Smokey & The Bandit: The Complete Collection.
Directed by Hal Needham/Dick Lowry.
Starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, Mike Henry, Colleen Camp, Dom DeLuise, Macon McCalman, Michael Mann, George Reynolds.
Box set featuring all three car chase movies remastered on Blu-ray, courtesy of Fabulous Films.
Thanks to Fabulous Films you can now relive those rainy bank holidays of the 1980s with this box set of good ol’ boy charm and crazy car stunts that is the Smokey & The Bandit trilogy, fully restored and available as a box set or individually.
In the first movie, legendary driver The Bandit (Burt Reynolds – Deliverance/Boogie Nights) accepts a challenge from shady businessmen Big Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick – Scrooged) and his son Little Enos (Paul Williams – The Muppet Movie) that he cannot illegally transport a truckload of beer from Texas to Atlanta within 28 hours. Recruiting his trucker buddy Cledus (Jerry Reed – Bat*21) to drive the truck while he acts as a blocker in a brand new Trans Am supplied by the Enos’s, The Bandit soon becomes the target of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason – The Hustler) and his dimwit son Junior (Mike Henry – The Longest Yard) as they try to take The Bandit down before he can win his bet.
A huge box office success in 1977 (despite having to compete with a little sci-fi movie named Star Wars that seemed to prove quite popular), a sequel came along in 1980 and saw The Bandit again taking a job from Big Enos, this time giving him three days to transport a crate containing an elephant to the Republican Party Conference in Dallas. Needless to say, this gets the attention of Buford T. Justice and the race is back on as Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed and Sally Field reprise their roles from the first film and take on the might of Buford and his two brothers (also played by Gleason). Smokey & The Bandit Part 3 followed in 1983 and saw the Enos’s offer Buford T. Justice a bet that he can’t drive across country promoting their new fish & chips business with a huge plastic fish on his car. Justice accepts the bet but the Enos’s try every trick in the book to thwart him, going so far as to hire Cledus to dress up as The Bandit to pursue him and make sure he loses.
Of the three movies it is the original that sticks in the memory the most. Burt Reynolds is at his charming, comedic best as The Bandit, always outwitting Buford T. Justice and keeping one step ahead of the game, and Jackie Gleason is phenomenal as the stoic Sheriff, especially with his put-downs to Junior. The success of the original film came at a time when the southern USA seemed to be in vogue, with bands like The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd bringing southern rock to the masses and movies like Deliverance and the more mainstream Live & Let Die giving audiences a glimpse of how things are down south; one could even argue that Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the Bond movies is a more slapstick forerunner for Buford T. Justice. It also helped that the movies featured fantastic car chases and stunts (performed by real people in real cars) that would go on to influence a host of other movies and TV shows, such as The Dukes of Hazzard and The Cannonball Run.
Smokey & The Bandit II is also fun but not to the same degree, with the bulk of the main cast returning and the plot (if you can call it that) a little more structured than it was before, which makes some of the jokes fall a little flat. However, by the time of the third movie Burt Reynolds was taking a back seat and Sally Field had dropped out completely, which left the romantic elements to one side in favour of broad gags. It is still fun to watch, and Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason and Mike Henry are as amusing as they always were, but the ideas seems a bit tired and the film rehashes a lot of the jokes and set pieces from the previous two movies, making the smaller budget and change of director a little more obvious. However, Reynolds does appear for a brief cameo at the very end, bringing the story full circle at least.
In terms of picture quality, all three movies look decent without being amazing but they’re not big special effects showcases anyway so what you get is a cleaned-up picture with bright reds, yellows and greens standing out and sharp edges on most of the images. There is grain present on all three films that occasionally gets a bit more obvious, the first film in particular having some inconsistent specks here and there, but the difference between the Blu-rays and any previous DVD releases is noticeable. The DTS-HD Master audio tracks are clear but not punchy enough to really bring the most dramatic moments to life, although the soundtrack songs sound great and accentuate the action when need be.
Overall, this collection is a fun nostalgia trip if you saw the movies back in the day and all three films make for perfect lazy afternoon entertainment. Unfortunately there are no special features for any of the films so if you are taken in by the charms of Burt Reynolds and the comic presence of Jackie Gleason there is nothing extra to get stuck into but otherwise these are decent editions of light-hearted action comedies the likes of which don’t get made nowadays. Luckily, after 30-plus years these films still raise a smile so they don’t really have to.
Smokey & The Bandit – Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Smokey & The Bandit II – Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★
Smokey & The Bandit III – Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★