Burt Reynolds is Gator McKlusky, a moonshine runner who wages war against corrupt police officials in this two-fisted, four-wheeling action extravaganza. With adrenaline-pumping car chases, bone-crunching brawls and terrif... more »ic acting by an all-star cast, including Diane Ladd and Laura Dern, White Lightning will give you the jolt of your life! Gator is serving time in an Arkansas prison when he learns that his brother has been murdered by ruthless Sheriff J.C. Connors (Ned Beatty). Swearing vengeance, Gator agrees to go undercover to expose Connors, going to any lengths to get the goods on the sheriff and make him pay for the crime with his life.« less
S. Messerer | Seattle, Washington USA | 08/17/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"White Lightning is one of my favorite Burt films. Unfortunately, this DVD is a watered down version of the excessive original. Not that you need it, but most of the foul-language has been poorly dubbed over to words like, "shoot" and "dang". One of the main character's deaths at the end of the film is cut - you don't see the villain shot, you only see him after the fact. I wonder if this was the only available print that MGM could find in their vaults? In addition, MGM adds insult to injury by releasing a full-frame (pan-and-scan) version! Ouch! Quality of the picture is good, but that's no reason to plunk down your hard-earned cash on an incomplete version of this film. I'm sad."
Pit stains and moonshine...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 07/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While watching White Lighting (1973) yesterday, I couldn't help think a more appropriate title might have been Hillbillies, Moonshine and Pit Stains, as there were copious amounts of each throughout the film...written by William W. Norton (Big Bad Mama, Day of the Animals), who also wrote the subsequent sequel titled Gator (1976), White Lighting was directed by Joseph `No Time For' Sargent (Colossus: The Forbin Project, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) and stars Burt Reynolds (Deliverance, The Longest Yard). Also appearing is Bo Hopkins (The Getaway, Midnight Express), Ned Beatty (Silver Streak, Superman), Jennifer Billingsley (The Thirsty Dead), Matt Clark (Jeremiah Johnson, Brubaker), R.G. Armstrong (Race with the Devil, Dixie Dynamite), and Diane Ladd (The Wild Angels, Chinatown), whose real life daughter, Laura Dern, makes her first, silver screen appearance in an uncredited role as Diane Ladd's characters daughter.
The film opens with the killing of two young men (hippies college students, I suspect, given their youthful appearance and longish hair) in a remote area of the bayou at the hands of two police officers. Well, turns out one of the boys just happened to be the younger brother of Gator McKlusky (Reynolds), who's currently pulling a stint in the local penitentiary on a charge of running (delivering) illegally distilled whiskey, aka moonshine aka white lighting. Gator takes the news hard, tries to escape, but eventually finds himself in the position of making a deal with the feds, as both the gooberment and Gator have their eyes on the same target, that of Sheriff J.C. Connors (Beatty), the most powerful man in Bogan County, and also the one responsible for killing Gator's brother (the feds want Connors because he controls the lucrative flow of `shine in Bogan County). The plan is for Gator to infiltrate the `shine operation in Bogan County and collect as much information as he can, but Gator just wants a shot at Sheriff Connors (vengeance is a dish best served sweaty, in Bogan County, at least). The feds provide Gator with a souped up car and a slightly unwilling contact in that of Dude Watson (Clark), who hooks Gator up with local runner Roy Boone (Hopkins), which leads to local `shine maker Big Bear (Armstrong), and eventually Connors himself. But therein lies the dilemma...you see, Gator is a good ole boy, so the thought of ratting on his own kin, making a living doing what they've always done (distilling and selling whiskey), makes him sick to his stomach, but his desire get back at Connors for his brothers death is something that can't be denied...
