Better Than a Ten-200

In retrospect, Smokey and the Bandit is the south’s version of The Blues Brothers, two films about outrunning the law in ridiculous ways, but each with their own distinct cultural values. For Smokey and the Bandit, it’s about booze, an iconic product placement for Coors, and celebrating a sense of wanton, reckless freedom.

Exaggerated in the cleverest of ways, this redneck cinematic folk art turns Burt Reynolds’ rebellious bootlegger into a national hero. He’s comically brash, using the road to his hilariously implausible advantage, and gaining a viral following decades before the internet coined the term. Reynolds’ Bandit stands in for the blue collar workers, acting out a dream that’s relevant to a wide swatch of the country. It’s a fantasy without dragons or magic, just raw escapism in defiance of all norms.

Smokey and the Bandit represented the ‘70s final glimpse of free-wheeling rawness

There’s a sense this way of life was slipping away. Independent truckers delivering to small towns, traveling through minuscule main street storefronts, and going up against the law to secure a payday. No seat belts, no helmets; Smokey and the Bandit doesn’t even make sense in modern times because it seems so absurdly careless, more so knowing the stunts were performed live.

Smokey and the Bandit’s cartoon sensibilities work in its favor, allowing Jackie Gleason to sustain outrage for the duration, utterly hapless as a sheriff responsible for more damage and crime than the man he’s chasing. The idea fits, watching this overweight, overpaid government official fail miserably despite the tax dollars, all in an effort to stop a night of drunken partying. How abrasively cruel in this circumstance, a perfect folly for a piece of grand escapism like this.

In 1977, Star Wars won the box office. Smokey and the Bandit came second, the two movies on opposite sides in a cinematic culture war. Where Star Wars instituted the cross-marketing era, Smokey and the Bandit represented the ‘70s final glimpse of free-wheeling rawness, and gravity-bound fantasy. Both films honed in on a need for rebels, but in entirely different context. Star Wars won a younger generation, Smokey more for the dads, granddads, and overworked middle class. One continued to thrive, the other dying out as the American way refined itself into an unrecognizable way of living. Good thing Universal gave us Smokey and the Bandit to preserve a snapshot.

Video

Universal does beautiful work for this 4K release, especially in the color. Reynold’s red shirt screams with this deep color touch. Flesh tones look perfect, and the open road scenery explodes with earth tones. Storefront signage and paint choices glow.

Touched lightly by HDR, contrast fairs well, if unspectacular, preserving Smokey and the Bandit as it was, with only a slight kick. Dense black levels do gain heft though, richer at their deepest points. The imagery has weight and dimension, easily matching anything new.

Other than edits/transitions, resolution hits a high peak. Mastered a full 4K and leaving no doubt, texture resolves facial definition galore. Shots down main streets pick up the purest, smallest touches. Even with a few grain spikes, image integrity is maintained. What Smokey and the Bandit lacks in wow factor, it matches with pristine accuracy to the source.

Audio

Atmos is a lot for this one. It starts well enough with a truck panning overhead. Then the hazy dialog kicks in, weak in definition. ADR lines carry an echo that’s unfortunate, and no clean-up can help.

Small separation pans cars or screeching tiers, the extent of what happens away from the center. Those preferring original mono don’t lose much as the mix stays generally true other than those small extensions.

Extras

A 20-minute making of begins the bonuses on both the Blu-ray and UHD. A CB tutorial reaches eight minutes. Two featurettes on Universal’s 100th anniversary and a trailer reach the end.

Smokey and the Bandit
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A piece of American cinematic folk art, Smokey and the Bandit celebrates reckless freedom, booze, and running from a law that disallows old-fashioned fun.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 39 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: