Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Quick Look: THE CANNONBALL RUN (1981 - color) and CANNONBALL RUN II (1984 - color)

   My favorite moment with the late Sir Roger Moore. True, there were more compelling performances, but this perfectly captures the sense of self-parody humor Mr. Moore was known for. THE CANNONBALL RUN was the zenith of the cornball comedy car genre Hal Needham more or less created in the 70's, and caused box office sensation with through the highly repeatable SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. Bandit himself, Burt Reynolds, headlines an all-star cast in this slapstick road comedy based on an actual cross-country race. In fact, the souped-up ambulance is actually the vehicle Needham himself drove in the real race! Amid the Cannonballers is Roger Moore as a delusional Jewish heir who thinks he actually IS Roger Moore, and lives like James Bond! His car for the race is the Aston Martin Sean Connery's 007 drove, and it comes complete with all the gadgets. All of Needham's feel-good antics are here, from crazy stunts to cartoonish jokes to catchy theme songs. The cast is simply incredible, including the likes of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Dom DeLouise, Farrah Fawcett, Jack Elam, Jamie Farr, and more -including a young Jackie Chan. Peter Fonda has a cameo as a biker, as you might expect. Breezy comedy still offers a moment or two of genuine acting for Reynolds, who was at the time one of the biggest stars in the universe (reportedly, his salary for the film was a record-shattering five million dollars). The film was a smash hit, and the even crazier and even more star-studded CANNONBALL RUN II was short in following. Sadly, Moore wasn't in that one.

   Rest In Peace, Sir Moore. We'll never forget you.

   CANNONBALL RUN II had something like three dozen star names! It was sorta the 80's generation version of IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD in that respect. Basically it starts as an even larger version of the first film, as dozens of cars enter the Cannonball cross-country road race to win a million dollar cash prize put up by Arabian Prince Jamie Farr. Gangsters become involved and kidnap the Prince, which puts a temporary halt on the race. Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLouise, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. go undercover to rescue him! Again, fun is the order of the day, and this is basically a huge cartoon. One could never mention everybody who passes through, but the roster includes such stars as Frank Sinatra, Telly Savalas, Tim Conway, Henry Silva, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors, George Lindsey, Sid Ceaser, Fostor Brooks, Abe Vigoda, Charles Nelson Rielly, Ricardo Montalban, Jackie Chan, Richard Kiel, Marilu Henner, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Doug McClure, Jack Elam, Tony Danza, Mel Tillis, it just goes on and on! Fortunately, I was able to tape this one from one of the movie channels back when I had a dish. I've long wished there'd been a third one, and apparently there was. CANNONBALL FEVER followed a few years later but quickly slipped into obscurity. This is probably because the only returning actor from the previous two was Jamie Farr and audiences saw the franchise as a Burt Reynolds property.

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