STREAM WARRIORS is a weekly feature on Daily Grindhouse where a different contributor recommends a few things to check out on streaming services and around the net to watch. The platforms being used are U.S. versions (unless otherwise noted), content availability does change between countries. This week, Jon Abrams weighs in with some suggestions.
Burt Reynolds is one of the great American movie stars. He’s on any list of my favorites of all time, but this is way bigger than me: People need to remember. Burt is seriously overdue for it an extensive critical and popular reassessment. I’ve been on this specific crusade for a while now, and I know plenty of you are my spiritual brethren. This article is for you, and for all the newcomers looking for a primer.
Burt Reynolds, by the later years of the 1970s, was the number-one box-office star in America and beyond it. He had the good-old-boy charisma and populist instincts that made him a forever hero to the red states, and the self-deprecating charm and – please don’t ever forget – the real-deal acting talent that couldn’t be ignored by the blue states. Burt Reynolds made it to the top of the world. Somewhere along the way, every star must fade. Nobody wins forever, but to me Burt Reynolds became just-short-of-forgotten in a way that feels cosmically unjust.
Burt Reynolds, unlike his buddy Clint Eastwood, didn’t make it through the 1980s with the same level of fame and esteem he had at the start of the decade. By the 1990s, the films he appeared in were increasingly ridiculous – not always a bad thing, if you ask me, but mostly not great. Sure, he had the big comeback with BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), but he failed to capitalize on it with subsequent work of comparable merit – though again, if you ask me, he wasn’t totally done serving up excellence.
Burt Reynolds had a career stretching back to old Hollywood, breaking in during the late 1950s, and he worked – if not entirely steadily, consistently enough – up until his death in 2018. It’s not overstating the facts even a little to suggest that the story of Burt Reynolds tells the story of American film in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s an amazing story, encapsulating the very highest highs and incorporating some unfortunate lows. And scattered throughout that one-of-a-kind American life are a whole lot of intriguing movies – some classics, many very much not-classics, but plenty of those are still well worth watching, because every one of them is part of the overall story.
These are the Burt Reynolds films currently available to stream as of today, April 17th, 2020. Availability is subject to change, which is why Daily Grindhouse always encourages our readers to support physical media. Film is ephemeral by nature, but this is lightning you can catch in a bottle. Streaming services are convenient but impermanent, but get yourself a hard copy and you never have to be without – let’s say – HUSTLE (1975), a very under-remembered Burt Reynolds film which deserves more remembering. To see that one, which is not currently streaming, you might have to brave the quarantine and come see me. But let’s take a look at what you can watch from the comfort of your own homes.
Like anybody else with a conscience, I have fraught feelings about Amazon right now, but when it comes to Burt Reynolds movies, they’re far and away the reigning champion. This is a fine example. Maybe not one of Burt’s very best, and certainly one of the elite many (there are more than you’d think) where Burt goes without any mustache, this is still a total romp, and in his scenes with Angie Dickinson, you can see how Burt was the sort of male star who truly enjoyed women. Absolutely, some of his films had regressive scenes which might not fly today, but overall, Burt did his best work when paired with a female star of equal presence and ability. He really came alive most in those scenes, whether sparring/flirting with Sally Field or Dolly Parton or Catherine Deneuve or Farrah Fawcett or Angie here. That said, some of Burt’s most memorable stuff also came from his collaborations with real-life buddies, in the case of SAM WHISKEY his longtime friend Ossie Davis, and from his onscreen brawls. In this movie, Ossie punches Burt clear across a room!
Absolutely one of Burt’s best, WHITE LIGHTNING is a sweaty, greasy, down-and-dirty lowbrow classic, the kind of action vehicle perfectly suited to his physical talent and with DELIVERANCE, a seminal project in the construction of Burt Reynolds as both a movie star and as a persona. While Burt’s onscreen persona was very much that of an alpha male, he wasn’t indestructible. Burt’s characters could be beaten. Burt’s characters could lose. Again, this is a very important point of contrast between Burt and Clint Eastwood. Much as I love Clint, Burt is the more relatable star. Clint was the guy who guys wanted to be. Burt was the guy who guys felt they could be. Clint was eternally cool, but there’s no question who you’d rather have as a drinking buddy.
