Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Bandit: Bandit's Silver Angel

Buckle Up! Or Don't, As It Were.

One last time, into the breach!

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Bandit: Bandit's Silver Angel" (Universal Television, 1994). The Bandit (Brian Bloom) is plagued by strange dreams: He's trapped in a carnival on a carousel, while an old man in a jester costume laughs at him. Just as he awakens, he's surprised by visit from his "uncle," Cyrus Hadley (Donald O'Connor), an old con man and owner of Hadley's Carnival, who wants the Bandit to take over his circus while he's off on his honeymoon with his then fiancée, "Angel."

I will admit, that Donald O'Connor is pretty entertaining for his brief appearance.

The Bandit steadfastly refuses and drops the old codger off at his circus. The very next day, a beautiful woman who identifies herself as Angel Austin (Traci Lords) shows up at Bandit and his friend Lynn's (Brian Krause) backyard barbecue to inform him that Cyrus is dead, and that he requested Bandit be present for the reading of the will.
This introduction is pretty weird, and you keep waiting for a twist (that never comes).

Intrigued by the beauty (who tells him that she and Cyrus were never an item), he shows up, only to find out that Cyrus left the circus to Angel, who immediately becomes the target of mobsters hired by Leonard Blair (Lou Criscoulo) to shakedown the carnival.
Is the villainous man with shaded threats the bad guy? You'll have to watch to find out! Just kidding: He is.

Offering to buy the carnival in order to deal with the attacks, Bandit is nearly killed by a booby trap in his car set by shady maintenance man named Martin (played by Brian Bloom's brother Scott Bloom).
Scott Bloom, shown here in blackface -- er, grease.

Meanwhile, corrupt Sheriff Buddy Clanton (David Lenthall) is going to be on a nationally syndicated cop show called "Badges," and ups his game trying to wrangle The Bandit while helping Blair continue his attacks on the circus.
He's not portrayed as hard-edged, but this is the closest the TV show comes to Jackie Gleason.

With so much coming at him from all sides, can The Bandit and Lynn save the day?

Brief background

This is the seventh and final film in the "Bandit" series, the sixth directed by series creator (and famed Hollywood stuntman) Hal Needham, and the fourth entry in the television series. It is co-written by Jay Huguely who worked on a number of famous (and infamous) television shows and feature films.

My thoughts on this movie

The film starts out… not great. At first it seems like it's going to be another slow-paced "fish out of water" story where The Bandit is taken advantage of and conned by literally every other character in the show, surviving by dumb luck and circumstance, with the occasional car crash thrown in.

Okay, there are plenty of car crashes in this movie.

But believe it or not, it actually turns itself around in the second half! In a desperate move to avoid the powers that be, the circus forms a convoy that has to drive their eighteen wheelers on backroads, precariously over a sketchy river ferry, and down some dangerous inclines, while The Bandit runs interference with the Sheriff and the criminals.
Despite the slow pace, I was intrigued with the convoy escape across the lake.

Off-roading eighteen wheelers is never a good idea.

For the most part, it works pretty well (but man, it drags getting there). This actually makes it the second best in the television series, and in my estimation the fourth best "Bandit" movie overall. It has the dynamic of the "Smokey" in the form of Sheriff Clanton and his idiot nephew deputy standing in for Buford T. Justice and Junior, which has been largely absent from the television episodes.
Pictured: Comic relief.

Deputy Junior.

Semi-safe for kids

As usual, there are no minorities represented (like, at all, thank you whitewashed 90s television *bleh*), very little swearing (the word "damn" is thrown around a few time), and very little gunplay (the mobsters take a few shots at the carnival convoy, but no one is hit). It should be okay to watch with youngsters, except for a weird sequence where The Bandit kisses Angel on the merry-go-round and features the most bloom-lit motion-smeared effects that a Video Toaster in 1994 had to offer.

Seriously, what is this?!

It's off-putting, kind of nauseating, but mercifully brief. Again, there are NO SEATBELTS AT ALL. People survive devastating car crashes without them, and there's one hilarious moment where Angel braces herself in the car by propping herself against the dash with her leg, like that would help.

Where can you watch it?

As of this writing, you can't stream it anywhere (legally) that I could find, but you can find it on the "Smokey and The Bandit: The Outlaw Collection" 7 DVD set, which is where I watched it.

