27 October 2013

Remembering Smokey and the Bandit

A lot of death in the news today. A lot of people are obviously clamouring about Lou Reed. I must say I know very little about him, or his music. It's OK, I guess, but I never really got into it. Some are mentioning Marcia Wallace. Now her work I do know, though the person behind it not so much. I'm a huge fan of The Simpsons. It's a tragic loss for the show.

But far fewer, I think, in my circles at least, are mentioning Hal Needham.

Now, I must admit, I know even less about this guy than Reed. Without context I wouldn't have recognised the name or paid it any attention. Apparently he was a prolific stuntman back in the day. But he was also a director. Back in the 70s he directed a little film called Smokey and the Bandit.

And man, it's been ages since I saw that movie. But I remember loving it, way back when.

While ostensibly set in the real world, I always felt it was kind of a fantasy movie. It seemed to build this magical world all of its own, a world of cool truckers and their cool radio handles and chatter and moving, living, spontaneous communities. (I don't know how much of it is based on actual trucker life in that era, but I expect it must be greatly exaggerated and romanticised.)

It is a movie of good, simple fun. A real, honest-to-goodness romp.

It's a movie about cars and driving. Several of the movies Needham directed seem to be about cars. I'm honestly not a car person. I don't have a driver's license. I've never had any interest in driving. (Well, not since I was a little kid, anyway.) So it seems pretty weird how some car movies just capture the imagination and pull you along for a thrilling ride.

I can't really think of a fitting ending to this post, so I'll just say goodnight. I'd raise a beer to the Bandit, and Mr Needham, if I had one. But I don't.

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