Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Big Bus


Before there was Airplane! there was The Big Bus. Before Speed there was The Big Bus. After Airport there was The Big Bus. As far as I can tell, this was the first spoof of those overblown disaster movies that plagued us all through the 1970s. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I liked a few of them.) A nuclear-powered double-decker articulated bus with a piano bar, a banquet room, a bathtub, and a bowling alley, among many other amenities, sets out to make the first non-stop bus trip from New York to Denver, passing through territory that looks suspiciously like the mountains just outside Los Angeles. But there’s a bomb aboard! And the co-driver is subject to narcolepsy! And the disgraced driver (accused of eating all 110 of his passengers when his bus plunged over a ravine: “I didn’t eat them! I ate the seats, I ate the floor mats, but I didn’t eat a single passenger. … well, except that stew my co-driver made, it had a foot in it. So you condemn a man for one lousy foot?”) is demanding 20 and 20 before he’ll drive it! “Twenty dollars a day and twenty cents a mile!” The gags are thrown out at a terrific rate and a few flop but most work. Every cliché of this sort of movie is lampooned … in short, it’s just like Airplane! but some years earlier. It may not be quite as polished as that movie, but the cast is terrific, and the bus itself is one of the most amazing feats of prop design I’ve ever seen. This largely forgotten movie deserves to be seen. Seek it out.