With Thanksgiving upon us and the holiday eating/shopping/binge-watching season looming on the not-so distant horizon, we’re getting set to host friends and family tomorrow at Ward Manor 2.0. Michi’s mom will be here, along with a pair of our dear friends whom we’ve known since first moving into the original stately Ward casa. Food is or will be everywhere, and of course we’ll be watching at least one of the games.
But, what if the games suck?
Hey, it happens. Though Thanksgiving as borne witness to no small number of thrilling or even ridiculous gridiron classics, the truth is that as often as not, the games televised on this Day of Thanks tend to be snoozers, doing little except to enable everyone’s tryptophan coma.
For that unfortunate eventuality, we have movies.
Regular followers of this space know I haves me some movies. A bunch of them, in fact. Old ones, new ones, good ones, bad ones, so bad they’re good ones, and so on. A few years ago, I participated in a guest blog over at Forgotten Flix, a site devoted to lost screen gems of yesteryear, in which we all “gave thanks” for a favorite movie that we thought should get more attention or love.
What did I write? Well, now we come to the reason for this here “ReWard” piece. As originally posted over at Forgotten Flix in November 2010:
Let’s see: it’s Thanksgiving afternoon. You’ve stuffed yourselves like Romans, and you’re struggling against the onset of your annual tryptophan coma. The football is a snoozefest, and the only other game scheduled for the day is between two teams whose only chance of going to the Super Bowl is if they get hired to sell hot dogs. What do you do? Of course, you wander over to the DVD shelf, push past all the romantic comedies and Baby Einsteins and maybe even the three Star Wars movies.
What? They made three more? Blasphemy, I say!
Anyway, you bend way down to the shelf near the floor, where “your” movies reside. Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Arnie, and maybe even Mel Gibson (before the meltdown) are represented, but who’s that? Burt Reynolds? Whoa. It looks like you’ve got a couple of his classics, but a single title stands out among all the others. It’s that one film of Burt’s which showcases the definitive battle between good and evil; that renders into sharp relief the intrinsic struggle between liberty and oppression, and offers hope that one man – along with a woman, another man and that man’s dog – can make a difference.
I refer, of course, to Smokey and the Bandit.
Okay, okay. At its core, this movie is little more than an excuse to film cars driving fast, jumping over things, and getting the crap beaten out of them. The plot is razor thin: Drive from Atlanta to Texarkana, obtain 400 cases of Coors beer – which at the time was not allowed to be sold east of the Mississippi River – and drive back in 28 hours, in order to secure an $80,000 payday. Along the way, Bo Darville (aka “the Bandit,” played by Reynolds) and Cletus Snow (“the Snowman,” as portrayed by Jerry Reed) run afoul of Texas lawman Buford T. Justice, a hilarious parody of every backwater redneck hick sheriff in the history of backwater redneck hick sheriffs and played to utter, sublime perfection by the late, great Jackie Gleason. Justice sets off in manic pursuit of the Bandit and his shiny black T-top Trans Am, and hilarity ensues…particularly when the Bandit stops just long enough to pick up a runaway bride (Carrie, aka “Frog,” played by Sally Field) who happens to be fleeing the scene after leaving Justice’s son, Junior, at the altar.
Got all that?
In and around all this heavy angst and intense character introspection (or lack thereof) are a series of high-speed chases, jumps and crashes, and trash-talking on the finest communications tool ever developed in the civilized world, the Citizen’s Band Radio. Meanwhile, Snowman, driving the rig with all the beer, is just hoping to get back in time to collect the cash. As if that’s not hard enough, he has to stop long enough to fight a motorcycle gang and hopefully get a decent cheeseburger for his dog, Fred, while waiting for his buddy the Bandit to show up, run blocker for the truck, and maybe help him avoid getting arrested. Written and directed by ace Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham, Smokey and the Bandit was to be the first of several collaborations with Reynolds, though none of them match the sheer goofy fun of this, the first and still the best duel ever between a Smokey and a Bandit.
You can read the entire selection of guest postings at Forgotten Flix by following these links:
All right then! In the spirit of what the Forgotten Flix gang set out to do, for what “forgotten flix” do you give thanks?