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.

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