Wrapping this up

So, overall, what did I think of "The Smokey and the Bandit" Series? The first one is pretty good: A solid watch. The second one is worth watching for the spectacle of it all. The third film (not directed by Hal Needham and not starring Burt Reynolds) is simply awful. The syndicated television series is mostly superfluous, but if you want to watch the best of them, watch "Bandit Bandit" or tonight's feature, otherwise they're not very good and fail to capture the energy of the first two movies.

Pure Reynolds charm. And Mustache.

I hope that you've enjoyed this look at these films. Do you have a "Smokey and The Bandit" memory? Did you enjoy these movies? Did Burt Reynolds wrong you in some way (hey, it's probable)?

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Bandit: Beauty and The Bandit

Tale As Old As Timing Belts

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Bandit: Beauty and The Bandit" (Universal Television, 1994). The Bandit (Brian Bloom) is scheduled to be Grand Marshal at a televised stock car race. Everything seems to be going great for our protagonist, for a couple of minutes of runtime before a beautiful woman named Crystal (Kathy Ireland) steals his car at gunpoint.

"Ah sed, geeve mee yur ca'ar, y'all!" "What?"

When his friend the bus driver is injured in the scuffle to chase the wayward woman, The Bandit takes over his charter bus get to the race, only to find that the charter is a group of naturists going to a wedding.
Sounds like a fun trip, to me.

Bandit then stops at the side of the road to aid what he sees as a great set of legs, only to find that it's an SUV full of nuns. The Bandit coincidentally manages to find the woman and his crashed Pontiac Trans-- I mean, Dodge Stealth (that still feels weird) being towed to a gas station.
"Daang! Ah shoodent halve drove eet en da wooods!"

Now hauling the woman, his car, and a bus full of nuns and nudists, The Bandit finds himself being pursued by mobsters led by crime boss "Lucky" Bergstrom (Tony Curtis),
"I love you, Spartacus!"

FBI Agent Thatcher (Mark Joy),
"My character is entirely superfluous!"

and angry bail bond bounty hunter Slade (Joe Cortese)!
Kirk Douglas turned the role down.

Who is the mysterious woman who has brought so much grief in such a short time, and how can The Bandit get out of his predicament?
Hint: It involves car chases.

Extra  credits

This is the third television "Bandit" film and the sixth film in the series overall. It is directed by series creator and Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham and written by David Chisholm. It has many Needham tropes, like a movie-long car chase, a dangerous aeronautic landing, and many, many characters using CB radios.

Producer: "Is this scene necessary?!" Needham: "No, but it will be expensive and put people's lives in danger!"

"Break 1-9: Do people still use CB radios in 1994? That's a big 10-4!"

Is it really that odd at this point?

This is sort of an odd entry in the series. While still having the rolling backroads "chase" style storytelling that the series is known for, it seems to be slower than the previous film in the series, "Bandit Bandit." The pursuit is more people looking for Crystal rather than chasing The Bandit who (as is typical in these television productions) is constantly being taken advantage of and is on the defensive, being saved by dumb luck and the intervention of friendly truckers.

I'm not kidding. The Bandit has almost no agency in this movie. Example: The truckers catch the villains.

Almost entirely absent from this film is the presence of a Cledus Snow or his TV counterpart Lynn (Brian Krause, who makes two brief appearances but is otherwise entirely absent). The "Snowman" sized hole is somewhat filled by "Hound Dog" (Michael W. Helms), a trucker turned Elvis Presley impersonator turned bus driver, but his presence isn't constant and really just comes in during the second half of the film.
Elvis in the "Speed" prequel.

There's no law enforcement "hot pursuit" in the entire runtime, and the sporadic appearance of the gangsters just doesn’t cause the same "white knuckle" thrills of some of the other iterations. Also, I know that she's considered a pretty woman and all, but Kathy Ireland is NOT an actress, so be prepared for that (although it is pretty entertaining to watch her deliver her lines in a terrible twang).
"Naw-uh! Aye dun gots now twang!"

In the grand scheme of things, it's still more entertaining than "Smokey and the Bandit Part III" or "Bandit Goes Country," but its middling pace and lack of chase scenes does make it less entertaining than many other "Bandit" movies.

I did like this drive over a flood control dam as a way of avoiding the bad guys, though.

