Citizens Band (1977) - Rotten Tomatoes

Citizens Band (1977)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

CB radios provide a human connection between the lives of a collection of varied characters in Jonathan Demme's energizing film that exploits the CB radio craze of the mid-'70s. Chrome Angel (Charles Napier) is a truck driver who has an accident and is laid up recuperating at the home of Hot Coffee (Alix Elias). A road-roaring philanderer, Chrome Angel is a bigamist with a wife, Dallas (Ann Wedgeworth), in Dallas and another wife, Portland (Marcia Rodd), in Portland. The two women converge in a small town where Spider (Paul Le Mat) and his embittered brother Blood (Bruce McGill) are both trying to date Electra (Candy Clark). The characters' CB monikers weave the characters into the same CB waveband, exemplifying the interconnectedness of an American subculture.

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Candy Clark
as Electra
Ann Wedgeworth
as Dallas Angel
Marcia Rodd
as Portland Angel/Connie
Charles Napier
as Chrome Angel/Harold
Alix Elias
as Hot Coffee/Debbie
Roberts Blossom
as Papa Thermadyne/Father
Richard Bright
as Smilin'Jack/Garage Owner
Harry Northrup
as Red Baron
Will Seltzer
as Warlock
Gary Goetzman
as RV Salesman
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Citizens Band

All Critics (5)

A vivacious poem of American restlessness

Full Review… | July 30, 2012

This charming film (aka Handle With Care) was a commercial failure, but it holds up well and resonates more strongly when examined vis-a-vis Demme's other communal films, Melvin and Howard and Something Wild.

Full Review… | October 10, 2006

An engaging and modest movie about how individuals in a small town are drawn together through their CBs.

Full Review… | July 15, 2003
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Citizens Band

A vivacious poem of American restlessness that holds up remarkably well. It resonates because the the CB radio serves as the internet of the 1970s.

Lee Mayo
Lee Mayo

Every Generation Has Its Internet, I Guess The phenomenon of connecting with people you've never seen is not new to the latest generation. It's probably relatively modern; it requires on things like reliable mail. However, when I was in high school, you could pay a couple of bucks to be hooked up with someone on another continent as a pen-pal. Remember, too, that Charlie Brown was always writing his "pencil pal"--starting in 1958, which even predates the phenomenon under discussion here. Even before that, I've read of at least one marriage wherein the parties got to know each other while working in telegraph offices a considerable distance apart. The ceremony, of course, was also telegraphed so that their friends could "be there." And for a stretch in the 1970s, the American fixation was on Citizens' Band radio. In fine Hollywood tradition, movies were made to cash in on the phenomenon. Our Hero operates under the handle Spider (Paul Le Mat), and the credits assume we don't care about his real name--anyone's real name. Anyway, Spider lives with his father (Roberts Blossom), who operates as Papa Thermodyne. Also in town is his brother (Bruce McGill) and his ex-girlfriend (Candy Clark). There are also all sorts of wacky people around the town. We take a lot of time with a trucker, Chrome Angel (Charles Napier), and what turns out to be his two wives, Dallas Angel (Ann Wedgeworth) and Portland Angel (Marcia Rodd). Oh, and his girlfriend, a prostitute who goes by the handle of Hot Coffee (Alix Elias). After a particularly frustrating fight with everyone he knows, Spider goes kind of nuts and starts a one-man crusade to get everyone in town to obey the FCC regulations for use of the CB system. This includes battling Red Baron (Harry Northup), who spews Nazi rhetoric and apparently wants to drive all non-Aryans off the radio, and The Priest (Ed Begley, Jr.), who interrupts others' conversations to proselytize. There's also illicit context, of course. There's an obnoxious teenage boy who claims to be "The Hustler" (Michael Mahler), who spends his time reading pornography over the air. More mysterious is Electra, who exchanges dirty talk with Warlock (Will Seltzer). This is one of the things Spider is determined to eliminate, leading to about the only really funny bit in the movie. He has taken to driving around to triangulate various people's signals, and The Hustler is the first one he finds. The kid claims to be home sick, and Spider pushes past him. He goes after the kid's radio with a baseball bat. The kid's mother (Micki Mann) comes home after he finished, and the kid tells her what has happened. Presumably so she'll call the cops. But anyway, her response is that she's wanted to do it for ages. I have told you this entire scene because I didn't want you to think there was a reason to watch the movie--now, you know the only funny thing which happens. I think we're supposed to find the situation with the trucker's two wives was funny, but I did not. I wanted the smarter wife to walk out on him. Honestly, I wanted him to end up with the prostitute, because their relationship was at least honest. And he did have a clever idea when he set her up with an RV and made her a . . . what do you call it when it's trucks? A truck stop follower? Anyway. The Portland wife was intelligent, and I wanted better for her. The Dallas wife, I didn't much care. She was dumb and really deserved whatever she got. Though I don't ever think much of anyone deserves having their trust betrayed. That's part of the reason I wanted the trucker to end up with Hot Coffee. No, she didn't know about his wives, but she had no reason to expect that he was faithful to her. She knew exactly what their relationship was, though of course, she was a prostitute he visited whenever he was in the area. So I guess that's fidelity of a sort. All in all, the only thing approaching new here is the use of CB radio in its tired plot devices. The relationships aren't really dependent on it most of the time, because most of these people live in the same town. It's worth noting that there's at least one case of someone pretending to be someone different from who they are, and there is probably at least one case of someone being more themselves over the CB than they are in person. Which I think is another case of "nothing new under the sun," even though people think it is. The Red Baron probably does not actually, for all he's shown doing so at the end, deliver Nazi rhetoric in person. However, the CB is a type of anonymity, the one which has only exploded in the days of the chat room and the message board. What we can do now is create even greater anonymity, of course. I can lie to all of you about where I am, because you don't have to be within a certain distance to hear me. I don't have to disguise my voice to keep you from recognizing it, because all I am to you is words on a screen.

Edith Nelson
Edith Nelson

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