Poster art by Robert McGinnis! Scroll down for more from me on GATOR.
There are movies where Burt is the undisputed star, the alpha male, the top dog, and there are the movies where he’s challenged by a star of equal and opposing power. That happens here in an all-timer of a Burt flick, pairing Burt with Kris Kristofferson, a legendary musical talent who had a side gig in the 1970s as a movie star. Kino-Lorber recently released a nice new Blu-Ray, so I’ll be looking at this movie at length for DG in the near future. But trust me, this one’s a classic, whether or not you like sports films, whether or not you’re a Burt fan. If you are a Burt fan, and you haven’t seen this one yet, just imagine it. Burt and Kris playing friends and rivals. Mustache versus beard — choose your fighter!
Burt starred on a TV show in 1970 called Dan August. He was a homicide detective, and Norman Fell played his partner! As far as I can tell, the 1980 date Amazon gives up above refers to when two episodes of the series were edited together, and that’s what you’d be watching.
I haven’t seen this one since I was a kid. Not to be confused with COP AND A HALF, which you probably shouldn’t rent. And while I did say Burt is at his best when paired with a female star of equivalent range and charisma — Burt and Dolly is a natural, and Burt and Goldie Hawn could’ve maybe worked, and even Burt and Kathleen Turner makes sense on paper — Burt and Liza feels like a severe mismatch. But let’s see! I’ll be looking at this one again in isolation. (It sounds so much sadder when phrased that way…)
RAVEN (1996) [also on Tubi]
Burt plays a character named Jerome Katz in this movie. One of the Chosen! I know that’s not what most people would focus on, but I’m now obsessed with it.
This is a film from Albert Pyun, who’s probably best known for CYBORG and for the first CAPTAIN AMERICA movie, but who really deserves a raised profile. He did intriguing, eclectic stuff in the 1990s with stars in the “limbo” phase of their careers. (Check out his film MEAN GUNS, also with Ice-T.) To regular readers of Daily Grindhouse, he’s a hero already, but to the wider film-culture establishment, he’s overlooked. Few filmmakers make movies so energetic and enthusiastic. “Try-hard” is a virtue when it’s this sincere. Anyway, Burt’s character in this one is named “Dakota.”
This is the first film in a vaguely-known series, but for adherents to the conviction that Burt Reynolds is an auteur (of which I am one), it warrants revisiting, seeing as how Burt directed himself.
Second in the series; this one directed by longtime Burt associate Hal Needham, who is of course one of the great Hollywood stuntman and better known as the director of SMOKEY & THE BANDIT and THE CANNONBALL RUN. This was Hal’s last film as director.
Neither Burt nor Hal directed this one so I haven’t seen it yet, but if that’s Burt’s hairstyle in the film, then surely I must.
This one looks like a real bad idea. I’ll let you know.
The market for “aging mega-star plays friendly Grandpa to precocious child” is huger than you or I could ever imagine. This is one of those movies. Unfortunate Photoshop job on that promo artwork, but look, until I see the movie for myself, I can’t dismiss it out of hand. Trust me, I will get around to seeing this film. Am I a genius or am I a madman? I ask you sincerely — why can’t I be both?
This is a documentary series about the history behind the stories of Western films, with testimonies from many of the actors who played in those films. Burt apparently is interviewed in the context of his early work on Gunsmoke. Also interviewed is Tom Selleck, which makes this project one of the few points of intersection between Burt and one of the inferior personalities to whom he’s often compared by those without taste. (They both have mustaches! Wow, gee! What a similarity, jerk-offs.)
