TV Cream

Films: H is for...

Honky Tonk Freeway

1977: producer Don Boyd, driving through America to get to the set of horse opera International Velvet, casts his eye at the suburban sprawl that throngs the freeway and gets an idea for a film: a low-budget comedy set amongst the gas-guzzling deep south milieu, which could be filmed – literally – off the back of a lorry. Boyd takes his idea to EMI. They like the script. Their plans for it, however, prove more grandiose, involving over 100 speaking parts, a dozen locations, gigantic sets built by master Italian craftsmen, a whole Florida town painted pink, a specially-constructed two-mile length of freeway and an elephant on water-skis. Director John Schlesinger turns in a three hour epic. All concerned think it’s rather good. American preview audiences don’t share that opinion. Heaven’s Gate is invoked in the boardroom. The attempt by British filmmakers to beat the Americans at their own game takes barely a tenth of its estimated $24 million budget. Schlesinger moves quietly back into TV work, and EMI vow ‘never again’…

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  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Another film I really liked as a kid – the “highway stretches out just like a snake across the land” song, the “everybody’s going faster” song, the vaguely risque jokes, the bright sunshine, the smash ‘n’ crash ending – only to be really disappointed when I revisited it as an adult and found it one long, headache-inducing, laugh-free bore. Some things are best left alone…

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