There’s an unrecognized genre in American film that celebrates the lawless flaunting of authority. It’s exemplified well by the movie Cannonball Run. Through the 1970’s, and a large part of the 1980′, protagonists in many American films broke laws, made suckers out of the institution of law enforcement and other figures of authority.
They sensationalized drinking and drug use while driving and the good guys won at the end by getting away with it. In Cannonball Run, the “good guys” land a plane in the middle of a small town, terrifying the residents, because they ran out of beer while flying.
These movies weren’t just “B-movies” created by Roger Corman, although he was a master, they were number one box office hits. Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run… Look at the 1980’s smash Arthur, a movie where the protagonist ignites hilarity while barely being able to function while drinking and driving. The premises of these movies would be unheard of now.
In the same way that Stalag 17, with William Holden, portrays the perennial notion of the American anti-hero, Cannonball Run glorifies the notion that heros play by their own rules, and defy authority or the norm.
Many American films still embrace the notion that heroes make their own rules, but heroes these days can only break rule if they’re fighting to right a wrong for secure justice. They can’t break rules simply because they thing the rules, and those that make the rules, are ridiculous – and that’s really what Cannonball Run is all about.
The really cool thing about Cannonball Run is that it was based on a true story. Even funnier is that the director, Hal Needham, lived that story.Can’t find a link off hand now, and I’m tired of looking, but Needham’s DVD commentary on Cannonball talks in detail of how he participated in the real Cannonball Run, in the same Ambulance featured in the film. Awesome.
Favorite Roger Corman joint? Easy, ‘Eat My Dust.’ The trailer doesn’t do it justice, but a great film nonetheless.
The famous story told lazily by Wikipedia:
Before leaving Happy Days in 1980, Howard made his directing debut with the 1977 project Grand Theft Auto (after cutting a deal with Roger Corman to star in Eat My Dust with Christopher Norris). Howard went on to direct several TV movies.
Take off eh…
It’s not debatable. American Hardcore is the best documentary, ever, relating to the early hardcore scene in,well, America.
From Wikipedia, an excerpt of the plot:
A New Wave fashion show is to be held in a crowded Manhattan nightclub. Among the models are bisexual, cocaine addicted fashion model Margaret (Anne Carlisle), and Jimmy (also played by Carlisle). Jimmy is Margaret’s rival and nemesis and also loves cocaine, constantly hassling Margaret’s drug-dealer girlfriend Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard) for drugs despite not having any money to pay for them.
A UFO about the size of a dinner plate lands on the rooftop of the penthouse apartment occupied by Margaret and Adrian. Jimmy accompanies Margaret home before the show, but he’s actually trying to find Adrian’s drugs. Margaret meanwhile is being watched by a tiny, shapeless alien from inside the UFO. Margaret and Jimmy return to the club to participate in the show. During preparations both agree to a photographic shoot the following night on Margaret’s rooftop. They are assured that there will be plenty of cocaine available at the shoot.
What do you get if you put Courtney Love, Joe Strummer, the Pogues, Grace Jones, Dennis Hopper, Dick Rude, Elvis Costello and a mess-load of others into a hastily made spaghetti western? Well one of the things you get is Zander Schloss, Circle Jerks, performing Karl’s Disco Wiener Haven from Alex Cox’s “Straight to Hell.”