Ah, the 1970’s, that cultural hangover when Disco ruled a world of polyester, when a sea of avocado and harvest gold shag carpeting stretched from coast-to-coast, when the CB radio craze allowed wannabe truckers to exclaim "ten four good buddy." A purely escapist movie dropped perfectly into that time and place, delivered with a black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am muscle car and an 18 Wheeler. Smokey and the Bandit, released in 1977, involved little more than a 28 hour round-trip police chase condensed into 96 minutes.
The Internet Movie Database was invented for readers who simply must know more, or YouTube for the more visually-oriented amongst us:
Got all that? Right. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and his sidekicks (Jerry Reed and Sally Field) have to pick up and deliver a truckload of monstrously awful beer to some rich guy with more money than sense, all the while being chased by a policeman or "smokey" in CB slang (Jackie Gleason). I know it’s crazy. Can anyone today imagine going this far out of their way for Coors? Talk about the triumph of marketing and advertising! Coors wasn’t available outside of a few western U.S. states at the time. Its lack of geographic ubiquity created quite a mystique during an era when domestic brewing limped towards its horrible nadir. Imagine a terrible time when people actually bootleged Coors beer because they perceived it to be the best thing available. Try not to shudder when you consider those dark days. Nonetheless it made a great premise for a pedal-to-the-metal action and smash-up flick.
It wasn’t my intention to focus a series of 12MC articles on roadtrip movies. I’ll reference a title on a page and suddenly it gets a bunch of hits from the outside world. I feel it’s almost a public service for me to provide further elaboration. Last time this led to my Thelma and Louise Route Map. This time my description of De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren as a possible premise for a high-class remake of Smokey and the Bandit leads me to address that topic as well.
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This article didn’t require the same level of thought or analysis that I discovered with Thelma and Louise, where geography served as an integral interwoven plot element. For Smokey and the Bandit, it’s all drive from Georgia to Texas, pick up beer in Texarkana, return to Atlanta within 28 hours and collect $80,000. It also has a happy ending. I’m not denigrating the movie — far from it — mindless fun and endless vehicle crashes fill an entertainment void. I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of mindless movies, this one included. I’m simply pointing out that the plot isn’t saddled with a lot of complexity.
The producers didn’t seem too concerned with feasibility, accuracy or complications because little of that mattered to the intended audience. It didn’t even matter that Bowie County, TX, where Texarkana is located, was completely dry during the 1970’s (it is considered "partially wet" today). Imagine if the movie strove for accuracy and the Bandit got all the way to Texarkana only to discover that he couldn’t purchase any beer. Now, that would have been funny.
The Bandit Run
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The movie invokes a certain nostalgic stirring amongst its loyal fans because of its feel-good nature. This resulted in The Bandit Run in 2007, a commemoration of the movie’s 30th anniversary. The Bandit Run reenacted the historic route from Texas to Georgia albeit at much slower speeds and spread over several days. Imagine the sight of dozens of classic Firebirds rolling through the southeastern states.
It’s an annual event now although the route seems to stray rather regularly from the original. I didn’t search exhaustively for every incarnation although I found several and they seemed to involve a classic car show in Braselton, GA (northeast of Atlanta) either as a starting or ending point. This is the location of Road Atlanta:
… recognized as one the world’s best road courses…. The facility is utilized for a wide variety of events, including professional and amateur sports car and motorcycle races, racing and driving schools, corporate programs and testing for motorsports teams.
I like the way that Google Maps marks portions of the track as part of the regular road network!
The Bandit Run will return to a Texarkana to Atlanta (well, Braselton) route in 2012. However it will swing a little further south than Burt Reynolds would have gone, stopping overnight in Lafayette, LA, Biloxi, MS, and Birmingham, AL, along the way. It sounds like a good time.
Smokey and the Bandit 2012
Geo-geeks can stop reading now. This part is reserved for the beer geeks (and I know there are a few of us in the 12MC audience).
Several annual vintages from my personal stash
I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to remake Smokey and the Bandit because that seems to be the prevailing pattern in modern Hollywood. Apparently nobody has the ability to develop an original idea that will make any money anymore. That got me wondering about a brewery to serve as the underlying the premise. Obviously Coors won’t work anymore. We need a brewery that’s sufficiently coveted but large enough to take a tractor-trailer load from its inventory and not feel a pinch within its regular distribution area.
I’ve already mentioned Westvleteren as a European possibility although on second thought I think they’re probably too small. New Belgium in Fort Collins, CO might be a possibility. They’re based in Colorado like Coors and they’ve created quite a hoopla in beer circles as they slowly migrate their distribution towards the east. I think they may come closest to replicating the original idea. I’d prefer Alaskan (my visits) which now reaches all the way to Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, the Bandit would be in a world of hurt when he discovered that Juneau is landlocked and the chase had to move onto a ferry. Going in the opposite direction, east-to-west, maybe Dogfish Head (my visits) would be an option? It seems like something tailor-made for Sam Calagione and the publicity machine in Milton, Delaware.
Any other suggestions? I might turn them into a future article if we get enough good ones.