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The Great Smokey Roadblock
The Great Smokey Roadblock
Actors: Henry Fonda, Eileen Brennan, Austin Pendleton, Robert Englund, Dub Taylor
Director: John Leone
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama
PG     2004     1hr 44min

Put the pedal to the metal and hang on tight, cause that high-ballin' bandit is rollin' tonight! Henry Fonda shines in his role as worn-out trucker Elegant John who has his 18-wheeler repossessed only months before his ret...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Henry Fonda, Eileen Brennan, Austin Pendleton, Robert Englund, Dub Taylor
Director: John Leone
Creators: Susan Sarandon, Edward R. Brown, John Leone, Corky Ehlers, Allan F. Bodoh, Michael Leone, Mitchell Cannold
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Studio: Trinity Home Ent
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 08/17/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 44min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Classic Trucker Movie
P. R. Fenstermaker | Leesville, LA, USA | 10/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I actually bought this movie for my husband. But I got to watch it before he did. It's a very cool movie right up there with the likes of Convoy. Henry Fonda, Eileen Brennan n a very young Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger fame) make a great cast. If you like classic movies, as well as action this is worth a look."
"They Lost Their Clothes, Their Keys, And Their Credibility.
Robert I. Hedges | 03/27/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)

""The Great Smokey Roadblock" was alternately known as "The Last of the Cowboys," but I would have suggested a more descriptive title such as "How Badly Did Henry Fonda Need Money?" Obviously made to capitalize on the CB and trucker craze ("Convoy," etc.) of the late 1970's, this film has some big names and was produced by Ingo Preminger (yes, Otto's brother,) and co-produced by Susan Sarandon who also stars as a prostitute.

The premise is simple: Henry Fonda is Elegant John Howard, an old trucker hospitalized for cancer, and who longs to "make one last run" before he goes to the great truck stop in the sky. Because of his health, repossessors take his truck, utterly destroying his spirit. The film opens with Fonda talking to himself and wandering around in his pajamas screaming that he is coming to get "Eleanor," his white 1976 Kenworth. He climbs a fence and busts Eleanor out of the pokey, thus beginning this very promising love story between a man and his truck.

The film starts with Fonda driving by himself but the cast starts to multiply rapidly, introducing the evil Charlie LaPere (Gary Sandy; WKRP's Andy Travis) who, beneath his helmet of hair, hatches a plan to obtain John's rig for himself. I never understood this angle: if Charlie wants a truck, why doesn't he just go and buy a truck, you know, one without "Elegant John" and "Eleanor" painted all over it? By the way, there is a very long tale of how Elegant John met Eleanor Roosevelt, the truck's namesake, and she inspired him so much he kept her framed picture on his dashboard. This does not further the plot in any way, but does add to the running time considerably.

Next to join the cast of misfits is Beebo Crozier played by Freddy himself, Robert Englund, in an early (and whiny) role as a freeloader and motel management school dropout. He joins Fonda for the duration of this run, and quickly finds that John has a thing for prostitutes, notably Eileen Brennan, who as Penelope, provides John's love interest in the film. Elegant John and Beebo finally contract for a load of refrigerators, and believe me when I tell you that the footage of loading and unloading refrigerator boxes in and out of a truck trailer is exciting cinema! They lose that load because the truck is technically stolen, while in the other half of the plot the prostitutes are arrested and ordered to South Carolina. I wonder how the skilled filmmakers could possibly put these two plot fragments together?

The solution is for Elegant John and company to put the girls in the trailer, turning it into a kind of moto-brothel, and haul them to South Carolina. (I bet you would have never thought of that!) As they travel there is constant coverage of the truck theft on the radio, and it is clearly the top priority of all the police forces of the United States. But it's not any big name policeman that brings them down. It's Sheriff Harley Davidson (I am not kidding,) played by the ever-grizzled Dub Taylor, and his deputy nephew. Not only is this the stupidest police interception ever (it goes nicely with the horrible plotlines and dialogue), but the arrest and imprisonment lead to one of the most regrettable scenes in motion picture history: Dub Taylor in his underpants.

The easily-bamboozled lawmen are left behind and the wild ride continues towards South Carolina with lots of footage of a truck driving across back roads. I wondered if Kenworth paid for product placement in this film; I doubt it, but if they did they got profoundly ripped off. The crew heads to a bar and the national news is on the television. Of course the newscaster is droning on about the truck theft (it's the longest news story in television history, and there's nothing else going on anywhere else in the world, after all), and before signing off endorses the theft and wishes them luck. They are all very self-congratulatory about their newfound stardom, and take this opportunity to do two things: first, dance; second, add to the cast of characters coming along for the ride, now convoy style.

The two principal additions made to the traveling freakshow are an insane pothead UFO freak who visits other planets and who was imprisoned for "touching ducks" in an illicit manner. (I am still not making any of this up.) The more important addition is that of Bobby Apples, played by the genuinely talented actor and master impressionist, John Byner (who you may remember as the voice of the Aardvark from the cartoon classic "The Ant and the Aardvark.") While a fan of Byner's, the character and vocal stylings of washed-up ex-DJ Bobby Apples made me want to scream for silence. They form a convoy with Bobby making CB pleas for others to join them, and get a few more vehicles to participate in this confusing act of defiance. Please feel free to explain to me at any time how people would be motivated to assist a truck thief, and how it would help Elegant John and company to be less conspicuous to the police to be part of a loud and large convoy.

On a tip from Charlie, local police know where in Georgia Elegant John will be crossing into South Carolina, so they set up a roadblock. For a legally confusing reason that I don't fully comprehend, it seems that as long as they get into South Carolina they are home free, so it's no problem to run through the roadblock (with no damage to Eleanor) toppling police cars and Gary Sandy into a river in the process. But they do make it across the bridge and their whole expanded team takes time to celebrate in a South Carolina park by playing "Ring Around the Rosie." (Again I invite you to remember I am not making this up.)

As the conclusion of the movie fast approaches, we see the rig driving in South Carolina along the beach in the desert with mountains behind it. Really? I mean I know the shot probably looked better that way, and I know the movie was filmed in Oroville, California, but could they have really come up with a location shot that looked less like the Georgia-South Carolina border? Anyway, as they are driving serenely along while the sun sets metaphorically, Elegant John suddenly dies from cancer in Penelope's arms, and Beebo finds his calling as a truck driver with Penelope's final line of the movie: "Drive!"

I didn't expect a lot from a movie called "The Great Smokey Roadblock," but with Fonda, Sarandon, Brennan, Sandy, and Byner, I expected more than this. Even for a trucker film from the seventies, this is dreadful: the plot is utterly ridiculous, and the film can't decide if it wants to be a comedy or a drama: Henry Fonda knew drama, so his performance stands up well in the dramatic scenes, but not so the comedy scenes. This is a turgid, directionless movie that has nothing to recommend it, even if you are a fan of Henry Fonda or Susan Sarandon, and especially if you're a fan of John Byner.

The DVD does have a few extras, the only significant one of which is a surprisingly good "making of" feature, which is better than the actual movie. Many of the principals in the production are interviewed, and it provides some interesting background information about the movie, such as that Anthony Quinn was originally to star as Elegant John, but ironically became too ill to be cast, leaving the plum role open for Henry Fonda."