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All you folks complaining that this is amateur film-making because the
boom is visible in several shots don't understand how movies are made.
In order to get good sound on dialog, the mike is hung very close to
the subject. It is almost always captured on film, but in the area
which is not meant to be seen by an audience, as the square film frame
is supposed to be matted at top and bottom by the projectionist when
shown in a theater, or by the technician when transferring film to
In the case of Walking Tall, whoever supervised the transfer to video did so "open matte", meaning they transfered the ENTIRE film frame without proper matting, hence the visible boom. This was not carelessness on the part of the filmmakers, but on the part of whoever put it out on video. You'd see microphone booms in Star Wars if it were transfered to video this way.
When I saw Walking Tall in the theater, it did not have visible booms. Blame the video release, not the filmmakers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Joe Don Baker gives his best performance in this film as legendary Tennessee lawman Buford Pusser. This film is defintely biased in its portrayal of Pusser as an almost perfect "good guy". I have read a couple books about Pusser's life and I think he was a good man who really wanted to bring justice to his county and to help his fellow man. The most tragic part of this film is the scene that depicts the brutal murder of Pusser's wife Pauline and his near murder (Pusser had his jaw almost blown off and the people who did it were never caught). When was the last time you cheered at a movie? was the tagline for Walking Tall. It was a sleeper hit that spawned two sequels and a short-lived tv series. I only wish that Joe Don Baker had played Pusser in the other two films, he does a wonderful job playing a simple man in a complicated world who wants only what is just and right. I remember the scene where a corrupt judge tells Pusser that he doesn't know anything about the law. Pusser merely tells him "I know the difference between a poor honest judge and a rich dishonest one". Pusser was supposed to play himself in the second Walking Tall film but was tragically killed in a car accident. What I didn't like about the third Walking Tall was they tried to make it out like he was murdered, like the mob cut his brake lines. They didn't come out and say it, but they strongly hinted at it. According to all accounts, Pusser's death was due to speeding and it was just a tragic accident and there was no "conspiracy" involved at all. Tragic, but not mysterious. Elizabeth Hartman does a fine job in this film as Pusser's loving wife Pauline. She was a fine actress who had an amazing debut in the classic film A Patch Of Blue. Unfortunately, she was also very troubled by mental illness and killed herself in 1987. It always makes me sad when I see her in this film and remember her tragic end.
Wow, the previous reviewer really had issues with this film! Judging from
his/her use of overly-descriptive adjectives, I'd say he/she was looking
down their nose, even before they entered the theatre.
"It coincided with the beginning of a sordid bottom period in the social and intellectual history of the United States from which the nation has yet to recover."
Whoa! Where'd that come from !? For starters, that wasn't the beginning of any bottom period for this country. I'm not even sure what context he/she is referring to. If it's violence in society, then you need to roll the clock back 10, 20 or more years to find the bottom. Sounds like someone lived in a glass house during the McCarthy-era, JFK's assassination, Vietnam, MLK's assassination - and that's just going back 10-20 years! Dip back further into the early part of the century, when the country was involved in labor fights (of which I highly recommend watching "Matewan One", a movie about unionizing coal miners of West Virginia back in the 20's or 30's).
Sorry to digress. Here's my take on Walking Tall:
I watched this the other night and was glued to it! Not for the display of violence, but for the fact that this movie is now nearly 30 years old and it's like a time capsule of sorts. Yes, it was a story based on violence, but the real story is how morally bankrupt one town had become, while still functioning as a little town somewhere in America.
Joe Don Baker played an excellent role in being a not-so-nice guy bent on cleaning up the scum of his childhood town. He had been away too long, and when he returned, it was too much for him to handle.
I took to watching this movie lightly. A lot of viewers commented on the social aspects of this, but I took-in all of the surrounding things like the props and scenery. For instance, look how huge those Dodge sedans were! Boats with wheels! The bad hair, bad clothes, especially one scene where his wife is wearing this blouse that has about 4 different contrasting patterns on it. Truly Seventies Americana.
As mentioned in another post, the boom operator must have been someone's kid helping out on the set, as the mic is shown in many of the scenes. Being an independent company, they must have said the heck with it in the editing room. Not enough money for a re-shoot.
I take this movie with a grain of salt. I was entertained by the time period of it and the acting. This movie belongs in the yet-to-be implemented IMDB genre category of "The Seventies". Hint hint IMDB.
