Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws (1978)

          Here’s a peculiar one. About one-third of Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws is exactly what viewers might expect, a shameless riff on a certain Burt Reynolds blockbuster. There’s even a subplot about a woman running from the son of a vulgar sheriff. Yet the other two-thirds of Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws comprise an inept but sincere music-industry saga told from the perspective of someone with real-world experience. Jesse Lee Turner—the executive producer, cowriter, and star of this flick—enjoyed a minor novelty hit with the 1959 song “Little Space Girl” before his recording career sputtered. Presumably the goal of this enterprise was to get things going again, so the film features Turner performing several original songs.
          The picture opens in a tiny Texas town where ne’er-do-wells J.D. (Turner) and the Salt Flat Kid (Dennis Fimple) dream of showbiz success. J.D. is a singer-songwriter while the Kid is both J.D.’s accompanist and a ventriloquist. In jail after a bar brawl, the guys meet a fellow inmate who claims to be a music manager. Before he skips town, the “manager” scams cash from the guys and offers a business card they believe is their ticket to success. Off to Music City they go. Along the way they meet two ladies, one of whom is being pursued by Sheriff Leddy (Slim Pickens). The movie makes quick work of the ensuing Burt Reynolds-style high jinks before devoting much more screen time to the rigors of pursuing fame in Nashville. The guys hook up with a real manger, albeit a sketchy one, and they find allies in empathetic locals. Inevitably, the story climaxes with a make-or-break concert.
          Even though Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws is amateurish, the story is coherent, the leading actors are as enthusiastic as their characters, and the content is more or less family-friendly. In other words, the picture is wholly innocuous—except for some iffy flourishes. We’re talking a chase scene featuring “The William Tell Overture,” a major subplot (the girls and the sheriff) that completely disappears, and the truly bizarre spectacle of J.D.’s stage persona. While singing, Turner crouches and gyrates and twists as if he’s being electrocuted. Naturally, on-camera audiences pretend to be driven wild by his antics. Yet Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws—which has also been exhibited as Smokey and the Outlaw Women and J.D. and the Salt Flat Kid—is more of a curiosity than anything else inasmuch as it documents a stage in Turners odd trajectory. At some point after the movie faded from view, he shifted from entertainment to evangelism, though he eventually blended his interests by recording Christian albums. More recently, Turner has proselytized for the MAGA movement. 

Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws: FUNKY

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