Review of "The Cannonball Run (Blu-ray)"

published 04/11/2016 | Jarisleif
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Pro Comedy and cars
Cons Storyline could have been in more depth
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"It's the Cannonball"

J.J. McClure and Victor Prinzim wonder what this is all about

J.J. McClure and Victor Prinzim wonder what this is all about

The Cannonball Run (1981)


Directed by: Hal Needham

Writing Credits: Brock Yates

Produced by: Albert S. Ruddy

Genre: Action | Comedy

Length: 95 minutes

Certificate: PG

IMDb Rating: 6.1

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett


The film starts with the familiar 20th Century Fox introduction, only it is a little different here. You get a cartoon car screeching around, horns blaring, being chased by a police car. As the cop car crashes, Burt Reynolds' distinctive laugh can be heard, and the first live action scenes are shown. A magnificent black Lamborghini Countach is racing along the highway in all its glory, with its V12 engine putting out an incredible sound from its 350 horses. Ray Stevens' "Cannonball" plays in the background as the Lambo pulls up to a speed limit sign, and out gets Jill Rivers (Tara Buckman) in a skin-tight red cat suit. She sprays a red cross on the sign with an aerosol can and jumps back in the car. Hot on their heels is a Pontiac Firebird police issue car. It is a fast machine at 220bhp, but no match for the power of the Countach, even though it somehow pulls alongside it. The chase goes on until the song finishes, and this is where the film really begins. Or it does once Victor Prinzim (Dom DeLuise) appears on the scene to talk to a youthful-looking Burt Reynolds, who plays the character of J. J. McClure.

An ice cream truck! Yeah, an ice cream truck! Y'know, they gotta get there before it melts!

What do you get when you put together such film and TV characters such as the Bandit, a 007, a Charlie's Angel (the original, not the poor imitation of a remake), and two members of the Rat Pack? Well, you get a good ensemble of actors like Burt Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr., Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, and Dean Martin, that's what. The cream of the crop from the early 1980s, these actors were in huge demand back then and credit must be given to director Hal Needham who managed to get them all together. He had worked with Reynolds before in the 1977 classic, "Smokey and the Bandit", and its sequel three years later. Both films were huge successes in their own right, but I do remember preferring "The Cannonball Run" to the Smokey films. The characters and performances here are great. Roger Moore playing Roger Moore is something of a novelty, but he played the part with great conviction. The actor was still contracted in the James Bond series of films and Moore has confirmed that he promised Bond producer Cubby Broccoli that he would not film anything that would have hurt the character of 007, even though a rehashed Bond theme is present whenever Moore is on screen. Farrah Fawcett looks stunning as Pamela Glover

I am Captain Chaos! And this, this is my faithful companion, Cato. Say hello, Cato!

The film was based on the true story of a real cannonball run, which has its roots from way back in 1933 when Edwin "Cannonball" Baker drove a car called the Blue Streak from New York to Los Angeles in a time of 53 hours and 30 minutes. Somewhat impressive for a run on what wasn't a completed road infrastructure at the time. In 1971 a race took place in protest of speed limits on US Interstates that inspired the film makers, and the legend was born. The race was completed by the foursome of Steve Smith, Jim Williams, Brock Yates, and Brock Yates, Jr., in a Dodge Sportsman Van, and a time of 40 hours and 51 minutes. Of course, the race was ran every year up until 1979 when Dave Yarbrough and Dave Heinz won in an Jaguar XJS and a time of 32 hours and 51 minutes, which is the fastest running time of any of the entrants throughout the history of the race. There are still unofficial runnings, but it was the 1970s where the real action took place. For the record, the fastest time at writing of any unofficial coast to coast run is 28 hours and 50 minutes set by Dave Black, Ed Bolian and Dan Huang, in a Mercedes CL55 AMG. For those of you wondering how they set such a fast time for driving 2,800 miles, the guys employed real Cannonball Run tactics, by installing radar detectors, jammers, scanners, and a rear light kill switch. This is all good James Bond stuff, right here!

Come on! 1000 miles on one wheel? We're trying to win a race, not set a record!

There are many different cars in the film, and we all love fast cars, right? My personal favourite has got to be the previously-mentioned Lamborghini Countach. I have never been a big Ferrari fan, but the Lambo always caught my eye. I remember as a kid that I had a Countach in my toy car collection, and it was always one of my favourites, along with a Mazda RX-7 and a BMW 5-Series. It is impossible to list all of the cars that are featured, but you do get an Aston Martin DB5 driven by Roger Moore's character that has a lot of Bond traits, you get a Ferrari 308 (Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin), a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow (Jamie Farr), and for the muscle car fan, there is a Chevrolet stock car (Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis). There are some notable absentees, however. How about a Jaguar XJS, a Mercedes-Benz 450SL, or even a Porsche 911? All three are fast. Clearly they are gas guzzlers, but so is the likes of the Ferrari. You can't please them all, though. What I may say about missing cars is completely different to the next person, and so on. We all have opinions, right?

Madam, not to be indelicate but in my profession; if you've seen one, you've see them all.

Although the race does not start until 35 minutes in, it is still very much worth the wait. I suppose that the comedies of the 80s were all like that, though. The jokes are ever present, which definitely helps the flow of the film. What is disappointing is casual racism, even though it was acceptable back in those days. J. J. McClure calling Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis Jr.) a chocolate monk is quite unfortunate, and I am certain that if it was filmed in today's day and age that it would not play a part. Sadly, as with pretty much every film ever created, "The Cannonball Run" is, at the time of writing, going to be remade. The bloopers reel at the end of the film while the credits are rolling is a reminder that special features did not exist back when there was only VHS available. It also takes us into the world of Dom DeLuise, and how funny he really was. I remember DeLuise from "Candid Camera" and pretty much nothing else, but the man was quite hilarious. All in all, you have a film here that works. It works because it's genuinely funny, and it works because it has a good storyline. Legend has it that Steve McQueen was in the frame to play JJ McClure and "The Cannonball Run" was originally intended to be an action film. McQueen died in 1980, and Reynolds was cast in his place. I think I would have liked this as an action film, but loved it more as a comedy. It takes a special blend to make something good, and the cast plays its part here. I don't have a list of films you have to see before you die, but if I did I am pretty sure "The Cannonball Run" would be on there.

On the Blu-ray version, the picture is sharp, but as you would expect with a film from the early 1980s, it isn't brilliant. The colour is vibrant, but fails to truly shine through where needed. I thought the restoration could have used a little more work on the car detail to make them stand out a little more, and there are clear blemishes and scratches which appear from time to time on the print. Audio-wise, it is not great. The dialogue is often loud and shouty and it suffers from not being clear enough. The cars sound good but that's pretty much it. For your special features, you get an audio commentary with the director, Hal Needham and producer, Albert S. Ruddy. As many of you already know, I am not one for commentaries, but I do scene select some parts with commentary on, in the hope that I discover how things are done. I didn't really learn a whole lot, but the chatter is heavy for those that enjoy that sort of thing.

My rating: 7.7/10


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Comments on this review

  • Chippytarka published 29/12/2016
    Fab review!
  • euphie published 07/11/2016
    e :o)
  • BrutalHonesty91 published 07/11/2016
    Exceptionally reviewed =)
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Product Information : The Cannonball Run (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Classification: Parental Guidance

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Video Category: Feature Film

Actor(s): Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Farrah Fawcett, Sammy Davis Jr.

Production Year: 1981

EAN: 5030697030412

Main Language: English

Actor: Burt Reynolds

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