The Cannonball Run (1981)

The Cannonball Run is a 1981 American-Hong Kong comedy film starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, and an all-star supporting cast. Filmed in Panavision, it was directed by Hal Needham, produced by Hong Kong‘s Golden Harvest films, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. The film is based on the 1979 running of an actual cross-country outlaw road race beginning in Connecticut and ending in California.

It was one of 1981’s most successful films at the box office. It was followed by Cannonball Run II (1984), and Speed Zone (1989). This and the 1984 sequel were the final film appearances of actor Dean Martin.

Not one for me 4/10

Cannonball Run featured an all-star cast, including these actors:

  • Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise as racer J.J. McClure and his buddy, mechanic Victor Prinzi, a.k.a. “Captain Chaos.”
  • Roger Moore as Seymour Goldfarb, Jr., a self-parody of his role as James Bond. His car, an Aston Martin DB5, displays the UK registration plate 6633 PP, same as the one in the Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball., although Moore’s Bond never actually drove an Aston Martin in any of his seven Bond appearances. (The original UK registration plate was BMT 216A before being sold to businessman Gavin Keyzar.) Molly Picon portrays his mother. Several women ride with Seymour, including model Lois Hamilton, billed as Lois Areno.
  • Farrah Fawcett as tree-loving photographer Pamela Glover. J.J. calls her “Beauty.”
  • Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. as race car driver Jamie Blake and scam artist Morris Fenderbaum, disguised as Catholic priests. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder plays himself as Fenderbaum bets on his success. (Snyder was Dean Martin’s neighbor when both were growing up in Steubenville, Ohio.) Blake’s car, a Ferrari 308 GTS 1979, is the same as the model in the TV series TV Magnum, P.I..
  • George Furth as Arthur J. Foyt, the uptight main antagonist of the film, who tries to have the race stopped.
  • Jackie Chan and Michael Hui as drivers of a Subaru GL filled with gadgets. In the opening part of the film, Chan and Hui are introduced on a talk show (hosted by Johnny Yune) as the operators of Japan‘s entry into the race. (Both Chan and Hui were actually Chinese; furthermore, the credits mistakenly credit the two as “Mitsubishi Driver(s).”)
  • Jamie Farr as Sheik Abdul ben Falafel, a wealthy Arabian potentate determined to win the race, even if he has to buy it. Bianca Jagger makes a brief appearance as his sister. Farr’s car is a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. This is the only character to appear in all three films in the Cannonball Run movie continuum.
  • Mel Tillis and Terry Bradshaw are Mel and Terry, a couple of “good ol’ boys” driving a thinly-disguised Chevrolet Malibu NASCAR Grand National race car, resembling the Hoss Ellington No. 1 Hawaiian Tropic car Donnie Allison drove in 1979, most famously in the 1979 Daytona 500 crash that led to the famous fight.
  • Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman as Marcie Thatcher and Jill Rivers, satin-Spandex-clad “hotties” in a black Lamborghini Countach. The same Lamborghini was used in the movie’s opening credits as it was being pursued by a Nevada Highway Patrol car. Valerie Perrine has an uncredited cameo as a state trooper. (Their character names are not mentioned during the story, but appear in the end credits. Their names return in the sequel, though the parts were re-cast.)
  • Peter Fonda has a cameo role referencing his character in The Wild Angels. The appearance of Fonda and his motorcycle gang during a halt in the race offered an excuse for Chan to demonstrate his martial arts skills during the fight sequence. Fonda’s big, bald biker buddy is played by Robert Tessier.
  • Bert Convy as wealthy but bored executive Bradford Compton, who planned to run the Cannonball by motorcycle with the help of an old friend, Shakey Finch (Warren Berlinger), once the world’s greatest cross-country motorcyclist. The two planned to disguise themselves as newlyweds. His ally weighed heavily, forcing them into a wheelie for the entire race.
  • Jack Elam as Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing, same name as the famous vampire hunter. This Van Helsing is a proctologist and graduate of the University of Rangoon, and the Knoxville, Tennessee College of Faith Healing.
  • Rick Aviles and Alfie Wise as Mad Dog and Batman, tow truck drivers who jump the train flatcar.
  • John Fiedler as the desk clerk.
  • Joe Klecko as the Polish driver in the van who gets pulled over by Mr. Foyt. (Klecko was a player in the National Football League.)
  • Car and Driver Magazine columnist and correspondent Brock Yates, who having created the real-life Cannonball Run, wrote the film directly for the screen, plays the race organizer of who lays down the rules at the starting line.
  • Director Hal Needham appears uncredited as the ambulance EMT.
  • Veteran Daytona 500 commentator Ken Squier appears as a California Highway Patrolman.
  • Veteran voice actor June Foray provided the dubbed dialogue of several of the women who escort Goldfarb in the race (“Seymour’s girls,” as the opening credits list them) in an uncredited performance.

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