If you're looking for some good old fashion, sweat stained, engine revving, tire smokin', exhaust huffing, balls out visceral entertainment, look no further. This was Reynolds initial foray into the `good ole boy' soon-to-be-his-trademark character, one that reached its pinnacle in the film Smokey and the Bandit (1977), as previous roles mainly included him playing Native American characters like Joe in Navajo Joe (1966), Red Hand in Blade Rider, Revenge of the Indian Nations (1966), and Yaqui Joe Herrera in 100 Rifles (1969). Many consider this to be his finest on screen performance (I was always partial to his role as Paul Crewe in the 1974 film The Longest Yard), one that certainly agreed with him as he revived the character a few years later in the film Gator (1976)...this was also the start of his `quipping' in films...you know, that thing where he makes a smarmy joke, and then he's usually the only one who laughs? I think my favorite scene in this film is the one with Gator and Dude in Gator's car, and the pull up to Sheriff Connors in town for a first meeting (for Gator, at least). Gator knows the sheriff had something to do with his brother's death, so he comes off in sort of an antagonizing way reviving the engine of his hot rod while Dude nervously makes small talk with the sheriff. Beatty's character gives the unknown man a good, long look as if to say, "I'm the law, and I don't know you, but I've got my eye on you."...either that, or he was hot for him...another great scene features R.G. Armstrong getting whacked upside the head with a boat oar...I felt that one myself...probably the most painful sequences involved Reynolds emoting in character about the loss of his brother, and trying to comprehend the reasoning why...I questioned this particular plot aspect of the film, but then realized it was necessary because Reynolds would have needed that extra motivation to force his character to work with the feds, going against his own peoples...that way he doesn't look like a complete sh*t...in this effort, they also had to make the villain, Beatty's character, incredibly vile as to draw away from Gator's betrayal of his people (I guess it wasn't bad enough he was a killer). This is illustrated in numerous scenes, like when the sheriff is interrogating (torturing) Dude's father by shoving the old man's hand in a doorframe in order to get some information, letting his deputies manhandle Dude's wife, played by Diane Ladd, the way they did, or his derogatory comments about minorities and hippies. One thing this movie has a lot of is exciting and well exercised car chase sequences. When done right, the viewer can almost feel the pull of the gravitational force taking a turn at 40 mph and smell the rubber burning as the accelerator is punched to the floor. And the stunts, for the most part, weren't over the top crazy, but strong, solid, and believable (the one where Gator partially lands his car on a garbage scow might have been the one exception). One thing that seemed really strange about this movie was the obvious removal some of the dialog through post-production dubbing (they took out the swears). I think this was done prior to the original release as to get a PG rating...I'm unsure if any scenes have been shortened in terms of removing violence or nekkidness in a further effort to satisfy the rating requirement, but I'd probably say yes...
One thing that annoyed me most of all about this release, and the reason I'm going three stars instead of four, is that there is only the full screen, pan & scan (1.33:1) version available on this DVD. Why they couldn't include both is beyond me, but I guess the studio was just trying to save a few bucks and figured we wouldn't care...I noticed the same treatment for the film Gator, which I won't be buying unless they decide to re-release it with both formats. The picture quality on this DVD does look decent, but, as someone else mentioned, it does appear a little too dark, especially during the shadowy or nighttime scenes. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono comes through well enough, and in terms of special features, there's only a trailer for the film.
By the way, if'n you're ever in Bogan County and someone wants to take you out on the lake, check the boat for cinder blocks... "
Lightning strikes true!
cookieman108 | 07/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film defines Reynolds as a "good ol' boy" that he successfully repeated in "Gator" and "Smokey and the Bandit." If you like Eastwood in spaghetti westerns, where all of the characters (including the hero) have a sinister side, and everyone sweats alot, then "White Lightning" will become a favorite. It is equal to "Thunder Road" as a classic moonshiner movie, and Ned Beatty's portrayal of a lawman with no regard for the law is brilliant."
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 04/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Someday in the near future, perhaps, some enterprising young scholar will write a lengthy dissertation on Burt Reynolds's storied cinematic career. I know I would like to know how an actor of such populist appeal in the 1970s could plunge into the depths of ignominy by the 1980s and 1990s. Of course Burt is in the midst of a renaissance since his turn in "Boogie Nights" a few years back, reemerging as a sort of world weary Hollywood elder statesman of the type William Holden used to be a couple of decades ago. My ponderings about the ups and downs of Reynolds's career inspired me to check out a couple of his earliest films recently, and I started with the 1973 backwoods romp "White Lightening." Why not? I've already watched "The Longest Yard" so many times that I could probably reproduce the entire script from memory. And as for "Deliverance," well, that picture is more of an ensemble effort than a vehicle for Reynolds. No, "White Lightening" is a good place to start because it develops in embryonic form the type of character Burt would cultivate to fullest effect in "Smokey and the Bandit," his most successful film and probably the apogee of his career.
