Wednesday, August 24, 2016

smokey and the bandit [1977]

i find it difficult to tell younger friends the allure of the cb radio and trucker culture had on u.s. popular sensibilities in the second decade of the 21st century.  they don't believe me.  but, oh man, in the mid to late 1970s trucker culture was at its zenith.  this flick is an artifact of that particular moment.

burt reynolds stars as the eponymous bandit, a notorious, rather famous, trucker who takes a bet.  if he can transport 400 cases of coors beer from texas to georgia in 28 hours bandit will win $80,000.00.  bandit recruits is buddy snowman, played by country singer jerry reed, to help him in the haul.  snowman will drive the rig and bandit will drive a black transam as a 'blocker'.  in their travels bandit picks up a runaway bride, carrie, played by sally field, reynolds' then girlfriend.  oh, carrie's thwarted future father-in-law, buford t. justice, played by the great jackie gleason, is in hot pursuit of the bandit.

that's it.  lots of car chases and lots of one-liners by gleason.  stuntman hal needham directed this flick with the elan of a state fair demolition derby.  but there is a bit more to this pic i find interesting.  it's not the good ol' boy mystique, or the country music, or the acrobatic car chases, or the chemistry between field, reynolds, reed and gleason; it is the language of the cb.  this movie is an adventure in language.  you almost need a glossary to parse the trucker lingo.  the principals are talking to each other in cb jargon as much as they are behind the wheels of their vehicles.

i don't know if truckers still use words like 'smokey' [police officer] or 'what's your twenty' [what is your location] today.  there is a radio station on satellite radio, road dog trucking, i listen to once and again.  the culture of the trucker didn't die, it is still here.  but the radio programs don't use the language celebrated by the actors in this movie.  i guess that doesn't matter because we have this pic as an artifact of its era.


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