Watch this one with caution

So, this is normally the part where I tell you that this TV movie has no gunplay, minorities, nudity or swearing and is okay for kids. Well…

This has the most gunplay of any "Bandit" film yet, mostly between Joe Cortese's "Slade" and Joe Inscoe's "Stanley." No one gets hit, but there are guns being fired at people multiple times. There is at least one minority represented in this movie! Sort of! Henry Cho makes an appearance as an American of Asian descent! Also, depending on the stories you may have heard, Tony Curtis is here to represent the LGBTQA+ demographic!

"No, really: I love YOU, Spartacus!"

There are nudists in much of the early movie (although it's conveniently hidden "TV nudity"). Most unexpectedly, and I'm not sure I heard all of this correctly, the word "shit" is said several times, and a woman is at one point referred to as a "bitch." This might be a DVD only thing, though. Just, be careful when watching with young children (or don't, as there's nothing too exciting here to keep them entertained).
Oddly enough, none of the mobster henchmen ever fire a shot, hurt anyone, or swear in the film -- and they're the bad guys!

Where can you watch it?

"Bandit: Beauty and The Bandit" isn't being streamed anywhere that I could find as of this writing, but you can find it on the "Smokey and The Bandit: The Outlaw Collection" DVD set, which is where I watched it, if you feel compelled to do so (but don't feel obligated).

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Bandit: Bandit Bandit

Bandit. Bandit? Who's Got The Bandit?

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Bandit: Bandit Bandit" (Universal Television, 1994). We open with a black Dodge Stealth, the license reading "BANDIT" as it tears through the countryside at high speed, drawing out the local constabulary, and in particular, hard-nosed Buford County Sheriff "Enright" (John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Smallville" fame).

It's still so weird to me that they didn't use a Pontiac Firebird.

The police chase ends predictably.

Enright soon joins the pursuit, only to lose sight of the car when it disappears in a cloud of dust. Angry and dejected over losing The Bandit, he's surprised when he finds the legendary outlaw and his black Dodge Stealth at a parking meter attempting to find change to put in.
Seems like there should be a knock knock joke here.

Enright gets the drop on The Bandit (Brian Bloom), who professes his innocence. Enright puts his quarry in jail whereupon The Bandit uses his one phone call to contact Lynn (Brian Krause), his cohort who also happens to be the son of Governor Denton (Gary Collins).
Brian Krause returns as NOT SNOWMAN.

Governor Select Comfort Bed.

The governor had hired The Bandit at the request of Lynn to deliver a prototype hydrogen peroxide-powered sports car to a press conference, but now it seems that a Bandit imposter (Gerard Christopher) has stolen The Bandit's semi truck, picked up the prototype, and disappeared.
This was the best picture of Gerard Christopher on my reel. No, I'm not going to bother to get a better one.

Lynn breaks The Bandit out of jail to figure out what happened, while one of The Bandit's fans, a waitress named Lila (Ami Dolenz) calls The Bandit to let him know that the imposter has stopped at her diner. Once the imposter Bandit starts to leave though, she tags along to observe and get clues to The Bandit.
Oddly enough, both Dolenz and Christopher starred on the original "Superboy" television show.

Now The Bandit and Lynn are in a high speed chase to get the prototype back with Sheriff Enright in hot pursuit!
Kind of refreshing, really.

Some info

As discussed in my previous review of "Bandit: Bandit Goes Country," this is a syndicated TV movie that was created in the early 90s to cash in on the "Smokey and the Bandit" intellectual property. It was directed by original "Smokey and the Bandit" director, famous Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham, and this movie actually brings back original writer Robert L. Levy, and you know what? It mostly works.

The good stuff

This episode is much better than the last one in almost every way. The story is much more cohesive (still not as tight as it could be, but more than even some theatrical releases of this franchise), and the "against the clock" plot gives the whole some urgency. There are lots of high speed car chases, aeronautical stunts, more than a few car crashes, and the novel concept of using The Bandit's infamy against him in a new way.

There's actually a rational story reason for the plane stunts.

There is a myriad of familiar faces from 70s and 80s supporting actors from both the small and silver screens, which for those of us "of a certain age" are a delight to see. To cap the whole thing, there's even a treacly sweet ending that might just hit you in the feels. Weird background things, like the county being named "Buford" (like the first name of Jackie Gleason's Texarkana County Sheriff in the first film) add flavor for those who know.

It is a bad movie, after all

Is it perfect? Ha Ha! No. Brian Bloom just isn't hitting it as "The Bandit" for me. I mean, he has that roguish energy, but The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) in the first two films was flawed yet mostly untouchable; clever and skilled, driving or weaseling his way out of any situation. Bloom's Bandit by contrast spends most of these movies on his heels, rarely in control of the situation, always on the defensive, and rarely able to think himself out of any given situation.

