The Big Bus

Year: 1976

Director: James Frawley

Stars: Joseph Bologna, Stockard Channing, Rene Auberjonois, Ned Beatty, Richard Mulligan, Sally Kellerman, Murphy Dunne, Jose Ferrer, John Beck, Harold Gould, Larry Hagman, Ruth Gordon, and a host of others.

For the uninitiated, The Big Bus is an Airplane-style comedy – despite being earlier by several years – which focuses around the maiden trip of the world’s first nuclear-powered bus on it’s way from New York to Denver – non-stop, no less. There’s the usual backstories on the bus, including the failed love affair between the male and female leads, the man with the terminal disease, the doubting priest, the old woman travelling alone, and just about every other cliche you can imagine. And at the same time, there’s the plot to destroy the bus by agents of the fossil fuel nations, fearing their future profits.

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The actors are all cheesily good, especially Auberjonois as the priest who isn’t certain what he believes, and John Beck as ‘Shoulders’, the co-driver with the habit of falling asleep at the wheel. However, the real star is the bus itself: Cyclops.

Cyclops is incredible. With a passenger capacity of 110, it is equipped with such wonders as a bowling alley, an Oriental-style cocktail lounge with a piano bar, a swimming pool, the captain’s dining room, a private marble-and-gold bathroom with sunken tub, and a full chef’s kitchen. Additionally, it has outside features including an automatic car-wash mechanism for the Cyclops exterior; an automatic en-route tyre-changing system; and a display of “Flags of all Nations,” which emerges from the vehicle’s roof. Double-decked and articulated, with 32 wheels, it truly steals every scene.

The troubles that emerge along the way, putting the passengers in peril, are almost unbelievable in their disaster-movie familiarity, and the way that these disasters are averted often defy belief…..

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The Big Bus is a movie I’ve always liked, and having watched it again very recently, it was lovely to be reminded just why…

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