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).

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