Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Smokey and the Bandit" (March 23, 1980)

In one week from today I'll be heading down to the Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania for the 2011 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama. Click on the link to read all about it, but the short version is that the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is a two night show at one of the dwindling number of active drive-ins left. Each night features four classic drive-in horror movies and a whole slew of intermission ads, short subjects and great old trailers for the kinds of movies that would be featured at drive-ins in the 1960s and 70s. This will be my second trip to the big show (this year marks the fifth edition of the Monster-Rama). Some of the eight movies that will be run include: "The Last Man on Earth" (1964), "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (1971), "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" (1972), and "Castle of Blood" (1964).

So what does all this have to do with "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977)? Well, nothing really. I suppose that "Smokey and the Bandit" could be considered a drive-in-type of film, but it's quite different from the horror titles featured at the show. The thing is that I'm actually catching a ride down to the show with a friend who lives in New Hampshire. I live in Massachusetts and he will pick me up on the way down. This particular friend is a huge "Smokey" fan. In fact, last year he wore a "Smokey" T-shirt on the trip down to Pennsylvania (we were glad not to be pulled over). One other thing that ties "Smokey and the Bandit" to this trip is the simple fact that we're heading south. No, we're not going to be in the Deep South (like the movie), but Pennsylvania is pretty southern compared to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Maybe I'll even get a chance to have some of that contraband Coors beer (like the stuff they were hauling in the movie) over the weekend!

Mar 22-28, 1980 TV Guide with "Sheriff Lobo" on the cover

All this seems like a good enough reason to hop into the TV Guide Time Machine and head back to March 23, 1980, when "Proud as a Peacock" NBC featured the film as its Sunday Night Movie. Even though the movie was released in May of 1977, this March 1980 airing was already a repeat on network TV. Here's the the ad for the movie in the March 22-28, 1980 TV Guide (Eastern New England Edition):

Page A-44

And here's the Close Up description from a few pages later:
Page A-48
TV Guide also used to have a section that gave little reviews/previews of the most prominent movies that would be on that particular week. It was called "This Week's Movies", and here's what it had to say about "Smokey and the Bandit" (written by Judith Crist):

"Hal Needham's 1977 Smokey and the Bandit has, of course, Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed in a wonderfully carefree 1800-mile crash-bang-slammer of a gas-burning car chase, with Sheriff Jackie Gleason in hot pursuit and Jerry Reed's music for a lagniappe."

I'm not terribly familiar with the lore of "Smokey and the Bandit". In fact, I just watched it last week for possibly the first time in order to gear myself up for the upcoming road trip. I seem to recall some details of the film, but am not sure if I saw the whole movie in the past or if I just saw parts of it on TV (possibly from this very airing on NBC?). I guess that there was simply so much to watch on (pre-cable) Boston-area TV back then that I just never really saw "Smokey" enough to really get into it. It certainly is a fun flick, and it reminds me of that time in the mid- to late-70s when CB radios and trucker culture were all the rage. I'm not sure why trucking became so popular at that time. Big rigs had been hauling food and freight all over the country for decades, and they are still doing that to this very day. Perhaps the new big rigs of the 1970s were extra special in some way that really caught the public's eye. Perhaps it was just because if the popularity of CBs and the fact that truckers used them. Actually, come to think of it, I don't really know if truckers made CBs popular or if CBs made truckers popular. Perhaps it was because of movies like "Smokey and the Bandit", "Convoy" (1978), "High-Ballin'" (1978) and TV shows like "B.J. and the Bear". Whatever the reason (and I'll bet it's possible to figure it out with a little online research), trucking was indeed a big thing back then. I remember the popularity of using the lingo too: "10-4", "convoy", "Smokey", "What's your handle?" and "Keep on Truckin'...".

If you recognize this then you were probably around in the 1970s

In fact, as a young lad I even had a copy of the album (on vinyl of course) "Teddy Bear & the Great C.B. Talk and Trucker Songs". How's that for a title? I think one of my siblings bought it for me as a birthday present when I was around ten or so.

Finally, speaking of "Smokey and the Bandit" and time machines, I stumbled onto a pretty cool website while researching this blog. It's called Atlanta Time Machine, and it has some great then-and-now photos of shooting locations of movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" and shows like "The Dukes of Hazzard" (another CB and trucker culture-fueled bit of the 1970s/early 80s). I've always loved then-and-now studies, and have even attempted to do some of my own. Here's the Atlanta Time Machine's page on "Smokey and the Bandit":

This is where I "borrowed" the image of the movie poster at the top of this blog, and you can get to the then and now photos from this page.



  1. I never heard of Teddy and the CB Trucker Songs! Too funny!

  2. I inspired a blog!

    How you could have lived this long and not watched SMOKEY....your life is now one step closer to being complete.