Monday, September 14, 2009

Gator (1976)

Directed by Burt Reynolds. I've explained the Burt Reynolds Project of MoreLostTime. The basic rundown is this. Clearly, Burt Reynolds went insane sometime in the late '70s or so or "Stroker Ace" (1983), "Smokey and the Bandit 3" (1983), "Cannonball Run 2" (1984) and any number of other incidents wouldn't have occurred. As a scholar not so much of film as Burt Reynolds per se, I'm curious to sort through some earlier works to see if any gradual descent into madness is evident.

You can see some transition taking effect during the first few minutes of the "White Lightning" sequel, 1976's "Gator," in which Reynolds is supposed to be hiding out in a tar-paper shack down on the bayou but is wearing blue jeans that have clearly just been pressed.

Moments later Reynolds gets into a boat chase with a bunch of feds, though whenever he roars by, the stuntman driving the boat couldn't look less like Reynolds. The guy being used might as well be Joan Rivers or Shaquille O'Neal. You're thinking, how does sloppy directing indicate the star of the picture losing his mind? Because the star of the picture insisted on directing the damn thing.

This is the problem. I remember my close friend and even closer friend of famous country singer Dierks Bentley, Mary McLaughlin, who also happens to be a postal-based acquaintance of Sir Paul McCartney, once explained to me one reason certain people shouldn't be allowed to make movies. This was in the context of discussing all of the reasons why McCartney's movie "Screw You, Broadstreet" is a piece of shit, so naturally, this was a very long conversation. But Mary explained how Paul McCartney had told her that he's so out of touch that the movie was doomed to fail because he'd surrounded himself with people without the guts or authority to tell him it sucked. And so Sir McCartney went merrily along his way, making a stinking pile of dung.

"Gator" is in no way a stinking pile of dung. It's got some good dialog and tense scenes, and it's the first place we see the undeniable chemistry between Reynolds and Jerry Reed that is so instrumental to the success of "Smokey and the Bandit." But "Gator" is about 25 minutes too long, opens with an unnecessary 10-minute action sequence, includes wasted, broad over-acting from one of the period's great character actors, Jack Weston, and is full of little moments you just wish somebody had spoken up about and warned Burt Reynolds would make him look like a tool.

If it is not the official beginning of the end for Burt Reynolds, we've narrowed it down.

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