Smokey Bites The Dust/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
The late 70's and early 80's was the real golden age of the Carsploitation genre. There were many films that featured exciting car chases with impressive stunts. From Cannonball to Gone in 60 Seconds to The Blues Brothers. These films never disappointed moviegoers who loved fast cars and entertaining chase scenes. Speaking of Carsploitation, there's a film that many people remember due to a comedic performance by Jackie Gleason, the fantastic car chase and interesting relationship between the male and female leads. That's right, I'm talking about Smokey and The Bandit. Besides the fact that the new DVD version clearly adds out-of-place sound effects, I really enjoyed watching it. In 1981, the legendary exploitation film studio New World Pictures finally did what it was famous for: they cashed in on that movie's popularity with a rip-off that featured lots of stock footage.
Smokey Bites The Dust has no storyline at all. I mean, we know in the beginning that a young dude (Jimmy McNichol) who loves stealing cars, grabs the sheriff's daughter and runs away with her so the sheriff has to chase them. This is similar to S&B in which Burt Reynolds' Bandit grabs the fiancee (Sally Field) of the sheriff's son. But remember what I said abut S&B? Well, Smokey Bites The Dust doesn't have a good chemistry between the lead characters or the memorable one-liners from the sheriff. Instead, we have a subplot and jokes that don't make any sense, but guess what? The real highlight of the film is the car chase sequences! There are many scenes that don't try to hide the fact that they are just stock footage from other New World Pictures films. For example, there's a scene in which a police car crashes into a Chinese restaurant. That scene comes right from Eat My Dust. I know this because not only have I seen it before, but it also CLEARLY shows the famous red car that Ron Howard drives as well! The chase sequences in this film are actually impressive and it has a much better score than Eat My Dust. Yep, about a year ago I tried to write a review for Eat My Dust, but, sadly, I couldn't finish watching it since the score didn't fit the film at all. But in this case, the soundtrack fits the campy tone of the film really well.
While the chase sequences are excellent, the storyline and the jokes are complete duds. According to Director Charles B. Griffith, the guy who also brought us "Eat My Dust", Roger Corman "cut all the motivations and all the character development. It was a mess, a jumbled mess!". This is kind of accurate considering that our lead male character loves stealing cars for no apparent reason and the sheriff's daughter's relationship with our hero doesn't progress like the one in S&B. Plus, there are many comedic scenes that aren't funny. For example, there's a visual gag (a la Zucker, Abraham, Zucker films) that shows prom queens from different years. We have a younger prom queen from 1980, then the camera slowly pans to the older, fatter, and uglier prom queens from 1960, 1920, and 1880. I think they tried too hard to be funny. Nothing tops the scene that shoots straight to the top of my "WTF list" of comedy sequences. There's a jock who steals a car just like our hero, but then his car is flipped so he urgently needs a replacement. Then, he sees a doctor driving a car, so, of course, he decides to steal a car by letting another car run over him and when the poor doctor gets out to take a look at him, he decides to steal that car and leave! I mean, have you ever seen Tom & Jerry? (and I don't mean the infamous 1975 Tom & Jerry Show or Tom & Jerry Kids) I mean the original ones from Hanna-Barbera from the 30's-50's era. They are really violent (and caused problems for modern parents who find them to be offensive), but it's funny because the attitude of these shorts is beyond unrealistic. It's so-over-the-top that you can laugh when Tom gets chopped into pieces or something like that. Well, in Smokey Bites The Dust, the film isn't over-the-top enough for me to laugh when a guy gets run over by a car and is still standing like nothing happened. Laughing at this scene is as appropriate as laughing when those poor filmmakers get killed at the end of Cannibal Holocaust.
Overall, I still find this film better than Eat My Dust. Sure, it has lower score on IMDb and many reviewers there found Smokey Bites The Dust a "simple car crash movie that appeals to kids". But you know what? If I have kids, I'll show them this movie! Give me a break! This isn't Eraserhead or Apocalypse Now. You are not going to find the meaning of humanity or something like that here, since this is a film that simply gives us a good time. Say what you want, but at least I think it's better than Smokey & The Bandit II, which is the WORST film in the franchise according to my opinion.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.