This one is a labor of love from Burt superfan Adam Rifkin (writer of numerous successful childrens’ films and director of awesomely oddball films like THE DARK BACKWARD, PSYCHO COP 2, and DETROIT ROCK CITY), always an interesting creator who designed this particular project around Burt. This may be another entry in the aging-tough-guy-mentors-young-girl genre mentioned above, the girl in this case being Ariel Winter from Modern Family, but it’s worth your time, and it’s another movie, like SEMI-TOUGH, that I’m high-overdue to cover for Daily Grindhouse.
So none of those guys whose names are on the DVD (a DVD!) are the stars of the movie. The star is someone named Eli Zeffree Zen (okay…) and the writer/producer/cinematographer/director is something called Octavian O. (okay, sure…) and it might be great! But it sorta hurts to see Burt on an Eric Roberts level. (Eric Roberts is a great actor, but he is not great at the words “no thanks.”)
Sure looks like somebody missed the opportunity for Burt to use his hairstyle from HARD TIME: THE PREMONITION.
MIAMI LOVE AFFAIR (2019) [also on Tubi]
All kidding aside, one thing that’s true about Burt Reynolds is that he was always a working actor and right up until the end he was working with aspiring performers at his Burt Reynolds Institute in his native Florida (Burt was born in Lansing but his family moved to Florida when he was ten, and that’s where he became a high-school & college football star, so much an aspect of his identity.) So MIAMI LOVE AFFAIR may or may not be a terrific film, but it’s kind of cool that he was willing to be in it. Maybe there’s a nobility in being a steadily-working Eric Roberts.
The Forsaken Westerns: Before Burt broke into movies in 1961 with ANGEL BABY, he did plenty of TV roles on Westerns like Gunsmoke, and on some more forgotten ones like Pony Express and Johnny Ringo. So this collection features those kinds of TV shows, which gave Burt, Clint, and all kinds of other soon-to-be stars their training ground. The one to look for here specifically is called The Good Samaritan.
The Carol Burnett Show: Burt frequently said before the end that nobody had more fun than him, and many of his TV appearances from the time when he was a huge superstar are evidence of that, like his guest spot on Carol Burnett’s comedy show.
The Johnny Carson Show: Burt was famously one of Carson’s favorite guests, and while I’m not a huge fan of Carson himself, it’s hard to argue that Burt’s interviews — and the times he guest-hosted — were legendary, joyful, and the best argument for a format I find to be generally very superficial. Obviously Burt enjoyed doing this stuff. While researching this stuff, I found a clip of THE BURT REYNOLDS SHOW!
Hollywood Couples: When you do a search for “Burt Reynolds” on Amazon, this is one of the results that shows up. I imagine this covers some of his celebrity relationships. If you’re interested in catching up on that end of things, now you know this exists.
Amazon also as a lot of movies I would call “Burt-adjacent.” Some could be called “Burtsploitation,” in that they were clearly movies that were made in the wake of Burt’s massive success. MOONFIRE is an example of a movie that seems to have anticipated Burt Reynolds. Around 1970, Burt hadn’t yet made DELIVERANCE or THE LONGEST YARD or SMOKEY & THE BANDIT. He was still making movies like SAM WHISKEY and 100 RIFLES, movies that definitely showed why he was a star but not the ones that came to define him as one. MOONFIRE has to do with astronauts and truckers battling a Nazi hiding out in Mexico. It costars Sonny Liston! Rednecks kicking white-supremacist ass while pro athletes join in the crusade — that’s a Burt Reynolds movie, even if Burt didn’t make it.
With 1971’s TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and VANISHING POINT, this is one of the most important car movies of the 1970s. It’s got nothing to do with Burt other than the fact that he and Hal Needham also made some extremely important car movies, but it’s on Prime for you to enjoy!
Now this is most definitely Burtsploitation — in a way. It was apparently filmed in 1974 but wasn’t released until September of 1977, four months after SMOKEY & THE BANDIT. Henry Fonda is trememendous, but even as a young man, Henry Fonda wasn’t giving off what you’d call Bandit vibes.
