David Carradine stars as Coy “Cannonball” Buckman, a onetime top racer who landed in prison following a car wreck that left his old girlfriend dead.
Eager for redemption – and the race’s $100,000 prize money – Coy enters the Cannonball race alongside such peculiar characters as Perman Waters (Gerrit Graham), a country singer who tries to conduct live broadcasts while riding in a car driven by maniacal redneck Cade Redman (Bill McKinney); Sandy Harris (Mary Woronov), leader of a trio of sexpots who use their wiles to get out of speeding tickets; Terry McMillan (Carl Gottlieb), a suburban dad who has his car flown cross-country in a brazen attempt to steal the first-place prize; and Wolf Messer (James Keach), a German racing champ determined to smite his American counterparts.
Carradine is appealing, even if his martial arts scenes seem a bit out of place, and Cannonball is never boring. But it’s also never especially engaging.
Cannonball was the first of four pictures inspired by the real-life Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an illegal race from New York to LA that attracted speed-limit-averse rebels for several years in the 1970s. It was followed by The Gumball Rally (also 1976), The Cannonball Run (1981), and Cannonball Run II (1984).
Coy ‘Cannonball’ Buckman
Diane Lee Hart
Stanley Bennett Clay
Samuel W. Gelfman
Brad Phillips’ Aide
David N. Gottlieb
Assistant District Attorney