Dir: Dick Lowry, 1983
Arguably, Smokey And The Bandit Part 3 is the holy grail of cinematic urban legends.
Persistent rumours from before it even went into production, are still a hot topic for film fans the world over.
After 35 years, Sheriff Buford T. Justice has decided to retire. However, Texan millionaire Big Enos Burdette and his son, Little Enos, wager Justice $250,000 against his badge that he can’t transport a large plastic fish from Florida to Texas.
However, the Burdette’s hire The Bandit’s partner, Cledus, to act as The Bandit and sabotage Justice’s efforts so he’ll lose and have to give his badge to the Burdette’s.
Smokey And The Bandit Part 3 is the weakest of the trilogy. The majority of the jokes fall flat, the storyline is awful and everybody acts as though their heart isn’t it.
Upping the ante, this episode is far more raunchy and adult than either of the two previous entries. A scene set in a brothel, with patrons dressed up in leather and being ridden like donkeys, earned the film an ’18’ certificate in the UK.
But it all seems out of place. The Needham films had some salty language for a family film, however there was nothing too ripe and kept it safe. Here, Lowry has a bevy of topless women, their assets in full view, depicting a nudist colony. We have bare arses, blokes running around in thongs and flashes of orgies.
None of it belongs. The originals may have been a bit coarse but they never crossed the line. Being 1983, it’s as though they had to compete with the influx of sexier and cruder films, like Porky’s or the Lemon Popsicle (Eskimo Limon) movies. The US remake of Lemon Popsicle called The Last American Virgin had only been released a year earlier, in 1982, and you can’t help but feel that, maybe, it was a tad influential.
As usual, it’s Gleason that gets all the laughs with his caustic put downs and general derision towards his son and partner, Junior. The Enos’s are given one or two laughs themselves.
Filmed on a bigger budget, Lowry uses this to create more slapstick and silliness which ends up being cringeworthy and too ridiculous to laugh at.
Go-to jobbing 80’s actress, Colleen Camp, is the new love interest, Dusty Trails, taking over from Sally Field’s Frog. Willing to take any role going (see Game Of Death), Camp is relegated to being the token eye candy but has very little else to do. She doesn’t contribute to the plot and the film wouldn’t be any worse, or better, off if the character was removed.
To be fair, if the legend is true then Colleen Camp can’t be blamed for the character not working. Allegedly, the script was drastically re-written after highly negative test screenings and the character was hastily added.
Originally, the film was titled Smokey IS The Bandit with Gleason taking a dual role as the sheriff and The Bandit. It’s reported that test audiences found the premise confusing so Jerry Reed was cast and much of the film result, replacing the scenes of Gleason as The Bandit.
This version of the film has never been released or seen on any format. No bootleg copies have appeared, any footage or even any photos. Producer Mort Engleberg has denied that a frame was filmed or any test shots were taken. The only evidence that the storyline was ever considered is an advert in Variety .
However, this is where things get a bit murky. For years, the film’s alternative plot was simply a myth. But, thanks to the internet, a photo has been discovered showing Gleason dressed in The Bandit get up. Another photo then emerged of Gleason (or his stunt driver) driving the Trans-am, again, in full Bandit gear.
Engleberg still denied the film’s existence but, later, a trailer appeared with Gleason as Justice talking about being both Smokey and Bandit. The trailer ends with the title and a voiceover announcing Smokey IS The Bandit.
Despite years of investigation and the aforementioned articles, no irrefutable proof has emerged that the film WAS actually made and Engleberg still decries the authenticity of the evidence.
Hopefully, in years to come, we’ll find out the truth, one way or another.
But, what we have got is a lacklustre sequel, that is seldom funny, rarely interesting and frequently boring.
A very sad end to finish the series on (and I don’t count the Made-For-Television movies that followed).