Authentic Burtsploitation, with Peter Fonda getting in the driver’s seat next to Jerry Reed. To be fair, Peter Fonda makes a much better Bandit than his dad. But look, we’re in dire danger of me saying something irretrievably naughty and off-topic, seeing as how there’s been thirty years of pornography between the time this film received its title and now, so let’s please move on.
Burt Kennedy is an under-acknowledged but essential contributor to the history of Western films, He wrote for Budd Boetticher and directed films like HANNIE CAULDER! (And wrote WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART, as long as I’m linking to my past writing.) But this project strikes me as grievous. Jerry Reed was the sidekick to Burt Reynolds in SMOKEY & THE BANDIT. (And the heavy in GATOR.) You cannot have fucking Tom Selleck as a substitution for Burt Reynolds. That’s a travesty. Say Will Smith didn’t show up for BAD BOYS 3 so Martin Lawrence went ahead and made it anyway, with Tyler Perry. How would you feel then?
Roger Corman gets in on the Burtsploitation craze! Right on time!
Okay, Bo Hopkins and Barry Corbin are way cooler than Tom Selleck, but this is still kind of like when Rob Schneider makes a movie without Adam Sandler. (To be fair, Jerry Reed is way cooler than Rob Schneider. These analogies are imperfect.)
WILD CARD is based on the novel by William Goldman, mostly using Goldman’s screenplay for HEAT (1986), the adaptation of the novel that starred Burt Reynolds. HEAT is one of Burt’s more overlooked movies. Like SHARKY’S MACHINE (directed by Burt), it’s a movie that plays knowingly with Burt’s onscreen persona, introducing an air of melancholy that played intriguingly against the devil-may-care attitude of so many of his previous characters. Burt as Nick Escalante in HEAT isn’t a winner, not the way The Bandit was. HEAT has a great gag involving a hairpiece towards the beginning that shows Burt giving a wink to tabloid rumors of the time and also to his overall debonair he-man image. I’m not as big of a fan of Jason Statham as a movie star. He has presence for sure, but not as much range. That said, along with SAFE and HUMMINGBIRD, this is one of the better Jason Statham vehicles in my opinion — directed by Simon West (CON AIR!), no less. WILD CARD has the same hairpiece gag as HEAT. It plays differently here, since Jason Statham has been balding and shaving his head for as long as we’ve known him as a star. It’s still fun to see a tough-guy star like Statham poke fun at himself, but it’s still instructive to look at HEAT and WILD CARD side-by-side as a comparative demonstration of why a guy like Burt Reynolds is an all-timer of a movie star and one not easily replaced.
When I first learned that Sam Fuller directed Burt Reynolds in a movie with this particular title, it created stratospheric expectations that this particular movie is unfortunately very much unable to meet. Also, it is true that a stuntman was killed during the making of this movie, something I doubt either Fuller or Reynolds was happy about having been used in the promotional campaign. In that spirit, I’m letting you know the movie is on Tubi, but I’m not encouraging you to watch it.
Remember this one? Along with DO THE RIGHT THING, it’s the best title of 1989. I think Burt is good casting for a dog. His buddy Dom DeLuise plays his sidekick, and I guess by 1989 this is just about the last time you’d see (or hear) them together in a movie. That’s sad! To this day, even with all the changing-around of gender roles over the past thirty years, it’s still rare to see two grown men enjoying each other’s company publicly as much as Burt and Dom did.
It’s interesting in any overview of his long filmography to take a look at what projects Burt decided to direct. In this one, he plays a homeless guy who ends up coaching a kids’ Little League team. For one thing, it’s unusual in that Reba McEntire is just about the only other person in it you’d have heard of. There are none of Burt’s repertory players — no Charles Durning anywhere to be seen. It’s also unusual in that it’s a baseball story, when football is the sport anybody thinks about in correlation to Burt. Finally, it’s a kids’ movie. This isn’t the kind of movie I’d probably go out of my way to track down normally, but in the context of Burt Reynolds, I’m super-curious about it.
I still can’t believe Burt’s character is named “Jerome Katz!” That’s so Raven!
