June 8: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is cars! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.
This movie is the end of an era in so many ways. It’s the last time the Rat Pack — Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Shirley MacLaine — would appear in a movie together as well as the last movie for Martin, Sinatra and Jin Nabors. It’s also the last car comedy from Burt Reynolds, who made his superstar status with movies like this.
After the events of Cannonball Run, Sheik Abdul ben Falafel (Jamie Farr) has angered his father King Abdul ben Falafel (Ricardo Montalbán) and brought shame to the name Falafel. King Abdul demands that he win the next Cannonball; when told there won’t be one, he orders his son to buy one.
Bringing back nearly everyone from the original movie — no, not Cannonball or The Gumball Rally — the race is on, even if Don Don Canneloni (Charles Nelson Reilly) wants to kidnap the sheik after learning that he paid for the debts of Jamie Blake and Morris Fenderbaum (Martin and Davis), as well as the debts of the man hunting them down, Hymie Kaplan (Telly Savalas).
In addition to Falafel, who has hired away Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing (Jack Elam) and brought his servant (Doug McClure), the racers this time are:
JJ McClure and Victor Prinzi (Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, who also plays Don Cannelloni and Victor’s other side Captain Chaos), who are dressed as soldiers and driving a Chrysler Imperial limousine. They pick up two fake nuns played by Betty and Veronica (Marilu Henner and MacLaine) as well as soldier Private Homer Lyle (Neighbors, pretty much playing Gomer Pyle).
Mitsubishi engineer Jackie Chan (Jackie Chan, once again playing Japanese) being driven by the gigantic Arnold (Richard Kiel) in a Mitsubishi Starion that can drive underwater.
Jill Rivers and Marcie Thatcher are back driving a Lamborghini, but Susan Anton and Catherine Bach take over for Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman, who was too busy getting her throat slit by Santa Claus in Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Mel and Tony (Mel Tillis and Tony Danza) who are driving a limousine with an orangutang.
Don Don’s enforcers, Sonny (Michael V. Gazzo), Tony (Alex Rocco), Slim (Henry Silva) and Caesar (Caesar) also join in, as does Shawn Weatherly who falls for Jamie. Plus there are cameos by Foster Brooks, Sid Caesar and Louis Nye as fishermen, Tim Conway and Don Knotts as policemen, Molly Picon as Seymour Goldfarb’s mother (without Roger Moore who regretted his decision to turn down a role in this movie after finding out Sinatra was appearing, saying in his book My Word Is My Bond, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but too few to mention.”), Joe Theismann as a trucker, Arte Johnson as a German air ace from WWII, George Lindsay (Goober Pyle from the aforementioned Gomer Pyle USMC TV show), American restauranteur Jilly Rizzo (whose name Sinatra would substitute when he sang “Mrs. Robinson” so he didn’t misuse the Lord’s Son’s name), Western character actor Dub Taylor, monster truck Bigfoot* and, yes, Sinatra himself as himself.
Roger Ebert said that this movie was “one of the laziest insults to the intelligence of moviegoers that I can remember. Sheer arrogance made this picture” and Gene Siskel countered by saying that it was “a total ripoff, a deceptive film – that gives movies a bad name” and the worst movie he and Ebert had ever reviewed on At the Movies.
There’s a third movie in the series that few no about, Speed Zone, which only has Jamie Farr returning but boasts a pretty fun cast, John Candy romancing Donna Dixon and John Schneider playing a Duke.
*Bigfoot also appears in Take This Job and Shove It, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Road House, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, Tango & Cash, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Ready: Player One.