Friday, February 27, 2009

Ticket for the Wind

In the previous two posts, I talked about my adolescent experiences seeing both Smokey and the Bandit and Smokey and the Bandit II. For me, these movies fall into that strange category of films where they are so bad, they are good. However, I still thought they could have been better than they were. Not so much the first one, but the sequel definitely could have easily been improved with a more sensible plot and a faster tempo. I really didn't think the studio would risk a third installment after the embarrassment of the second, but the studio and Jackie Gleason were not ready to let go of the franchise just yet.

After seeing the horrible Cannonball Run in the summer of '81, I swore I would never see another one of these movies ever again. My resolve was only strengthened when I read that the third installment of the Smokey saga would feature Jackie Gleason in both roles and be called Smokey IS the Bandit. I couldn't get my mind around how this would work. Was Buford going to get knocked on the head and suddenly think he was the Bandit? If so, who would be chasing him as the sheriff? My mind boggled, but I still had no thought of seeing it, at least not in the theatre. Later, in the spring of '83, I read that the test audiences hated the dual-role idea and the studio was hastily shooting new footage to remake the movie in time for a summer release. It finally came out as Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 in late summer (why it was "Part 3" and not "III" is unclear). The bad-movie lover in me was tempted to see how they cobbled this mess together, but the only theatre showing it in my area was a dirty little dump that actually became a porn theatre later that same year. I took a pass.

The following summer, Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 popped up on cable, so I watched it. I was surprised that I didn't dislike it as much as I thought I would. At least they did remember to fill the movie with lots of high speed car stunts, and they kept the story hopping at a rapid clip (at only 85 minutes running time, they had no choice). In the revised version, a retired Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) decides to take a challenge from Big Enos and Little Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams) because he is bored. To hedge their bet, they enlist Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) to pretend to be the Bandit and generally get in Buford's way. The Enos boys also create diversions of their own, including trying to blow Buford and his son to bits with explosives. Why these two would want to become murderers to protect their bet is not explained.

While watching the hijinks, I'm always distracted by the thought of how the movie looked in its original form. During the car stunts involving the Trans Am, you can see that the person in the driver's seat is made up to look like a fat, older version of the Bandit, in keeping with the original premise of Jackie Gleason playing both parts. The fact that Jerry Reed has to wear a bad fake moustache to look vaguely like the Bandit is also disconcerting. Although the movie has a disconnected feel no doubt created by the large amount of reshooting, the old and new footage meshes better than you would expect and you sometimes believe that Gleason and Reed may have actually been on the same set at the same time. Nevertheless, this movie is cringe-worthy in countless ways.

Burt Reynolds makes a cameo at the end which is utterly nonsensical, but I think the producers wanted to somehow make up for the Burt-lessness of the previous 80 or so minutes of the movie. It doesn't help. Just when you are feeling completely depressed for watching this travesty, the ending credits roll with a song from former Kingston Trio head John Stewart titled, "Ticket for the Wind." Although it's a great song, the downbeat quality is completely inappropriate for a farcical comedy. Think "Tom Dooley" with an 80s electronic beat. You can listen to it here.

I remember getting to this part of the movie and just feeling so sorry for the entire cast. They actually tried to be entertaining, but ended up embarrassing themselves. Around this time, Gleason seemed to be embarrassing himself on a regular basis with such films as The Toy and The Sting II. Somehow, his reputation remained unsullied, though. I guess people loved The Honeymooners so much, they could forgive him.

I can't leave this final segment on the Smokey and the Bandit saga without mentioning the dubbing. While in the first two installments they used character actor Henry Corden to overdub Gleason's voice in certain scenes, for the third installment, they couldn't even get his services. In Part 3, some scenes feature overdubs by someone who doesn't sound even remotely like Gleason. It's kinda like the sound engineer just went into the studio and took a crack at it. Although unintentional, it's the funniest thing in the movie.


Doug said...

I have looked for this song for some 25 plus years. Your comments on Smokey and The Bandit 3 were priceless. However, the thing I question is your age. Smokey 1 and 2 AND Cannonball Run were huge movies and classics on HBO in the early days of cable. They were on every day.

Jackie Gleason was not tarnished by those films...hell..even The Toy was a hit film and on cable as well. Were they gems? No. But have since become cult classics.

