Saturday, February 25, 2017
Director (and former stuntman) Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds had a rapport that led to several movies in the late 70's and early 80's. They first teamed together for the movie Smokey and the Bandit, which was Needham's first movie as a director, the chance being given to him by his freind, Reynolds. The pair went on to do Hooper a movie about stuntmen. It was one of the first movies to ever have a blooper reel during the end credits crawl, something that would become something of a tradition in movies of this type. (Jackie Chan, who was in the Cannonball Run movies, made this sequence a part of his movies after his experiences with that series).
Needham and Reynolds would also make the sequel Smokey and the Bandit II, as well as Stroker Ace, a comedy about a stock car racer. All of these movies are lowbrow comedies, which were a specialty of Reynolds, even without Needham at the helm in the director's chair. The two Cannonball Run movies were based on a real event. The Cannonball Run was a race run in the 70's to celebrate an historical run from coast-to-coast by the legendary Erwin "Cannonball" Baker in 1933. The race was run five times and became a sort of protest to the then current reduction of the speed limit in most areas to 55 mph, as an effort to save on fuel during the energy crisis.
This was the dual movie match up at a drive-in that I went to see back in the early 80's. It was a great time, as four of us loaded up on pizza and beer and had a ball laughing at the antics on the screen. Although I remember several of those trips to the drive-in back in the day, sometimes just by myself and sometimes with friends, this is the one I remember most fondly.
I took a different tack in this review. In the tradition of comedian Bob Newhart (who was NOT in either film, but I liked the idea), whose stand-up routine involved a one-sided telephone conversation to get his comedy across to the public, I post this one-sided conversation from a fictional scriptwriter (not the actual scriptwriter, be forewarned...) to a studio executive proposing the idea of the movie.
The Cannonball Run (1981)
Hi, Chief! I have an idea for you to make a movie. Plot? There is no plot. Really. It's just about a race across the country in cars, and the efforts of the police to stop the race.
Really. There is no plot. Stars? Well, we have Burt Reynolds as the main guy. Yeah, it's SORT of like Smokey and the Bandit, but this will involve a lot of other people trying to achieve the same goal.
That is the plot! No. I'm serious.
Well, I'm thinking we could get Dom DeLuise to play Reynold's sidekick. He will play a guy who has an alter ego that will show up at the most inopportune time, Captain Chaos.
Other characters? Well, how about Jack Elam as an unhinged doctor? Well, I'm thinking that Reynolds and DeLuise could be posing as ambulance drivers in order to avoid the police. And they get Elam on board in case they actually do get pulled over...
No, I'm not kidding. There really is no plot. Other characters? Well how about Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. as a pair of gamblers who are also trying to win the race? They'll be disguising themselves as priests... As well as Jackie Chan as another racer, driving a souped up James Bond style trick car.
More? Well, speaking of James Bond, I've got Roger Moore playing himself, an actor who has made a career out of playing a spy. He would be a parody of himself as James Bond. We could also get Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis as a couple of perpetually drunk hicks who are also entered into the race.
Cheesecake? Well, yeah, I've got a couple of chicks to run the race, too. Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman will use their sexual endowments to try to get out of any encounters with the police. And I'm also going to get Farrah Fawcett as an innocent environmentalist who will basically be kidnapped by Reynolds and DeLuise to be their patient in the ambulance. Not to mention a revolving group of Bond girls who will appear as passengers with Roger Moore. We won't explain how he keeps getting different girls, that will be part of the comedy.
No, Chief, we don't need a plot. The whole movie will just be various vignettes about the racers and their encounters with the police across the country.
I do have one particularly funny idea for one of those vignettes. I'm thinking an all-out brawl between the racers and a biker gang they encounter on the way. And get this. I'm thinking Peter Fonda as the leader of the biker gang Yeah, I know. Easy Rider and The Wild Angels star would be a fantastic addition.
Oh, yeah, I forgot. I've got an idea to cast Jamie Farr as a sheikh from an oil-rich Arab country who will be trying to win the race for the glory of Allah. There will also be Bert Convy as a millionaire who is in the race just for the thrills. He'll be riding a motorcycle with a fat guy on the back and do the whole race on a wheelie.