Even when he's in charge, he seems unsure.

I'm starting to wonder if the Bloom version isn't what Hal Needham first had in mind when he created the character, and that Burt Reynolds used his star power to make the Bandit more or less invincible (this is just me spit-balling, but never underestimate the late Burt Reynolds's ego).
"Ha ha!"

There are also far more characters in this than there needs to be, and we spend a lot of time going back and forth between different conversations, much of which seems like it could be cut from the film with little consequence.
Make sure to pay close attention to what happens to Tuttle. Nothing happens to Tuttle.

For example, comedian Richard Belzer plays "Big Bob Bentley," a radio reporter who has it in for the governor, and is here for little reason other than for Belzer to once again play a reporter like he did in "The Flash" television series.
"This is Big Bob Bentley! And now a word from our sponsor, Clearasil Medicated Pads! And mouse pads! And Tampax Pads! We have all the padding!"

To its credit, the film narrowly avoids feeling bogged down in these interactions, mostly due to the car, plane, and helicopter chases interspersed between.
Admittedly, for TV some of the stunts are pretty good, if unnecessary.

Is it safe for kids?

This being a "country western" television show from the early 90s there is no foul language, no sex, no tobacco use, no minorities (either racial or sexual), no injuries (despite no one visibly wearing a seatbelt), and only one gunshot in the entire run (aimed at a tire) although the Sheriff draws his gun and threatens characters quite a lot. It's so straight and white it probably brushes its teeth with a Clorox yardstick. If that's the kind of world you want your kids to see, then… it's fine. Look, it's pointless to look for minority representation in most television of that era, as it was basically nonexistent.

"Bandit, you ever see a... Brown person?" "No Chuck, I never have."

Where can you watch it?

I couldn’t find anywhere that is currently streaming this, and I watched this on my "Smokey and the Bandit: The Outlaw Collection" DVD set. You can probably find this fairly cheap online if you feel you need to watch it.

Oh, and in case you're curious, here's "The Car of the Future." Still waiting.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Bandit: Bandit Goes Country review

Into The Bandit-Verse

What's it about?

Tonight's nos…talgic (?) pic is… Huh. I need to check this again. Uh-huh. You know what? The universe might actually be broken. Tonight, we're looking at the FOURTH "Bandit" movie, 1994's "Bandit: Bandit Goes Country (Universal Television, 1994).

"My name is Dit. Ban-dit".

Legendary outlaw "The Bandit" (Brian Bloom), who is apparently just named "The Bandit" and has no other name like "Bo Darville" at all that is ever mentioned in the hour-and-a-half runtime, has a rendezvous in a line-dancing bar (which was the style in 1994)
Pictured: The style in 1994.

with his partner Lynn (Brian Krause from "Charmed") to arrange a business proposal: The Bandit has to run an errand in his hometown, Noname City, Southern State, USA.
Not Cledus Snow... Snow White... Whitelighter... Wait a minute...

Lynn (AKA NOT Cledus Snow, AKA NOT Snowman) has to drive Bandit's semi truck while drives his shiny new black 1994 Pontiac Tran-- I mean Dodge Stealth to… Actually, I'm not sure why they have to drive two vehicles.
Also, this unbadged Dodge Stealth seems like an odd choice for a sports car.

The Bandit isn't running interference with the law against the clock like he was in 1977's "Smokey and the Bandit," and I really don't see a narrative reason why they have to split up. Anyway, it’s a good thing that they do, because right after The Bandit picks up a hitchhiker named "Easy" (Heather Lynch) he has to perform a daring rescue of a nearly out of control airplane by landing it safely (?) on the back of his flatbed truck.
"Easy," who does... something for the plot... probably. I give up.

Impressive for a TV stunt? Sure!

Necessary or believable? Surely not!

It's a good thing he does too, because that plane is carrying Mel Tillis (played by Mel Tillis) and his manager Teach (Charles Nelson Reilly), who are against the clock to get Mel to a concert.
Laurel and Hardy, they ain't.

Bandit offers to get Mel to his plane in exchange for half of what he makes at the concert, which the uptight Teach unexpectedly agrees to. Before that, though, Bandit has to go back to his hometown to help his cousin Johnny Bruce (Christopher Atkins) to retrieve an artifact known as "The Bear," which the people from the north side of the river town have been feuding with the people from the south side of the river town for almost a century.
JB has many fingers in many pies.

