Sugarland Express, The (1974)

“No more runnin’ off, no more speedin’, and no more guns. Now what do you say to that?”

A mother (Goldie Hawn) recently released from prison convinces her about-to-be-released husband (William Atherton) to go on the lam and retrieve their young son from his foster parents. During their escape, they take a patrol officer (Michael Sachs) hostage, and soon develop an uneasy friendship — but will the captain (Ben Johnson) in charge of the situation give Hawn and Atherton a second chance?


Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Steven Spielberg’s debut film is exciting, offbeat entertainment” with “the kinetic energy and visual dynamism of Spielberg’s later films”, but “far more cynical”. He points out how “Spielberg sways us into favoring Lou Jean [Hawn] by showing us the too-old foster mother and a baby that cries anytime she holds it”, but notes he “wouldn’t want the baby to be given to Lou Jean — she is a sweet person, but she’s off her rocker”. He asserts that “people like Lou Jen and Clovis [Atheron] have no chance — they act impulsively and naively, never comprehending that they’re taking on a force that will crush them.” While “Tanner [Johnson] may feel sympathetic toward the couple… he will take only so much of their challenging the law”, and “the police will impersonally carry out their role in the drama — just as the government scientists will carry out their impersonal role in E.T.” He adds that “the shame is that there is no attempt to understand Lou Jean and Clovis on a personal level, so that the police could understand that Lou Jean and Clovis would never harm Slide” — but that’s not necessarily true; given Hawn’s determination to “rescue” her son and live a “normal” family life, there’s no telling what she wouldn’t do on behalf of this goal. Peary notes that while the “picture has interesting characters”, “Spielberg gives us no one who can be admired”. With that said, the “acting is solid”, the “action sequences are extremely well done”, and Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography is “impressive”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the two leads
  • Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended as a well-directed chase flick with heart.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.