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?
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.
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)?