because it would sound at the most inopportune time for her. And the effect of the ‘big races’ works in full: well, who cares about the numerous blunders with the ‘unkillable car’, plot holes and characters of the heroes, when the action does not let go for a second? Needham stumbled upon a gold mine with this style: it turned out that in America in the late 70s, the viewer just wanted to turn off the brain and enjoy the sports-adventure ‘running around the couch’. The director Needham is weak, but apparently he was a good stuntman, and he memorized the effect of a properly staged and put on time trick, like a prayer. Actually, then he did not particularly want to go to some dramatic distances, preferring to shoot an endless series of the same stupid, but completely funny and very successful ‘racing’ comedies, including the sequels of ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and another cult for everything times – ‘Cannonball Race’, etc.
Bert Reynolds after ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ for the next five years became the most popular actor in Hollywood. True, the new surge of viewers’ interest in this charming and charismatic Bandit – the dream of women and role models for men – quickly ended. The bandit began to move from film to film practically unchanged, but since nothing new appeared in Reynolds’s game, and the image itself was superficial, far from the brilliant characters created, for example, by Lemmon and Curtis, over time, the aged Reynolds lost all ironically the indifferent zest that so attracted people in this image, and ceased to be in demand. Probably fortunately, because new heroes were waiting for him.
But in the role of the Bandit, he is good: he has enough cocky recklessness, self-irony, narcissism, visual appeal and ‘quality’ to become a hero of a generation. He looks great in a snarling Pontiac, next to a beautiful girl, as wicked and reckless as himself, rushing to the next witty adventures with a bunch of enemies on her tail under a swanky country.
Probably only the Blues Brothers aroused more unhealthy police interest in their personas than the Bandit and his friends. Having stirred up the police of all states, the Bandit made himself only one blood and irreconcilable – principled – enemy. He was played by Jackie Gleason, an elderly actor who, after the film, also unexpectedly became in demand for himself, and, moreover, in the main roles. Although his role is more functional – the persecutor should not come to the fore, but Gleason was extremely funny in the role of the sheriff of pre-retirement age, who in principle did not want to miss the resourceful guy who, strangely enough, did not want to go to jail!
The role of the beauty Sally Field is even more functional: a typical beauty for the main character’s romantic infatuation. But it was Sally who got the film’s ‘acting’ laurels. Hmm, why would that be? Maybe because she played Reynolds in a skirt? Or was she just damn pretty and boyishly charming? In any case, she was not superfluous.
In general, modern directors have something to learn from ‘Smokey and the Bandit’, because the film has been loved and watched for so many years, although in all respects it is a one-day movie. And their multi-stage blockbusters with action, stars, special effects and all the power of the technical Hollywood base are forgotten 3 minutes after watching. Thus, ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ is the most adequate and primitively charming transfer of the culture of car racing and frank stuntmen to the movie screen in the canvas of an adventure comedy. An entertaining, funny, cool box office show for all fans to ride with the breeze.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (73.3 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: DTS 2.0
French: DTS 2.0
English SDH, French, Spanish.