Haven’t seen this one yet, but Burt Reynolds and William Forsythe (RAISING ARIZONA) as a two-man team of hitmen is going to be hard to resist. So I won’t even try. Giancarlo Esposito costars!
See above! Albert Pyun still rules!
Have to admit that even as a connoisseur of schlock I did not know before now that this movie existed. Of course I knew about and had seen UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN (1999) and I particularly admire UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012), but no, I did not know about UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II: BROTHERS IN ARMS (1998) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III: UNFINISHED BUSINESS (also 1998). Least of all did I know that both of those featured Burt Fucking Reynolds! I got snookered! Looks like these two sequels were sort of swept under the rug since the big story (such as it is) at the time would have been Van Damme returning in THE RETURN. Without a doubt, this is unlikely to be an essential film in the Burt Reynolds canon, but unfortunately for me, I am a completist.
Guess the idea with Burt’s casting here is to invoke DELIVERANCE? No shade — it’s hard to stand out in a crowded field. Gotta do what you can. Hell, Daily Grindhouse has been kicking ass for a decade and we still pull less than a quarter of the traffic of the big genre-film sites. If we could do the equivalent of having a shotgun-toting Burt Reynolds on our poster, that’s what we’d have to do. And gladly.
After further research, it turns out Hamlet is the dog and Hutch is the Burt Reynolds.
After further research, it turns out the guy on the lower left has weird nipples.
Honestly curious about this one. It’s a period piece set in 1974 (around the time BADLANDS came out, hmmm…) about two kids on a quest to kill Elvis for some reason. John Carroll Lynch (ZODIAC) plays Colonel Tom Parker and Ron Livingston plays Elvis! Burt only narrates. Go figure. Gotta wonder if 1974 Burt Reynolds factors into it any. HE starred in THE LONGEST YARD that year, remember.
This is noteworthy as the last film Burt ever appeared in, at press time. A movie called DEFINING MOMENTS is said by IMDb to be completed and due for release on Christmas Day of this year. Here’s the Facebook page. Wish them luck.
TV: Good Sex with Dr. Ruth: Burt did an appearance on Dr. Ruth’s syndicated show, around the time he was promoting CITY HEAT, as far as I can tell. The show is an hour long, and Dr. Ruth excitedly refers over and over again to “Sexy Burt Reynolds” until he appears about twenty minutes before the end. Burt is alternately amused by Dr. Ruth and annoyed by her callers, like the one who asks him about his friendship about Clint immediately after he’s finished talking about that same subject with Dr. Ruth. But there’s a moment when a caller asks Burt for advice about a relationship and Burt advises him, “Don’t let her get away,” indicating there’s somebody special he himself let get away, and it’s not hard to guess who he’s talking about. It hit me like a slug to the heart, and who’d have thought I’d have felt that so soon after hearing Dr. Ruth detailing cures for premature ejaculation?
Okay, I know this has been a long article and I promise we’re in the home stretch, but here’s a movie we have to consider. It’s one of the essential films in all of Burt Reynolds’ career. He was already a star, on his way to becoming a global mega-celebrity and America’s number-one box-office champ, but in 1974 he wasn’t there yet. DELIVERANCE was a pivotal film for him, establishing that underneath the beauty and the flash he was a solid and serious actor. WHITE LIGHTNING was another crucial step in the construction of Burt’s movie-star persona. THE LONGEST YARD is one of the biggest crowd-pleasers in Burt’s filmography, but please don’t overlook the ways in which it was a bold choice and a risk for an up-and-coming American movie star.
THE LONGEST YARD opens with Burt’s character Paul Crewe smacking around a woman in a drunken rage and stealing her car, ultimately sending it off a dock. Try to imagine Tom Cruise doing a role like that, even now, let alone, say, a year after TOP GUN. Or just compare it to the water-down of the Adam Sandler remake. The Paul Crewe at the start of is THE LONGEST YARD a real piece of shit. There’s not a lot of ambiguity there. The only reason a viewer likes him is because he looks like Burt Reynolds. It’s smart filmmaking on the part of screenwriter Tracy Keenan Wynn and veteran no-bullshit filmmaker Robert Aldrich, but on the part of Burt, it’s a daring stunt, one he pulls off flawlessly. If Crewe isn’t a woman-beating piece of shit at the start of the movie, it doesn’t mean nearly as much when he’s beaten down and humbled by prison, befriended by down-and-outers he would have previously judged, and eventually transformed into a team captain, a team player, a leader of men, and a true outlaw hero of 1970s cinema.
