A Movie A Day #6: The Cannonball Run (1981, directed by Hal Needham)

cannonball_runA legendary Hollywood stuntman, Hal Needham moved into directing in the 1970s and proved that all he required to make a successful film were willing stuntmen, fast cars, Coors beer, and Burt Reynolds.  Following that logic, The Cannonball Run may very well be the ultimate Hal Needham movie.

The Cannonball Run follows several teams of racers as they compete to see who can be the first to reach California from Connecticut.  Trying to stop them is Arthur J.  Foyt (George Furth), who represents the Safety Enforcement Unit and who believes that cars are a menace.  However, Foyt is no match for these racers, who include:

  • J.J. (Burt Reynolds), who is racing in memory of his father, and his mechanic Victor (Dom DeLuise), who turns into Captain Choas whenever he is feeling threatened.  J.J. and Victor are driving an ambulance and are accompanied by crazy Dr. Van Helsing (Jack Elam) and a fake “patient” (Farrah Fawcett),
  • Bradford Compton (Bert Convy) who is riding a motorcycle and who, because of the weight of his mechanic, has to pop a wheelie for the entire race,
  • An Arab oil sheik (Jamie Farr) who is racing for “the glory of Islam” and who would probably not be in the movie if it were made today,
  • Sidney Goldfarb (Roger Moore), the heir to a mattress fortune who has had extensive plastic surgery to make himself look like Roger Moore,
  • Jackie Chan and Michael Hui, called “The Japanese team” even though they both speak Cantonese throughout the entire movie,
  • Terry Bradsahw and Mel Tillis because why the Hell not?,
  • Marcie (Adrienne Barbeau) and Jill (Tara Buckman), using their cleavage to get out of speeding tickets, or at least they do until they’re pulled over by Valerie Perrine,
  • And Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., pretending to be priests and apparently drunk throughout filming.

Based on a real life (and very illegal) cross-country race that was held four times in the 1970s, The Cannonball Run is profoundly stupid movie that, if you’re in the right mood for it, is also profoundly fun.  It’s a movie that really has no plot but it does have a lot of cars, a lot of stunts, a lot of cleavage, and a lot of politically incorrect humor, some of which has not aged well.  Despite being hated by the critics, The Cannonball Run was a huge box office hit and it still remains a nostalgic guilty pleasure for a lot of people, myself included.  One person who did not like The Cannonball Run was Burt Reynolds who, in an interview with the New York Times, once said, “”I did that film for all the wrong reasons.  I never liked it. I did it to help out a friend of mine, Hal Needham. And I also felt it was immoral to turn down that kind of money. I suppose I sold out so I couldn’t really object to what people wrote about me.”

Burt has a point but, in defense of The Cannonball Run, what other movie actually features Jackie Chan beating up Peter Fonda?


Or Roger Moore playing someone who thinks that he’s Roger Moore?


Or Jack Elam playing a mad scientist?


Or Sammy and Dino, phoning it in one last time?


Or Captain Chaos?


Like most of Hal Needham’s films, The Cannonball Run ends with outtakes of Burt Reynolds blowing his lines and hitting people.

Tomorrow’s movie a day will be a film that Burt Reynolds is presumably much more proud of, Sharky’s Machine.

Music Video of the Day: Hasta Mañana by ABBA (1974, dir. ???)

I am going to have to go by the release of their singles because working off of mvdbase or IMVDb is causing me to jump over videos. This one fits in between Waterloo and Bang-A-Boomerang. For me, this is right on the borderline between saying it is a music video and that it was possibly a live broadcast. I didn’t realize it would be this tough to do a simple retrospective of ABBA music videos, but it is. The real issue is the drastic difference in quality between the music videos on their official channel and the few that you find elsewhere.

I have discovered a couple of things about the band that are kind of relevant going forward. Reportedly there is going to be some sort of virtual reunion of the band in the coming year. Basically it would entail having them each sing from the comfort of their own home, and have it pieced together digitally. Why not? How many Let’s Plays have you watched where the people doing it aren’t in the same room together. I’ve made a few myself where I was the one at the computer and I shared my screen with the other person. It works fine.

I’ve also found out what I kind of suspected already. Frida & Benny and Agnetha & Björn were couples during most of the bands’ run. It doesn’t really have any bearing on the music videos themselves, but I did stumble upon it while digging through all the videos on YouTube.

Finally, it seems that the primary focus was frequently on Agnetha. There’s a big surprise for you if you watch their videos. I would have never guessed after watching Take A Chance On Me and SOS.

Getting to this video. There are definitely multiple sets. There are definitely edits. There are video effects at play. The thing that bothers me is that there is nothing that says the parts with the rocking chairs couldn’t have been pieced together with parts that were shot at another time. Perhaps they aired a version to the TV audience that is in this video, but you would only see them in the chairs if you were in the studio audience? But, those change out later too. As a result, I’m calling it as a music video.

I find it interesting how they move from Old Hollywood, where these couples have to be in their own beds, to sharing bunks. I know it ties in with the tents, but they do the same with the chairs as well by taking them from rocking chairs to very 1970s ones. You also see them climb a set of stairs to reach a top before descending. It’s not that they’ve come full circle so much as it is that they have moved ahead, but in that future they are just in a modern and less fancy form of separate beds (bunks). That’s all I find particularly interesting other than that it is in black and white. That’s the last reason why it was difficult to call it definitively as a music video.


ABBA retrospective:

  1. Ring, Ring by ABBA (1973, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  2. Ring, Ring by ABBA (1973, dir. ???)
  3. Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough) by ABBA (1973, dir. ???)
  4. Waterloo by ABBA (1974, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  5. Bang-A-Boomerang by ABBA (1975, dir. Lasse Hallström)