Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
|Year Of Production||1977|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Hal Needham|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
This film, bad as it is, is something of a classic. It came out shortly after I got my driving licence, so I remember it well. In fact, this film and Mad Max both came out whilst I held my first driving licence - it was therefore surprising that I didn't have more accidents with influences like those, but enough of that.
Smokey and the Bandit was released at the height of the boom in CB radios. The US had passed a law that limited top speed on their freeways to 55mph (that's roughly 90 km/h). The theory was that this would reduce fuel consumption, because this was also the time of the "oil crisis". It didn't work. What it encouraged was a disrespect and a disregard for the law. People used CB radios to determine where the police were manning speed traps, and avoided them. People travelling over the speed limit were heroes - modern-day Robin Hoods. And it resulted in films like this one.
The Bandit is a truck driver called Bo Darville (Burt Reynolds). He is renowned as an excellent driver, and one who is not averse to bending or breaking the law. He is approached by Big Enos and Little Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams, respectively), a father and son who are extremely rich. He is offered the price of a semitrailer (OK, in the US they call them 18 wheelers, but I'll use the Australian name) to run a small errand for them. They want some beer, and they think he's the man to fetch it for them. Naturally, there's a catch or two. For a start, they want him to go there and back in 28 hours (never been done before); given that the trip is 900 miles each way that's an average of just under 65 mph, not allowing any rest stops - looks like he might have to speed a bit. And, just to make things interesting, the beer they want is Coors, which cannot legally be hauled east of Texas (counts as bootlegging, a vestige of the Prohibition era). The Bandit can't resist both the money and the challenge. He acknowledges that it won't be a simple run, so he plans to have his friend Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed - who does much of the singing, too) - CB handle Snowman - drive the truck, while he drives a TransAm to distract any law enforcement officers they encounter on the way. A simple plan, but good enough.
They make the run to Texarkana (a small town inside Texas - the closest place with Coors beer) without significant incident, but things get more interesting on the way back. The Bandit picks up a bride (a young Sally Field) who was standing beside a defunct car, and they start to be pursued by a tenacious sheriff: Buford T Justice (Jackie Gleason), accompanied by his hapless son Junior (Mike Henry). The chase is on.
Some of the elements of this film are dated now - the flared jeans are obvious (can you imagine a truckie in flares today?), as is the slang they use so heavily to indicate their familiarity with the CB milieu. Other elements are timeless - the flagrant disrespect for the law, and the way so many people are willing to help someone who they regard as "doing no harm". And I did rather like Cledus' interaction with a bunch of bikies.
In short, this film has aged better than I'd have expected. It is still funny, and you can see where other films have been influenced by it - do you remember a certain James Bond film which featured an overweight red-neck sheriff? (He even appeared in the following movie). I'm sure he was inspired by Jackie Gleason's Smokey. Don't take this film too seriously - it is not high art - but it's fun.
This film is presented on DVD in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced, as you'd expect with that aspect ratio. I'm fairly sure that this is a pan-and-scan effort, and it works OK, but I really do wish they had given us the unadulterated widescreen image - some of the panoramic shots would have looked so much better.
The picture is not bad - a bit soft on everything that isn't a real close-up - but it is pleasing enough. Shadow detail is adequate. There are moments with very little shadow detail, mostly in bright sunlight, and there's only traces of low-level noise, most of which could equally be grain.
Colour is quite good, if just a touch faded. Burt Reynolds' shirt, which I remember as bright red, comes out as having been washed a few more times. This is awfully common in films from this era, and may be more attributable to the film stock than to the transfer. The sky is a bit too bright on occasions - I wonder if they were trying to compensate for the faded colours by running the brightness a little high during the transfer?
The picture is not completely clean, but it's better than I'd have expected. There are some small film artefacts (flecks mostly, with the occasional scratch), there are touches of aliasing (truck grilles, mostly), and a bit of grain. There's some background shimmer - I suspect that could have been reduced if they hadn't compressed the video stream as much as they did (they wanted to fit it onto a single layer). There's a strange optical effect at 23:40, but it is momentary.
There are subtitles in seven languages (the same seven languages as all the other recent Universal DVD quickie releases); I checked the English for the Hearing Impaired: they are accurate, well-timed, and easy to read.
The disc is single-sided and single-layered. No layer change, which is always nice, but I think it implied a need to compress the video a little more than would have been desirable.
There are only two soundtracks, in English and German, both Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I only listened to the English soundtrack.
The dialogue is easy to understand, even with the extensive use of slang and CB jargon, and the heavy accents of many of the characters. There are no visible audio sync problems. There's what looks like an ADR slip at around 27:39 - 27:40.
The score by Bill Justis and Jerry Reed, with country songs by Dick Feller sung by Jerry Reed is pleasant and perfectly suited to the movie. The songs liven up the driving scenes.
With this soundtrack, there's nothing for the surrounds or subwoofer - not a problem, because the movie works just fine in mono.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is static and silent.
This trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. It does not have good video quality. There's what looks like a tape dropout at 1:32 - it causes a band of noise across the frame that's about one tenth the height of the frame - quite ugly.
The Region 1 version of this disc is widescreen, but not 16x9 enhanced. Even so, I'd rate that as better than a 1.33:1 transfer. Neither disc is going to win any awards.
Smokey And The Bandit is an entertaining movie, presented somewhat poorly on DVD.
The video quality is a bit soft and grainy.
The audio quality is adequate.
The extra is rudimentary.
|DVD||Arcam DV88, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|