"White Lightening" introduces us to Bobby "Gator" McKlusky (Reynolds), a renowned bootlegger currently serving his second sentence for smuggling hooch. Gator is doing his time in the stir the easy way, working in the shop fixing up cars and generally hamming it up with his fellow inmates and the prison staff. Everyone likes Gator and Gator tends to like everyone around him. Then tragedy strikes when McKlusky's sister shows up to tell him that their brother wound up dead in a swamp. Since their brother was a straight arrow and a college student, both are mystified as to why he would fall victim to foul play. When Gator discovers that a corrupt sheriff by the name of J.C. Connors (Ned Beatty) might have something to do with the murder, he walks out of prison with the goal of making things right. The authorities track him down before he gets very far, but his escape and the reasons for it bring in some federal agents and a dangerous offer. If Gator will go undercover and gather evidence against Connors's various illegal schemes, the feds will let McKlusky walk away from the rest of his sentence. Of course, Gator agrees to the proposal because he thinks it will allow him to seek personal revenge against Connors.
The feds tell Gator to go see one Dude Watson (Matt Clark), a parolee with a long list of liquor violations, as an in to Connors's action. Watson wants no part of Gator, however, but eventually goes along with the plan when he realizes he has no choice. It is Watson who introduces McKlusky to moonshine runner Roy Boone (Bo Hopkins), and before too long Gator is in like gold with this man and his girlfriend Lou (Jennifer Billingsley). Boone helps his new pal get work with big time liquor manufacturer Big Bear (R.G. Armstrong), a very dangerous individual who trusts no one for very long. But he comes to trust Gator, grudgingly, until a series of incidents reveal exactly whom McKlusky is really working for. Connors resorted to a little torture to divulge this piece of information, which results in the abduction of Gator and Lou by Big Bear's sweaty associates. Faced with certain death, McKlusky manages to escape (of course) and wreak his own brand of down home vengeance on the crooked cop. And he does it without the help of the feds or the state authorities. I'm not giving anything away when I say that the climatic scene involves a big car chase. You knew there would be a car chase, right? If not, you don't belong here!
I liked "White Lightening" even though the pace of the film tends to drag. Reynolds does a pretty nice job in his role, and even gets a few opportunities to show some range with in his scenes with Lou as well as in a scene where he talks about the pain of losing his brother. Ned Beatty plays the corrupt southern cop with great aplomb, letting us know his brutal nature without taking the character over the top. What really works in the film is the great atmosphere. It's obvious director Joseph Sargent shot the majority of the film in the Deep South. The dismal swamp seen in the opening credits, the gravel back roads hemmed in by vegetation, the claustrophobically small town, and the ramshackle buildings out in the boonies fairly screams "THIS MOVIE WAS FILMED IN THE SOUTH AND WE'RE DARN PROUD OF IT!" The set pieces and locations are so good you can practically feel the humidity and heat wafting out of your DVD player. And that's a good thing. It gives the film a realism lacking in other movies in this particular genre. Throw in the car chases, a few fistfights, and some southern humor and you've got all the fixings for a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, the DVD version of "White Lightening" leaves a lot to be desired. The picture transfer is fullscreen, not widescreen, and the quality looks below average. How so? Scenes shot in the dark look really dark, so dark it's hard to see what's going on. Moreover, the only extra included on the disc is a trailer. While I don't always listen to (or appreciate) commentary tracks on DVDs, I would like to hear Burt Reynolds's comments on this movie. I'm somewhat of a completist when it comes to this actor's films, which in this instance means I want a commentary track. If you haven't seen it yet, give "White Lightening" a shot; it's far superior to the rather lackluster sequel "Gator" made several years later. "
Gritty Seventies action piece
Doug Bassett | Philadelphia, PA | 08/27/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Easily the best of the Burt Reynolds "rednecks and cars" movies. Some great car chases, some decent acting (Burt can act when he feels like it) and a lot of sweaty, dirt-poor Southern atmosphere. I'd ignored this one for a long time, thinking it was as silly as his other car chase movies, but really, this is quite fine. A must for Seventies buffs or action buffs."