Look, I'm going to do you a favor and just show you "The Bear," because otherwise you'd just be disappointed by the plot build-up.

While there, Bandit tries to rekindle his relationship with a former love, Beth (Elizabeth Berkley).
Post Jessie Spano, but pre "Showgirls."

Unfortunately for Bandit, he's vying for her affection against hulking radio DJ Jake "Big Sky" Olson (Tyler Mane), who has sworn vengeance against The Bandit for stealing Beth from him five years previous.
"I'll get you, Wolverine! I mean, Bandit!"

Can bandit sort out the problems in his home town and get the girl? Also, there's a "Romeo and Juliet" subplot for no reason.
Why have character developing stakes when you can just introduce more characters to do it for you?

Some background

This movie is too interesting to not talk about. It's not good, mind you, but interesting. As previously discussed, Hal Needham was a famous Hollywood stuntman who took to creating and directing movies in the late 70s to great and unexpected success. Why am I bringing up Hal Needham? Because he directed this strange television cash-in, and that gives it some odd legitimacy. His fingerprints are all over it: There are quite a few practical stunts, a cast featuring a few celebrity guest stars (Mel Tillis and Charles Nelson Reilly are Needham veterans), and shockingly low stakes for all the chaos on screen.

You do get to watch Tyler Mane throw people through walls for a bit.

I think that the biggest oddity is that so few people realize that it (and its sequels) exists at all. This was part of MCA/Universal's "Action Pack," a syndicated package of unrelated shows that aired on various stations and networks (along with "Hercules: The Legendary Adventures" and "Xena: Warrior Princess"), so it wasn't aired on any one national network, but usually on cable affiliates. Because it was presented as a TV movie and not a series of shows it seems to have been missed by the general populace at the time.

So many problems, so little payoff

So what are its flaws? Well, first off, Burt Reynolds is nowhere to be found. Granted, he was well past middle-aged at this point and would not have been in any condition to play a young, vibrant Bo "The Bandit" Darville. Even though there's a spark of that dashing rogue energy in Brian Bloom's performance, he lacks Reynolds's natural carefree charm. It's not entirely his fault, though: The movie's plot is unnecessarily complex and overloaded with subplots, but none of them are interesting enough on their own to be entertaining. It's so bogged down in entirely superfluous plots that it crawls at times and can be quite trying to watch. There's no Jackie Gleason "Smokey" presence in the movie giving anything a sense of urgency;

This dynamic is teased in this early scene, but never followed up.

there are FBI agents pursuing Bandit's cousin JB, but they are laughably dispatched the few times they show up and never present a credible threat.
You're looking at possibly less than five minutes of screen time in a 1.5 hour production.

The FBI car stunts aren't as goofy either.

The most urgent plot point in the film is Bandit trying to get Mel Tillis to the concert to take half the sales, but it's never even presented as pressing because the only character who seems to care is Charles Nelson Reilly's "Teach." The timeframe is also a bit muddied: Is this a prequel? A sequel? A reboot? A reimagining? We're never told. As a matter of fact, if you just called this character something other than "Bandit" you would be hard pressed to realize that it was supposed to be related to those late 70s / early 80s movies at all.
Also, these CGBs (Computer Generated Bees) are BAD.

Is it safe for kids?

This is rated TV-PG in the USA. There's no swearing, but there is gunplay - though never explicitly aimed at a human being - and some fighting, but there's no death and no bloodletting. Because this was 1994 television, there's no tobacco use, nothing even remotely controversial, not even any minorities represented (not racially, not culturally, and not sexually) which was the style at the time.

Reminder: The style in 1994.

If your kids have patience and can stand 1994 country-western "culture," it should be safe enough, and as a matter of fact is probably the only show that's still legal to watch in Florida.

Where can you watch it?

I couldn't find it streaming anywhere, and I watched it on my DVD "Smokey and the Bandit: The Outlaw Collection" set. Again, I don't know what's up with the transfer on this: While originally presented in a TV 4:3 aspect ratio, this version is stretched to 16:9, and there were no adjustments on the DVD player or Television that could resolve this. If I were running it on my computer I could use VLC Media Player to force it to scale properly, but that's just too much effort to devote to this film which I will never watch again.