The End is a dark comedy, Burt Reynolds style

After the success of Smokey and The Bandit, Burt Reynolds was on top of the world. He was HOT. He had his choice of films, and every studio wanted to be in the Burt Reynolds business. He also wanted to direct.

So he directed and starred in The End.

WTF.

If you have never heard of The End, here’s a quick summary. Burt Reynolds’ character finds out he is dying, with one year to live. He decides to kill himself. He fails. He is institutionalized, and still wants to kill himself. He just wants to make sure it doesn’t hurt. He meets Dom Deluise, who decides to help him.

Wow, this movie is frakkin’ DARK.

This movie is underrated, and exceptionally funny. The film takes the smart take all the way, and the end of The End is an incredibly moving moment where Burt Reynolds attempts to reason with God, as Frank Sinatra’s My Way plays on the soundtrack.

Obviously, suicide is no laughing matter, and when I look at the many debates that have taken place over the past few years around “dying with dignity” I sometimes think that The End dealt with the same issues decades ago – and, in some cases, better.

The cast is a mix of friend of Burt, and you are not surprised to see people like Norman Fell, Strother Martin, Sally Field and Carl Reiner make notable appearances. The film was a modest success, with $44 million in tickets sold (a significant sum in 1978, though not as much as Smokey and the Bandit’s $127 million haul). The End used to be perennial film on cable for many years, which is where I discovered it. Well, times change… And it has now fallen into the Neglected Cinema bucket, which is why I am discussing it here. It’s worth a watch, and a great showcase of Reynolds’ charisma when he was at the peak of his success.

Here’s the trailer: