Saturday, November 17, 2007

No. 42 - Cannonball

A year after his cult classic Death Race 2000, director Paul Bartel returned to the highway with his 1976 car-chase epic Cannonball. Once again, David Carradine returns to the driver's seat, and he's competing in a California to New York cross-country race. Carradine plays "Cannonball" Buckman, a fast driver who needs to win the prize money to get his brother out of hock with mobsters.

Bill McKinney, the hillbilly rapist in Deliverance, is Cade Redman, Carradine's venal arch-rival. Other racers are portrayed by Robert Carradine, Bartel veteran Mary Woronov, Gerritt Graham and Dick Miller. Martin Scorsese and Sylvester Stallone appear in a scene together playing goombah flunkies.

Cannonball was written by Don Simpson, who later attained fame co-producing Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop with Jerry Bruckheimer. Five years later, The Cannonball Run would use a very similar concept in depicting a coast-to-coast race. Another cross-country race film, The Gumball Rally, was released the same summer as Cannonball.

Sylvester Stallone sidebar: Stallone graduated from thug roles in Prisoner of Second Avenue, Farewell My Lovely and Bananas to become a huge star with Rocky, then he wrote, directed and starred in 1978's Paradise Alley, a movie about wrestlers in which Stallone warbled the theme song "Too Close To Paradise" over the opening credits (a song which he also wrote).

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