The Sugarland Express was Spielberg's first theatrical release, although one would be hard-pressed to guess that. The film is amazingly well photographed and camera shots are obviously well-thought out in both movement and in contributing to the overall narrative. The film is also well edited and keeps a lively pace throughout. Spielberg also co-wrote the story and the screenplay won Best Screenplay at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. This was also the first film collaboration between filmmaker Spielberg and composer John Williams, although it's the haunting harmonica playing of "Toots" Thielemans that anchors the movie to its rural Texas stage.
Meanwhile Spielberg gets top rate performances from the cast, including Goldie Hawn as femme fatal Lou Jean, Michael Sacks as the hostage patrol officer and Ben Johnson, who, as usual, delivers a spare and reserved performance as Captain Tanner as he tails Lou Jean and company across Texas.
This is essentially a road movie with a bit of Bonnie & Clyde, a bit of social commentary, plentiful gunfire and a whole lot of police cars, chases and crashes. No doubt that John Landis must have been inspired by this movie when filming the police chase scenes in The Blues Brothers (in which Spielberg also had an uncredited appearance).
Aspiring film makers/directors would do well to study this picture and learn. It's not high art but that doesn't stop Spielberg from delivering a film that is highly enjoyable and creatively interesting. I've watched this film many times over the years and I find something new/different with every viewing.
Ben Johnson one of my favorites. Interesting true story.
Never seen so many police & highway patrol cars during the chase. Only one copy remains in the JO CO KS library.
A good movie. I saw it when it was new and loved it, and it's aged well. Hawn proved herself here as a good actress instead of an empty headed comediane, Ben Johnson gave another strong performance as a captain on the Texas State Police, and the husband also did well. A hard movie about life, human flaws and stupidity. There's a penalty for being stupid unless the stupid person is in law enforcement, government, or just wealthy.
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