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The Sugarland Express (1974)

 -  Adventure | Comedy | Crime  -  5 April 1974 (USA)
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 8,768 users  
Reviews: 48 user | 44 critic

A woman attempts to reunite her family by helping her husband escape prison and together kidnapping their son. But things don't go as planned when they are forced to take a police hostage on the road.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Captain Tanner
Michael Sacks ...
Slide
...
Clovis
...
Mashburn
...
Jessup
Louise Latham ...
Mrs. Looby
Harrison Zanuck ...
Baby Langston
A.L. Camp ...
Mr. Nocker
Jessie Lee Fulton ...
Mrs. Nocker
Dean Smith ...
Russ Berry
Ted Grossman ...
Dietz
Bill Thurman ...
Hunter
Kenneth Hudgins ...
Standby #1
Buster Daniels ...
Drunk (as Buster Danials)
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Storyline

Lou-Jean, a blonde woman, tells her husband, who is imprisoned, to escape. They plan to kidnap their own child, who was placed with foster parents. The escape is partly successful, they take a hostage, who is a policeman and are pursued through to Texas... Written by Kornel Osvart <kornelo@alphanet.hu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

texas | hostage | prison | police | kidnapping | See more »

Taglines:

Every cop in the state was after her. Everybody else was behind her. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 April 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carte Blanche  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Based on the events of May, 1969, when fugitives Robert and Ila Fae Dent kidnapped Department of Public Safety trooper Kenneth Crone, commandeered his car, and led police law enforcement officials on a chase from outside Port Arthur, through Houston, up to Navasota, and on to Wheelock, where Ila Fae Dent's mother lived. At one point, a motorcade of more than 150 police cars and reporters joined the pursuit. FBI agent Bob Wiatt (who retired in 2004) confronted them at the mother's home and was forced to shoot Robert Dent, who was armed, in the neck, killing him. Wiatt wrestled Ila Fae to the ground and handcuffed her. See more »

Goofs

In 1969, dashed center lines down the road would have been white not yellow. MUTCD introduced all yellow striping in late 1971 and between then and 1975, the roads would be repainted. Texas had white lines up until around the middle of 1973, but the film was made after the conversion to MUTCD '71 hence yellow striping on the roads in the area. See more »

Quotes

Maxwell Slide: Is your name Buster Daniels?
Drunk: Well, it was before I married.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Swordfish (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

I've Been Working on the Railroad
(uncredited)
Traditional
Played by a band when the car enters Rodrigues, Texas
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Spielberg's sleeper- a tragic-comedy that delivers what it proposes
19 August 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Before Jaws propelled Steven Spielberg to the moon, he was a television director, often on episodes of Columbo and Night Gallery. Then came Duel, his taut, experimental feat of man vs. man in machines thriller that made him notable, if not bankable, in the Hollywood eye. His first theatrical release, The Sugarland Express, is to me still one of his ten best (maybe not top five, but up there). Along with his screenwriters (whom would all go to win at Cannes), Spielberg brings a true story with a sense of the tragic realism, but also the sense of adventure and fun that goes into Spielberg's most entertaining films. There's usually a sense of excitement, but one can sense this is not the kind of story that will end up as the main characters think.

Goldie Hawn (as pretty as she is dramatic and chippy) and William Atheron (later impressionable in Ghostbusters, very much so here), are a husband and wife- the husband is in jail at the start of the film, and Hawn breaks him out with little trouble. They have a custody battle, literally, going on with their son, who is away at a home. They have to go through Texas- aka the 'Sugarland Express'- but it won't be easy. Soon there's a pursuit across the state, as the couple becomes rather famous in their simple pursuit of getting the one they love. Hawn and Atherton play off each other well, and Spielberg even at his young age as a director here gets very good performances out of them, especially out of Atherton who has a kind of urgent, tense, but focused way about him throughout. Hawn here isn't totally in the kind of mode like in her vehicle comedies- she's playing the worried mother, as determined as her husband, but her performance still contains a kind of naiveté that's crucial to the character.

And in full widescreen glory Spielberg flexes his technical chops to a full capacity. He doesn't make the film as a thriller like with Duel, but it still drives suspense on in its road movie way. There are a couple of shots that are done for the first time (see trivia) to great effect, and there is a scene in a small town I still remember very well due to the amount of people that are in it, and how Spielberg directs this wonderfully. In some ways this is like one of those Lifetime movies crossed with Smokey and the Bandit only played more for realism; there's something very interesting that we don't get to see much with the son, he's always in a world of his own inside the house, as the situation builds on the outside.

This all builds up to an ending that some have said doesn't work, or (like with some of Spielberg's other films, War of the Worlds for example) is too abrupt. I found that it worked just as well as with the opening scenes. It's realistic, at least for the period, and its important to remember this is based on a true story, and in these establishing and closing scenes the audience gets the real meat of the story (Catch Me if You Can did this too, though in a different way), and then in the middle some of the more dramatized parts come in. It wasn't a smash success on its first release, but it made enough of an impression with its win at Cannes and its writers guild nomination (ironically it was nominated for Best Comedy) to get Spielberg his next gig, which ended up being the real test of his career. As a nifty tale of overly concerned parents on-the-run, its really very impressive.


17 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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