We celebrate iconoclastic acting talents like Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson — rightly — for the outsider roles they performed in the 1970s, but we fail to give Burt Reynolds his due, because he was more glamorous, because he was more honest about the fun he was having than about his acting talent, because often he poked too much fun at himself, and because sometimes he took himself too seriously. But if you ask me, I would put the final moment of THE LONGEST YARD up against almost any other era-defining counter-culture cinematic moment, when Paul Crewe walks away from the field after winning the convicts-versus-guards game. Burt walks with nobility and purpose, every inch the anti-authoritarian revolutionary — and potential martyr. The great Ed Lauter is so indelible as the guard Knauer, having gone from enemy to begrudging admirer, evincing such pleading in his voice as he barks out “Crewe!” — begging his former nemesis to come back so he doesn’t have to shoot him dead, the way he’s been ordered to do. Of course, Crewe’s only gone to retrieve the game ball, the fact that he’s willingly going back to prison and not trying to escape being more of a transgressive act than any jailbreak could have been. And of course, what makes Burt Reynolds a star is the way he hands the ball to the tyrannical Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert) and half-smirks, “Stick this in your trophy case.” Only Burt could simultaneously play the athleticism, the gravity of the moment, and the insouciance. It’s impossible to imagine any other performer playing this role. I venture to say none could.
Honestly, Netflix sucks as a resource for Burt Reynolds films. This one’s only available until 4/20. Smoke if you got ‘em!
Written by William W. Norton, who wrote SAM WHISKEY and WHITE LIGHTNING for Burt, GATOR is Burt’s directorial debut. It’s a sort-of sequel to WHITE LIGHTNING, continuing the misadventures of Floridian hellraiser Gator McKlusky. Joseph Sargent (THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE) directed WHITE LIGHTNING. Burt took the reins for GATOR. My opinion is that as underrated as Burt is as an actor, he’s nearly as underrated a director. He had chops! I’m not saying he was Orson Welles*, but his movies have moments. And he knew how to round out a cast. This one has ringers and Burt regulars like Jack Weston, Jerry Reed, and Ned Beatty. The tone of the film is sort of a ping-pong and it’s not well-regarded. This movie currently rates 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. I disagree with that. The cinematography is by the legendary William A. Fraker, who shot movies like ROSEMARY’S BABY. Charles Bernstein (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) returned from WHITE LIGHTNING to supply another swamp-sleaze score. Hal Needham directed second-unit on this movie. There’s a Hal Needham stunt involving a truck in this movie that warrants a 100% all on its own. More than that, there’s a sad tenderness to moments in this movie, particularly its last few minutes, that feel heartbreakingly genuine. You could argue it’s not the most sophisticated or lyrical portrayal of lost love ever committed to film, but it feels sincere, and I’ll take sincerity over mastery every time.
*Orson Welles held Burt in esteem as a director. You can argue with me, but are you gonna argue with Orson Welles?
No Burt Reynolds movies. I can forgive you for that, Brown Sugar, since you have the most Pam Grier movies and the most Fred Williamson movies of any streaming service. We need those too.
Zero Burt Reynolds movies. Of all the streamers, I love you the most, Shudder, but this omission stabs like a dagger. It’s not your fault. Burt Reynolds didn’t really make any horror movies. But I’ll love you even more if you get the rights to stream THE MADDENING (Burt and Angie Dickinson as evil parents!) or SKULLDUGGERY (young Burt meets the ape-people!)…
Thanks for reading ! That’s all, folks !
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Tags: Burt Reynolds