New On Blu: HOOPER, or “The Redneck Righteousness Of Reynolds Returns”

Hooper hit Blu-ray on April 7.

If you’ve read my review of White Lightning and Gator, then you already know that I love Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham, and their brand of vehicular stunts.

Hooper (1978) is a film that mixes those ingredients to the nth degree, reuniting Reynolds and director/stunt guru Needham along with Sally Field, the three of whom worked together on the previous year’s breakout hit Smokey And The Bandit.

Hooper takes its filmmakers’ love for stunts and the movies and wears it on its sleeve. Reynolds plays Sonny Hooper, the world’s greatest stuntman. A breaker of records and bones, he’s the guy who’s seen and done it all. As a reminder of why the 70s were amazing, this film not only finds him doubling for Adam West, but supposes an idealized world in which top stuntmen are widely famous and revered, and live like kings. Also, the director’s assistant is, I kid you not, George W. Bush. Any doubt is put to rest by his Texas Rangers ballcap.

OK, he’s actually Alfie Wise but just LOOK at him.

Hooper, now a bit long in the the tooth and starting to feel the toll of years of bodily abuse, is urged by his girlfriend Gwen (Sally Field) to slow things down, but he becomes distracted by a young up-and-coming stunt performer named Ski (Jan-Michael Vincent). At first he’s threatened by the skilled young man, but they become good friends and he takes Ski under his wing as his protege.

There’s plenty of action both on and off the sets, including a charity stunt show, a high-speed freeway booze cruise in reverse, a chuteless jump from a helicopter, and a surreal bar fight against a SWAT team led by Terry Bradshaw (they’re all pals by the time it’s over).

Hooper decides to lay it all on the line for one last hurrah. It’s that old chestnut from every gangster, hitman and heist film — one last big job to retire on. Egged on by Ski, he agrees to an insane action sequence involving driving through a massive, explosion-packed earthquake sequence with buildings toppling all around, dodging the crumbling towers and finishing with an unprecedented horizontal jump across a river where a bridge has fallen.

The drama of Hooper may not be high stakes, but the action certainly is. Reynolds is characteristically charming in the role, and the film clearly wears it love for the profession on its sleeve.

The Package

Warner Bros released Hooper on Blu-ray on April 7, as well as Reynold’s 1981 cop thriller Sharky’s Machine. Both discs are lean on extras, including only an original theatrical trailer.

Special Features and Extras

Theatrical Trailer (2:00)

If my knowledge of both Hooper and Sharky’s Machine is correct, their DVD releases were limited to crappy 4:3 fullscreen transfers (WB is great at making Blu-rays but their DVD game was weak). I believe this release event marks their first correctly formatted home video editions ever. On that note, these are a must-buy for fans who already own either film.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
Hooper — [Blu-ray]

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