With all those stars you still want a plot? We'll make millions! Who needs a plot?
The Cannonball Run II (1984)
Hi, Chief! Yeah, it's me again. I have another idea for you. Remember Cannonball Run? We made millions. I told you so. I've got an idea for a sequel. Let's do it again.
Plot? Well, OK, I'll give you a plot this time. Better yet, I'll give you several plots. We'll get Jamie Farr back as the sheikh who has been commanded by his father played by Ricardo Montalban, to win the Cannonball Run. Only problem is there isn't going to be a Cannonball Run this year. So daddy tells son to buy one. They put up a million dollars for the winner, which daddy expects son to win.
Well also have Charles Nelson Reilly as the ne'er-do-well son of a Mafia don who owes big bucks to a rival Mafia guy played by Telly Savalas. With the help of some cohorts dredged from the Godfather movies (Abe Vigoda, Alex Rocco and Michael V. Gazzo, as well as Henry Silva), they plan to kidnap the sheikh and take his million, as well as hold him for ransom. The cohorts will try various bumbling attempts which are doomed to fail.
Oh, yeah, chief, we'll have plenty of guests, just like last time. I've got Martin and Davis returning, this time posing as policemen. I've got Mel Tillis teamed up with Tony Danza driving a limousine that they get from their uncle played by George Lindsey, who is a used car dealer. The limousine will be chauffeured by an orangutan. Yeah, an orangutan, like the one in the Clint Eastwood Every Which Way But Loose movie.
For cheesecake I've got Susan Anton and Barabara Bach as the drivers of a Lamborghini. I've also got Shirley Maclaine and Marilu Henner as chorus girls who convince Reynolds and DeLuise that they are nuns. Which reminds me, this time Reynolds and DeLuise will be posing as army officers. This comes in handy when they are later pulled over by a cop and manage to get out of the ticket by the convenient arrival of Jim Nabors as an army private on leave who just happens to be a relative of the cop.
I've got Jackie Chan returning in a souped up computer operated car, and Richard Kiel as his bodyguard/driver. And I've got so many cameos it'll make your head spin.
Who? Well how about Tim Conway an Don Knotts as police officers? Dub Talor and Fred Dryer as more cops? How about Arte Johnson as a deranged stunt pilot? Joe Theismann as a guy who gets hoodwinked into driving the two girls when their car breaks down? And as icing on the cake? I'll get Frank Sinatra to play himself!
I think we got a winner, Chief! I really do.
(Hope you folks enjoyed this entry. I'll be back to my regular format next time, but I enjoyed the chance to write this in this style. Have a safe trip home. And don't speed....unless you think you can get away with it... Quiggy)
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Hahaha! So, I've never had any interest in these movies before, but you've actually made them sound like the sort of thing I'd watch when I have a headcold and just want to be entertained for a couple hours. I may have to see if I can find one online next time I'm sick. I'd watch them just for all those cameos!ReplyDelete
Leave your brain at the door. But you won't need it to follow along anyway...(No plot!) Thanks for reading.Delete
Exactly the sort of escapistness I look for when I'm sick, lol!Delete
Hi Quiggy - these are very fun escapist movies - love all the star cameos.ReplyDelete
Thanks for saluting the great Burt Reynolds during his birthday month...I met him a couple times down here in South Florida and he is a really charming man and GREAT patron of the arts. Highlight - seeing Farrah Fawcett in Butterflies are Free at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in 1978, when she was filming Cannonball Run with Burt. I knew then that Farrah was more than a phenomenon, but an actress who could hold her own on the live stage.
Need to see the Cannonballs again - and need to write about my personal favorite Reynolds film, Smokey and the Bandit - Hal Needham's directing debut, again thanks to Burt!
I wasn't even aware it was Burt Reynolds' birthday. That was just a coincidence. Turns out he's just a few days younger than my father (Dad was born on Jan. 31) Thanks, Chris.Delete
Watched these way back when and had fun with them. Your pitches of them are spot on. I might have to revisit.ReplyDelete
I've only deviated twice from my usual style of writing, and both times I enjoyed the change. That idea just came to me because it kept running through my mind that there is basically no plot in the first one. Thanks for reading.Delete