Remember seeing this film when it first hit the theatres in 1973...had some hype in the local newspapers and TV ads and was ballyhooed a lot like "The Exorcist" the same year. This film does not disappoint. If you like underdog films and the bad guys getting their a's kicked you will love this movie. Joe Don Baker, a bit actor at the time puts in slam dunk performance as the tough tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser who is a southern dirty harry type cop. Some fans might remember Baker as one of the prisoners in Paul Newman's "Cool Hand Luke". Story centers around Pusser returning home after a long sabbatical as a pro wrestler to find corruption running amok. After getting sliced and diced at a corrupt card table in the local septic tank bar and left for dead on the side of the road Pusser gets angry enough to make a run for sheriff....after winning the surprise election Pusser has to recruit some honest deputies - a rather hard task in that small corrupt town - and proceeds to try and weed out the gangsters and prostitutes running amok in the town. After running the corrupt judge into the basement of the local court house Pusser has to stop the moonshining operation run by the mob also. Along the way he literally castrates a corrupt deputy who is a mob informer. His preferred weapon is not a pistol but a big round wooden "stick" if you will he uses to bang up and batter down all criminals with. Gets to be sort of fun waiting for the next scumbag Pusser will pound down with that big wooden stick......scene of Pusser and his wife getting ambushed by the mob is very graphic and humbling...several people getting very teary eyed in the theatre the first time I saw this film. Scenes of Pusser and his children walking in funeral procession for his wife get to your emotions in a warm and tender way. Plenty of action, and the bad guys get mowed down in the end by Pusser. Almost like a carbon copy of the original Dirty Harry film the same year with Clint Eastwood mowing down the criminals. Poor cinematography and film editing the only downer for this film. Why does the viewer have to see part of a microphone hanging down from a bedroom?? Don't bother with the sequels without Baker as sheriff Pusser. Bo Svenson poor substitute after you have seen Baker as Pusser. Great overall action film - can be quite graphic. Not for young kids to see.
One great movie! Joe Don Baker does a great job portraying Buford Pusser. This movies deals with a man that has just givin up pro wrestlng because he is sick and tired of being controlled by someone else. He returns home to Tennessee, and finds the same thing going on. His mother warns him to ignore it, but by accident, he finds out the hard way how these people operate. His battle is an uphill one. First, he is jailed for robbing the local bar. He acts as his own defense at the trial and wins. Then the local sheriff tries to kill him, and is killed himself. Once Pusser is elected sheriff, the fight really begins. He eventually cleans out the graft and corruption in McNairy County, and then he is ambushed, and his wife is tragically killed. Pusser finally has one last showdown with the people at the Lucky Spot. I would like to have seen Joe Don Baker do the other two movies. This movie is a real tear jerker at the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw it when it came out, in Dunn North Carolina, mind you, in the new
cinema complex that had just open in the new shopping mall that had
started opening in 1970 (I bought a tie there, the tie of Campbell
community college next door, in 1970). I thought it was interesting,
fascinating, but maybe slightly extreme. I have not changed my mind.
But what is it about? A man coming back to his birth place and his
family, along with his wife, their two kids and their dog, a birth
place they decide to call home, in Tennessee. I have seen that pattern
so often like in "Sometimes they come back" by Stephen King. He is at
once, on the very second day, face to face with the perversion
prohibition can produce. The county, or at least the city, is
anti-alcohol, anti-prostitution, anti-gambling, and what had to happen
happens. Just beyond the county limits a bar cum bordello cum gambling
hall opens and attracts the males of the county who want to be ripped
of their money by cheating game masters, of their soberness by
moonshine whisky unduly called Daniels and of their kinky dreams by
trailer female visitors, go and have a good time. But this business is
of course in the hands of hard traffickers, of some organized crime at
least at the level of the whole state and anyone who opposes it is dead
meat, but after it has been severely tenderized. Our hero decides to
run as sheriff against the rotten one who is in place and the rotten
racist local judge who is covering the whole business. And then it is
the story of how he will learn how to do things, how to integrate a
black man in his team, how to inspire courage and fight corruption, how
to bust the facade of these traffickers, bust the heads of a couple as
soon as they draw a weapon, and finally inspire the people to build a
posse and go out for the Lucky Spot of their dreams and burn it down.
