I am a Redneck, I don't have a problem with it.
Pure out and out Kentucky born and bred White Trash. This is fine.
One more White Nigger, that is me. Raised by a factory worker
granddad, a grandmother who never drove a car, a mom who had aspirations
to be a country music star and a crazed Vietnam vet, I figure
there ain't any use trying to deny, it is as plain as the pug-nose
on my face, so I decided some time ago to be proud and try and
embrace my backwards-ness. This leads me to my review of one of
the most successful and pretty damned good Redneck Revenge films
ever to grace a 60 foot screen just outside of town. WALKING TALL.
Well, I have reviewed artsy shit like Chinese Bookie, and schlocky
swill like Blood Freak, but this is the kind of movie that a review
just basically oozes from my very spirit. WALKING TALL. Let me
just say, I saw this thing 4 times at the drive-in during its
initial run, thank you very much and countless more in the early
days of HBO and even as a CBS Saturday Night Movie, I believe.
Okay, I have seen it, you get the point.
A true life "Real-American Hero" Buford Pusser, was
the sheriff in Adamsville, Tennessee. He died in 1974, in a fiery
auto-explosion that may or may not have been an accident. You
see, the "real" Buford Pusser was a legit bad-ass, shot
8 times and knifed 7. If you were gonna base a film on a tough-guy
sheriff, he wasn't a bad place to start. So that is how it went.
Buford Pusser was to be forever immortalized on the silver screen.
Walking Tall came along at a time when the south was portrayed
as a corrupt place if you were an outsider.The last thing you
wanted to do was cross the Mason-Dixon line to conduct business,
visit family or God-forbid, take a vacation. Films like "Macon
County Line", "White Line Fever" and "Texas Chainsaw",
remind the viewer of what took place in the south - movies filled
with psycho hillbillies, corrupt devil worshipping cops, moonshine
swilling teenagers and plenty of open road, high speed car wrecks
leaving gallons of blood splattered on the highway. If you went
to Alabama, Texas or Tennessee, you were guaranteed a good ass
whuppin' not only from the local citizens, but you might get one
from the local sheriff or his deputies and hell, the judge might
get in on it too. The authorities were usually on the take and
many times as ruthless as the law breakers.
But "Walking Tall" was different not for its setting (Tennessee)
or its rampant portrayal of corruption (illegal gambling, prostitution,
drug dealing), but in its attempt at humanity.
Buford Pusser (Joe Don Baker) is an ex-wrestler (Buford the
Bull) who has left the mat biz 'cause he is not getting his push.
That's right Buford shoots on the biz, letting the casual viewer
in on it, Wrestling Is Fake! The horror! I am waiting for the
Buford the Bull story, personally, about a wrestler trying to
make it in the South with a small wrestling promotion. But hey,
who isn't. So Buford comes back to his home town and his parents,
just to kinda kick back, work a nine to five logging job, and
enjoy time with his wife Pauline (Elizabeth Hartman) and kids
(Dawn Lyn and Leif Garrett, that's right Leif)
But his first day back, Buford runs into a old high school chum
and they end up at the Lucky Star, the local full service establishment.
Trailers full of whores in the front, illegal booze in the bar
and a full blown gambling casino in the back. Pusser witnesses
cheating at the craps table and proceeds to beat the shit out
of the dealer (who is on the current sheriff's payroll, who is
on the payroll of some corrupt political bigwig) - but the locals
boys outnumber Buford and eventually get him, and but good, cutting
his chest and abdomen with a knife and dumping him a ditch to
die - which, of course, he doesn't. Needless to say, Buford might
be glad to see home but home ain't so glad to see him.
This sets Pusser on a mission to bring down the evil forces in
the small town, which includes every bar owner, peace officer
and even the judge. An interesting dynamic is the fact that Buford
is an equal opportunity ass-kicker. He quickly befriends an old
football buddy who happens to be black (which given the market
for this film upon its release had to send car horns a tooting
at the Drive-In) and his somewhat maniacal obsession with do-gooding
covers the black-moonshiners, white bar owners and so on.
When Pusser eventually becomes sheriff of the little town, he
steeps up the mission to stop the political corruption, bust up
stills, and tear the Lucky Star off its foundations. And, of course,
from the state capitol on down the corrupters aren't very pleased
with Buford's brand of "big stick" law enforcement.
The stick of course is something that you would think was a Tinsel
Town creation but that was not the case, the real Buford Pusser
was a man of big stick. Often letting the stick be the judge,
jury and executioner.
Some folks have a problem with the "wild west ethic"
of law enforcement. Personally, it is a movie, emotionally, I
can't give a shit. Buford gets done wrong, Buford goes out to
get them, with the law on his side. As sheriff, Pusser does good
but its because he's on a personal vendetta which crosses over
the line of righteousness. He says he goes after the bad guys
because they're breaking the law - he really goes after them because
they done him wrong. 'Nuff said.
Using the law for personal gain and vengeance is as corrupt as
crooks who dish it out right? So what, I say, they had it coming.
