Smokey and the Bandit


‘…deluxe comfort food, an easy-going, hard-driving confection that hits the spot when undemanding fare is required…’

So, what’s at stake in Smokey and the Bandit? Pretty much nothing, to be honest; a bet about whether some beer can be transported illegally over state lines. So let’s be honest and say that this disarmingly ramshackle Burt Reynolds vehicle by Hal Needham is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures; a film about nothing but a cool car, some rousing country tunes, and, as Sherriff Buford T Justice accurately says, ‘a complete lack of respect for the law.’

But let’s look closer; if you’ve only seen Smokey and the Bandit on tv, then you’ve not really seen the film; it’s usually cut for content and language, and the widescreen photography is usually diminished by the brutal pan and scan that mainstream broadcasting seems to demand. In it’s original form, this is a fresh, outdoorsy tall-tale of good ole-boys, with plenty of knowing gags for the peanut gallery, notably when Bandit breaks the fourth wall to smirk into the camera as another daft copper heads off the wrong way.

The plot is simple; Bandit is a rogue who takes a bet, and sets out in his Pontiac Trans-Am to help a truck-load of Coors get to a festival booze-up in Atlanta. Things are complicated by the arrival of Carrie (Sally Field), a damsel in distress who is escaping from a shot-gun wedding, and their flirtatious sniping is interspersed with the antics of Texas lawman Justice (Jackie Gleeson) and his bumptious attempts to assert himself on his intransigent minions.

Smokey and the Bandit picks up where Reynolds’ good old boy persona left off in White Lightning and Gator, with charm, action and lots of irreverence. It’s easy to see why Alfred Hitchcock liked this film; the colours are lush and beguiling, the comedy is accessible if crude, and the car stunts are varied crowd-pleasers, although the circus music jars. And while Reynolds’ charisma would curdle in subsequent outings, which doubled down on corn-poke humour, this broken-bridge car-jump lands on the right side of amusing here, with Field an able foil.

Smokey and the Bandit is deluxe comfort food, an easy-going, hard-driving confection that hits the spot when undemanding fare is required. Why Bandit would feel it appropriate to drive dangerously through a packed college football match and bleachers just in the cause of a winning personal bet makes no sense really; like Frog learns sometimes you just have to sit back and go with the flow.


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    • It is, whatever it’s faults are, one that’s worth going back to; the same elements curdled over several other films, but the original feels fresh and uncontrived. That’s what makes it a genre classic!

  1. One of the films that carried on a strange phenomena of outlaw Burt and the law enforcement we love to hate. Spawning a whole very popular and awful television series: The Dukes of Hazzard (for years and years).

    • And I promise you, no-one loves a flying car more than me, but you have to sit through a lot of corn-poke shenanigans in Smokey and Dukes to get to it…Yeee haaaa!

  2. Have to admit, I’ve never understood the appeal of Sally Field. Maybe if I was an artsy type that could look into the details of acting, then I’d care. But I’m not and so I don’t 😉

    • Sally Field is for the artsy crowd to be sure, films like this are so high-brow that the mass audience simply cannot understand…

          • totally artsy yet realistic at the same time. made me realize that maybe I do have an artistic soul hidden deep inside, as that scene really spoke to me about the war between man and machine. Who is in control, physics, gravity and the laws of nature, or Man?

            did you change anything in your comments section recently? I can’t comment from the wordpress notification area and that just started this morning. I can comment just fine directly from your site. I’ll play around once I get back from work and see if it is just your site or wp-wide.

            • I just checked and I can leave comments on other wordpress sites through the notification area, so it’s something about your site and how the wp notification thingy works.

              • Nope it’s not, I had to come to your site to leave a comment too, it’s a WP glitch and think has something to do with having a self hosting site as I’m having the same problem on another site, but not most.

                • Aha, so you can’t just reply? Hmm….I guess having to visit sites isn’t the end of the world, I usually do that anyway…

                    • If only I had someone who engaged me in 50 message conversations, this might put Bookstooge’s gas at a peep…

                    • I’m looking at my site, which is obviously the best, and there’s reply buttons on this end…

                      Putting your gas at a peep is like, em, letting the air out of their balloon? Maybe a local thing…

                    • Well that’s a ridiculous saying, must be an American thing. Translated into proper English it would read putting your petrol to sleep. Bonkers.

                    • the ability to “reply” seems to disappear around the 7th level. I see a “reply” to Fraggles “clart” comment, but everything after that? No reply button.

                      And yes, this will definitely put the brakes on quick commenting. Maybe it’s those wretched akismet people trying to force my hand on how I comment.

            • Might do an arthouse review of RED, good shout! Not aware of any changes to the comments, will investigate this end…

      • That’s right, I think she was struggling to shake off her tv training. The Flying Nun too, I seem to remember, although it’s before my time…

  3. Those were different times. Right? Now it’s a relief to watch silly stuff. (p.s.- thank you so much for the comment on my blog. You are so nice!)

    • No problem, and yes, I have a stack of silly films to break the mood after some of the heavy ones!

  4. Hey, here’s a surprise! Another comedy (well okay, technically not only a comedy but still) I enjoyed! 😀 Honestly don’t know if I’ve only seen the tv version or also the complete package. But well, either way I enjoyed it! 😀

  5. Hal Needham certainly found a profitable niche his first time out. I guess this was the best of many others just like it, but I made some notes on it earlier this year and it’s not a movie I think I’ll ever watch again.

    • This was a good watch for me, because the tv version really misses a lot out. Too many jabs at old policemen and not enough car was how I used to feel, but I’m mellowing now to the whole package…

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