Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash 

During the opening credits the voiceover sets the stage for the 1977 crash, the plane running out of gas 200 yards before the runway. Then drummer Artimus Pyle intones that we’re about to see the true story about “the greatest Southern rock band of all time.” Fans of the Allman Brothers may have a different opinion, but we are quickly thrust into a biopic of actors re-enacting what transpired.

The 70s attire and sets are painfully accurate, as are the topless groupies, dope and lines of coke. Pyle tells the story from his perspective. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt is portrayed as generally surly, and the rest of the band as equally interested in the trappings of the rock star lifestyle. TVs through hotel windows and general rock excess are de rigeur.

Aerosmith and their manager are seen giving a “hard pass” on the plane that sent Skynyrd out of the sky. ‘Almost Famous’ set the bar pretty high for scenes of rock bands scared of their plane crashing. Slo-mo cuts of the band climbing aboard telegraph what is to come for Skynyrd. Layering on the drama is foreboding dialogue about ‘weird energy out there.’

Dialogue between the pilots is imagined, and the band marvels at the strangely prophetic cover art of their new album, whence the film’s title. The silence of the engines and the a capella choir are juxtaposed.

The prophetic, original cover art of the new album.

The hastily reissued album art.

With the plane crash occurring at the film’s midpoint, we have long agonizing scenes of Pyle trying to triage the survivors and heroically hiking his way to a farmhouse for help, water moccasin in the creek be damned. Neither the redneck who shot Pyle for trespassing nor the fender bender en route to the hospital were helpful either. More agony transpires in the long hospital scenes.

Fans of the band are legion (the first time I saw them was on a bill in a stadium with James Gang and ELP in the mid 70s, the last time I saw them was last year at Stagecoach and I have never been in a more jampacked mob). Fans will likely enjoy the film’s effort at retelling the past. Although no original music was licensed for the film (and surprisingly never do we hear a cry for ‘Free Bird’), their record label does not fare well. Refusing to pay any hotel bills, the label was earlier namechecked when the band recorded ‘Workin’ for MCA.’

 

Trailer available here.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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