Outside of The Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason had his own show out of Miami Beach that was HUGE.

I am only 35 yrs of age and a native south Floridian and Jackie was a huge presence down there.

Anyway, I really appreciate you posting the John Stewart song Ticket For The Wind...the soundtrack can't be found anywhere at all and I was stunned to come across it in your post.

I didn't like Smokey 3 at all when I saw it but as a kid the end with the credits rolling over Jackie Gleason saluting frozen on the screen it was indeed the end of the Smokey franchise and the song has such a somber tone but a cutting edge drum beat and keyboard background it made you feel sad that it was an end to the entire genre of those days period.

Thanks for the review and song!
You rock!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Doug. The movies made by Jackie Gleason in the last decade of his life might have left this blogger feeling largely unimpressed, but they made an indelible impression on audiences at the time and have continued to do so in their repeat airings since.

Smokey And The Bandit was a movie franchise that lost its way and fell victim to sequelitis...shock, horror!! It wasn't the first, won't be the last (that's for sure) and was far from the worst example of that kind.

Doug said he was 35 and from south Florida. I'm 34 and located much further south - Australia. I also enjoyed Jackie Gleason's movies in the 80's and remember being shattered by the news of his death in '87 when I first entered high school.

By my own admission, Smokey And The Bandit Part 3 was quite lame and featured a threadbare plot. I also felt Burt's cameo made no sense but accepted it for what it was and didn't obsess over it.
I agree that the John Stewart closing theme was incongrous, but I'm glad it was. It was only out of place when the movie was new and people had just watched a new comedy. In the fullness of time, the poignancy was perfectly appropriate. I too was dazzled by Gleason's frozen salute and the desolate lyrics ("your days are getting thin"). It became one of those movie memories that stays with you for life. The type of meaningful impression that moviemakers are no longer capable of orchestrating.


Matthias said...

Ganz ganz toll !
super song !
wunderschön !
vielen dank !

Anonymous said...

Like the guy who commented on the blog at this site, I have been looking for this strange, dark, closing theme (that definitely portended the future for both Jackie and his charactor Buford J.) to S & The Bandit 3 for years! I figured I had to be the only one that liked it in the world! Well done, and thanks!

rennschnecke said...

yeah , i searched for 20 years,
one of the best songs ever, but
no one knows

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for this song for my entire life - every bit of it. And today I found it. However, I want to donload it. How can I. Can someone instruct:

Eric Harvey said...

This is an excellent take on SATB3. My father used to have a body shop in Opa-locka where they stored the milk truck for a bit. When Camp is doing the TV commercial, you can see Golda's Cypress Lounge when Reed stops for her. This was a haunt for my father as well as the Jackpot on NW 7th Ave.

Here's a neat article about that area from an old MIAMI NEWS. If it takes you to the front page, go to page 25.

"7th Avenue" by Joe Modzelewski

Again, good call on the song (which you're perfectly right about-downbeat, haunting and for me, almost apologetic for the movie. It really has a late Cash vibe if anything). The movie ages well if only because packs more hands-on stunt thrills than CGI could ever produce.

Eric Harvey
Serious Exploitation

Brian said...

I just watched SATB3 in high-def on Cinemax about a month ago. It's probably been about 20 years since I last saw it. But everyone else is exactly right, I couldn't imagine how overtook with melancholy and grief I was as I watched the end credits roll staring at Jackie frozen in salute with this amazing song playing over the crawl. I've listened to this song non-stop now since I found your site last month and have become obsessed with SATB3.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for making this song available! I've enjoyed reading the previous posts and agree.

I'm 34 right now and remember my dad watching the SATB trilogy all the time back when I was a kid (he was a Burt Reynolds fan).

Even though SATB3 was a pretty weak movie, I clearly remember, even as a kid, the end credits with this song playing. Even then, I remember thinking how sad I felt watching and listening to it.

This song at the end of the movie always stuck with me throughout my life and was the reason I just searched on the internet to find the song over 25 years later!

As previous posts mention, the end song didn't go well with the movie. I'm not sure what else to say. The song makes me sad but at least it takes me back to a place when I was a kid, my dad was still alive, and we'd sit on the couch and watch SATB movies.

Thanks again for posting the song. I know it might sound odd, but it means a lot to me. -Lee