In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Universal executives were thrilled with the rough cut until they previewed the film in San Jose, CA, on a double bill with Paper Moon (1973). Audiences were with the film through the first act, particularly liking Goldie Hawn's more comic scenes. When the sharpshooters turned up in the second half, and it became clear this was a more serious film, the mood changed. Some audience members left in tears. Others were angry. See more »
Although this story is set in 1969, there are a slew of early 1970's model automobiles used in the film, including most of the police cars. See more »
After the success of Duel (which was really a TV movie) Sugarland Express (Spielberg's first feature film) flopped at the box office, though it received a reasonably warm critical response. In fact this is a great little movie for all kinds of reasons.
If you're interested in Spielberg as a director this is fascinating as it begins to lay out most of the themes that have driven his work ever since - family (especially divided and dysfunctional families), childhood, parenthood, outsiders, America and Americana etc. It's also a really interesting piece in terms of his developing style. This is the first Hollywood film in which panaflex cameras were used allowing Spielberg to produce fantastically elaborate and fluid shots even in the confines of a car (see the superb 360 pan fixed on Ben Johnson's car when he first talks to the Poplins)- a kind of cinematography that has become a hall mark of Spielberg's, as have the rising crane shots and extended tracking shots that pepper the film. Spielberg skies and "God Light" (his term for shafts of light in mist/at night) also feature heavily.
It's also a really interesting if somewhat unrecognised influence on films like Thelma and Louise which seems to lift its basic structure and characters right out of this film. The way Ben Johnson's Captain Tanner equates to Harvey Keitel's police officer in Ridley Scott's film seems particularly close.
Fantastic performances all round too. Johnson, Horne and Atherton (a much under-used actor who has been largely wasted since, playing roles like the self serving journalist in the Die Hard films)particularly shine.
It's also very funny, sad and engaging from beginning to end. Can't recommend this one enough - especially if you're a Spielberg fan.
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