That is what makes Walking Tall work as a film. Now in real life
a guy usually doesn't get the chance to reap justice like a Buford
Pusser, so when watching the film, you end up cheerleading Pusser
into reeking havoc. Plus Pusser doesn't just hurt his antagonizers,
he kills them in right bloody fashion. But usually as retribution,
but Buford reaps what he sows, he looses his dog, his wife and
a huge part of himself, we are led to believe, because these forces
of corruption have changed the honest happy-go-lucky galoot he
was. He always makes reference to "the system," Buford-speak
for "the man" trying to keep him down.
Film critics generally hate a film that is so reactionary that
it makes "Dirty Harry" seem outrageously liberal in comparison.
"Eye for an Eye" is today's Bible lesson and Pusser
is preaching hard. Not that the film doesn't have its shortcomings.
Sometimes "Walking Tall" feels like a made-for-TV movie from the
era, with horrible music and Phil Karlson's direction remains
stilted throughout and seems shot in a linear, by the book fashion
that becomes predictable early on. The strength is in the story,
in the relentless attacks the locals have on Pusser and Pusser's
"vengeance is mine" relentless counterattacks. I am
always amazed how many critics love Billy Jack yet hate Walking
Tall. I believe it is because Pusser has the law on his side,
or at least a badge, and Billy Jack is an individual fighting
the law, alone, for very liberal minded issues whilst Pusser seems
motivated by revenge. I have to admit, Pusser's motivations seem
more realistic to me, maybe not as high & mighty, but realistic.
So without gettin' heady with the "what is right, what is
wrong" about old West Justice, let me just say Walking Tall
is entertaining, Hell it spawned 2 sequels, and as late as the
early 90's they were still talking about Bo Svenson in a TV series
based on ol' Boo. See it, if you haven't and see it again, if
I can't really end this review without just a word or two about
Joe Don Baker, a man with 2 first names who in my opinion is vastly
underrated. His career got a start in one of the greatest films
of all time, Cool Hand Luke. Just a young cuss, Joe Don
shows up as one of the background characters in prison, I don't
think he is even credited. He was in the Guns of the Magnificent
Seven. The absolutely brilliant, soon to be reviewed right
here, Welcome Home Solider Boys, as well as, a personal
favorite performance in Charlie Varrick, alongside Walter
Matthau, as Molly, which landed him the role of Buford Pusser.
His performance in Mitchell and the film itself was a MST3000
send-up (who fucking cares) and he made sort of a comeback in
Scorsese's Cape Fear as the understated P.I. on the trail
of Max Kadey. With over 60 film credits to his name, Joe Don is
a force and straight up, FUCK YOU, if you are not down.
When you are finished watching the film and you are looking for
something to do, how about a road trip of sorts? How about hitting
the Carbo Smokey Mountain Police Museum. Smack dab in the Hell
on Earth, known as Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. You can see Buford's
stick, the charred 1974 Corvette (what's left of it) he died in
and a whole damn wall of Pusserabilia, including a wax likeness
of Buford. You can buy a corncob pipe, or a Buford Pusser Back
The autographed photos of Joe Don Baker, Bo Svenson, Jack Lord,
and Eric Estrada and other cop-type actors also crowd the walls.
To visit here is the address: (Carbo's Police Museum: U.S. Hwy.
Oh yeah, Pusser's home in Adamsville has also been opened as
a tourist attraction and shrine to Buford. Displays here include
his bed (insert big stick joke here), a selection of Pusser credit
cards, and his toothbrush. Sometimes his daughter Dwana stops
by. You can buy a Buford Pusser coloring book and souvenir ax
handles in the gift shop. (Buford Pusser's Home: 342 Pusser St.)
Of course. You should have known.
|Just another victim
of Buford Pusser's stick.
|Buford swings for
the fences, as the bad guys seem to keep on keeping on.
|The simplest shots
sometimes tell the story.
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Me An Angel Gal Biker and more.
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At Dawn A Modern Classic.
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Summer In Barefoot County. PeeUww!
Night Train To
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Russ Meyer and breasts!
Stop Women Honnnk HonnnnK!
Deadly Darling! Pigs!
the Germ Fighter! Clean up!
Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast? Why?!
County Express! Glug, Glug!
The Night God Screamed!
White Dog Racists
City Slickers get offed!
Times Five Sean MacGregor's Titantic!
at the Red Wolf Inn Burp!
Eyes See It
Greatest Sinner One of the best!
Baby! Goo Goo!
Camp Nightmare Viva the Revolution!
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Play Dead Incest craziness!
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Come, Evil Go! Bye, Bye Sinners!
Strutters Get Black Sucker!
Pretty Eddie Deep South Craziness!
Golem Jewish Folklore or what?
NYC Apartment Blues
To Kill A Clown
Alan Alda Vietnam Vet!
Spook Who Sat Next To The Door Booya!
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Mutilation Man Andy Copp goes arty on us!
People Across The Lake Good TV!
Woman Hunt Load Up Gents.
Devil At You Heels Daring Devil.
Are The Damned Dammit!
Farm TV movie Classic!