Hey, good buddy, remember the Snowman?
The Snowman was the handle of Cledus Snow, the independent trucker who, along with his basset hound Flash, helped the Bandit escape Smokey in three different movies. Cledus was played by the country western singer, Jerry Reed. Interestingly, when Smokey and the Bandit was still in preproduction, the film’s producers envisioned a low-budget drive-in movie with Reed in the role of the Bandit. When Burt Reynolds signaled that he would be interested in playing the man in the black Trans Am, Reed was instead cast as Cledus.
The box office success of Smokey and the Bandit led to several road films being rushed into production and more than a few of them starred Jerry Reed. Several other of them starred Peter Fonda, who had already proven himself to be the king of the road with Easy Rider. However, High-Ballin’ is the only trucker film that can claim to have starred both Jerry Reed and Peter Fonda.
In High-Ballin’, Jerry Reed may be playing “Iron Duke” Boykin but he might as well just be Cledus Snow again. Once again, Reed is an independent trucker with a family at home and a love for the road. (Just as he did with Smokey and the Bandit, Reed even performed High-Ballin‘s theme song.) The local trucker’s union is putting pressure on the independent truckers and trying to intimidate them into joining. Iron Duke has no intention of doing that. Iron Duke has been hired to haul a load of liquor to an isolated lumber camp and he is not going to let the union or its thugs stop him. Helping him along the way is his friend Rane (Peter Fonda) and another independent, Pickup (Helen Shaver).
High-Ballin‘ was not as bad as I was expecting it to be. Reed, Fonda, and Shaver are likable in the lead roles and the action scenes are exciting. Fonda may have been a notoriously inexpressive actor but he was always believable whenever he was cast as a rebel or an outsider and the friendship between him and the more expressive Reed is as believable as the friendship between Cledus and the Bandit in Reed’s previous trucking film. Of course, the main reason you are going to watch a movie like High-Ballin’ is to see how many different ways that a car or a truck can be destroyed and this movie does not skimp on the vehicular destruction. It’s nothing great but, as far as 70s trucking films are concerned, High-Ballin’ is better than average.
One final note: keep an eye out for Michael Ironside in an early role.
10-4, good buddy. I’m out.