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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Chase > Smokey & The Bandit (HD-DVD)

Smokey & The Bandit (HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: B-



Before destroying his career, stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham delivered Burt Reynolds biggest hit with the first 1977 Smokey & The Bandit that was only behind Star Wars and maybe Close Encounters as the biggest film of the year.  Thanks to Easy Rider, revisionist Westerns and Bullitt, a cycle of southern bandit/chase films (and eventually TV shows) surfaced and would even bring the CB Radio craze along with them.  The first A-movie expression of this was the classic chase sequence in Louisiana in the Guy Hamilton James bond film Live & Let Die (reviewed elsewhere on this site) back in 1973, but Smokey made a whole feature film of it and it is still a very popular back catalog title enough to be issued this soon on HD-DVD.


Simply put, Reynolds is Bo Darville, the smilin’ devilish “bandit” who is out to drive everyone crazy from Carrie (Sally Field), to the strict local Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) to any town he plows his Trans-Am through.  Can he get 400 cases of beer from Texarkana to Atlanta in just over a day’s time for big money?  Even if it means wrecking ever car and building in his way, he is going to give it his best and Justice is going to do everything to stop him.


Looking at the film today, it is not much, but the fact that it is full of energy and a well-rounded chase film that is more consistent than most commercial slop we get now is a plus for the film.  It is not the best such film and it celebrates its mindlessness, but we have seen worse (like its sequels, especially the infamous third Smokey film) and fans will be happy to see it looking better here than on regular DVDs of the past.  Jerry Reed, Paul Williams and Pat McCormick also star.


The 1080p VC-1 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image has its moments, but the print here suggests that the film’s original camera negative needs to be checked.  This is Bobby Byrne’s first Director of Photography feature film job and besides lensing more Reynolds hits, lensed Paul Schrader’s Blue Collar, Sixteen Candles and Bull Durham.  That the film was good looking and a cut above the many B-movies that preceded it is a big reason for its blockbuster status.  The film was originally monophonic, but that sound is stretched to Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, tough it might as well be simple stereo.  Like the HD-DVD of Bullitt, this deserves a better sound upgrade.  Extras include a making of featurette and featurette on the CB craze, which are the only extras on the Special Edition DVD.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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