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The Sugarland Express [VHS]

4.1 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, Michael Sacks, William Atherton, Gregory Walcott
  • Directors: Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: Steven Spielberg, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
  • Producers: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Goodtimes Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: March 5, 1998
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000006N60
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,227 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Steven Spielberg's first feature film was, in fact, a small-scale commercial flop--but good enough to earn him a shot at making his name directing Jaws. Goldie Hawn and William Atherton play a young couple who, after some bad breaks and mistakes, have their child taken away by the state of Texas. So they take the law into their own hands and take off to retrieve him, on the run from the police--lots and lots of police--all the while turning themselves into a cause célèbre. Strong filmmaking overcomes a melodramatic script; it's fledgling Spielberg, which is better than full-blown Arthur Hiller or Joel Schumacher any day. --Marshall Fine

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
It was thirty years ago this very month that Steven Spielberg made his official big-screen directing debut (his 1971 film DUEL being an excellent made-for-TV offering) with THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS. Even at this early stage in his career, Spielberg's directoral instincts were extremely sharp, and his concentration on the characters is masterful. It's amazing how people sell Spielberg short in this area simply because so many of his films seem to be all about special effects and gee-whiz heroics.
Loosely based on events that occurred in Texas in the spring of 1969, the film stars Goldie Hawn as an ex-con mother who springs her reluctant husband (William Atherton) from a prison farm so they can get their infant son back from a foster family that has refused to return custody to Hawn. But when they hijack a Texas state trooper (Michael Sachs) and force him to driver them to the town of Sugarland, they attract far more attention than they bargained for: mass media, hundreds of onlookers, and nearly half of the total number of law enforcement officers in Texas. Veteran character actor Ben Johnson is the lead lawman in this relatively slow-speed chase, occasionally punctuated by redneck sniper gunfire, who sympathizes with Hawn's and Atherton's plight but who also must still perform his duties. It all comes to a climax at Sugarland with a jarring result.
Although made for relatively little money (just three million, as opposed to the tens of millions Spielberg would spend on his films in ensuing decades), THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS was still only a modest box office hit. Part of that could be attributed to audiences' expectations of seeing Hawn in a frothy comedy following her turn on TV's "Laugh-In" and instead getting a real live actress with intensity.
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Format: DVD
"The Sugarland Express" received good critical reviews but flopped at the box office. Luckily, Spielberg had demonstrated his skill as a director with this film and the TV movie "Duel". Both earned him the chance to direct "Jaws" and the rest, as they say, is history. Based on a true story, Lou Jean Poplin (Goldie Hawn)convinces her husband Clovis (William Atherton from "Ghostbusters" and "Die Hard")to break out of a minimum security prison even thought he has only a couple of months to go. Their son is being taken away from her and being put into foster care. Lou Jean won't stand for this and she proposes that they kidnap their own son. In the process, the pair end up taking a Texas police officer (Michael Sacks "Slaughter House Five")hostage and are pursued by Texas lawmen led by Captain Tanner (Ben Johnson) across the state.

Steven Spielberg's first film gives evidence of his talent and skills as a film director. Although he would later be accused of creating the box office mania that "dumbed down" Summer films into "event films", Spielberg didn't create the popcorn movie genre. Like Hitchcock, Spielberg made many types of films and this, his second, was among his most ambitious early films in terms of scope, technique and themes. Based on a story that Spielberg concocted with screenwriters Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins ("The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings", "Dragonslayer") from a true story a taunt, often funny and powerful road movie.

The strong performances and well written script gave Spielberg a springboard to dive into a pool of ambitious film techniques. Make no mistake, though, this film isn't just about technique and that's its saving grace. Otherwise, this could have degenerated into just another exploitation film.
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Format: DVD
Thankfully we have a decent widescreen DVD of Spielberg's dazzling theatrical debut. It was a box office flop in 1974, probably because it didn't appeal to the `Easy Rider' set and because it makes satiric jabs at populist sentiment. Notably, its bittersweet ending poses sticky philosophical questions, distilled in the final, haunting line (I won't give it away here, you have to hear it for yourself). The hair raising finale presents the viewer with an odd Spielberg finish; who were the winners, who were the losers? And anyway, who in 1974 wanted Goldie in a superb but non-comic role? One of Spielberg's trademarks is tight visual and verbal economy. The opening shot alone makes ironic comments and transmits myriad detail, all within seconds. It's followed by one ingeniously inventive scene after another. A little slow to start, the action quickly gains momentum. Tension never stops building, spiked now and then by sudden moments of revelation and discovery. The acting is terrific (Spielberg uses local rubes better than any director around), and Ben Johnson's performance is one of unerring precision. HE steals the whole show. This was a most auspicious directorial debut and was a hit at Cannes (the well-honed script won first place). Spielberg knows how to get viewers involved and keep them there. As one who grew up down South I can testify that Spielberg captured the ambiance of the Texas countryside and people with gratifying authenticity. This is flawless work, among Spielberg's best. Hopefully this DVD will revive a film that has long deserved more attention. The DVD image is a bit soft in spots, and there's only a measly trailer for extras, but it's still a great ride for the money. Essential.
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