True of course, but too extreme. Things never happen that way. It takes
time, a lot of time, to move public opinion, particularly in a small
town. It takes time and finesse to trick and trap mafia criminals. It
takes time and patience to trick and trip a judge who has so much power
in his hands. But in 1973 it was a sign on the road away from the good
old silent majority. The very first step on a very long way that is
just coming ripe right now, maybe, and the silent majority might
finally get some voice and shout "Yes We can" to their desire for "the
change they need". Will that be a landslide or a tottering stumble? The
film seems to believe that such radical change is possible once the
fruit is ripe. Yet it does not show the ripening of the fruit, just the
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
Unfortunately the IMDb allows only comments up to 1000 words and I was
so much taken in by WALKING TALL that my comment got longer, so please
go to my entry in the message board, if you want to read the whole
review! :-) ... :-))
I love movies with balls and brains and this is one of 'em! :-)
OK, I know this movies has its small shortcomings, because it does not belong to the category of over-financed Hollywood-junk (which is a movie-category established by the film industry (!) in the later 80ies and beginning 90ties consisting of movies costing anywhere from 50 to 200 million bucks and which look like most designer-stuff: well crafted but hollow), but to the category of a small independently financed B-picture. Don't get me wrong, this ain't a movie financed on a shoestring-budget, this is just one of those movies, where the producers did not have million's to burn. It's very decently made and 95% perfect, just here or there you think, well, they could have tried one more take or something similar. But anyway, are you going to the cinema to see a technically perfect movie and receive joy from seeing designer-tailored action-scenes, or do you go to the movies or buy a DVD to enjoy yourself with a movie full of balls and brain? If you belong to the 1st category, I suggest you save the time reading this and forget about watching this flick.
But if you belong to the later category, then this is something for you, you gonna enjoy this roller-coaster-flick! Especially if - as is the case with me - 70ies B-flicks are your cup of tea. They certainly are mine! I won't dwell here on the storyline of WALKING TALL (you can find details elsewhere here), it's probably enough to point out that the title is the program and that our hero's tag-line is "walk softly and carry a big stick" (or - as the old Latins said - "suaviter in modo, fortiter in re"). Yeah, that's what he does and he uses that big stick to clean house very properly.
I do not know, which part of the story is actually "fact" (based on incidents in the life of Buford Pusser) and which parts are fiction (that could be a lot, since the disclaimer reads that this picture is based on "incidents suggested by the life of BP", which sounds like something, but in fact can mean nearly everything or nothing at all), but IF just 50% of the story-line happened in some way or another, this guy must have had enormous luck and 7 lives. Already the incidents, when somebody tries to kill him, amount to at least 5!
The movie is quite brutal, at least for a flick made in the middle of the 70ies. Quite a lot of dead and quite a high number of severely beaten-up bodies, but there ain't that much of it on-screen. Just the first beating of our hero is really tense and was probably only outdone by Mel Gibson's Christ a couple decades later. Of course it looks a bit unrealistic to see Joe Don Baker in a T-shirt so soaked with blood, because anyone loosing that much of it would certainly be dead, but then again Phil Karlson had a point to make and wanted to make sure we'd get it: our hero had been severely wounded by the villains of the town and now he had a task to handle, do what a man has to do, simply WALK TALL!
This movie is pure 70ies magnetism, a wonderful ride into rural Americana, with so many classic (partly stereo-)types, wonderful original characters, hardly any cardboard ones, and actors indeed looking like someone you could meet at any corner of such a town. This is what lifts such classic productions over the Hollywood-product we get today: we do see real people doing things, that could at least be possible (while when we watch Die Hard IV everybody should know that 90% of the action-scenes there could simply never happen, because they are against the laws of physics). Here you got a lot of beat-ups, car-chases, shoot-outs, more beatings, cars driving in houses, all things that normally don't happen if the police does its job, but things that COULD happen, that are physically possible.
And they are staged with zest and verve by a veteran director in the twilight of his career, who took this job at the age of 66 and wanted to give it a last (which then was his penultimate) try. And he does deliver ALL the goods, pulls all triggers. He certainly knew this could very well be his last effort, so why not give the best. With 4 decades (!!) of movie-making experience, Phil Karlson (who also directed THE SILENCERS and THE WRECKING CREW-entries in the lovely Matt Helm-series and quite a couple very good noir's and western) certainly knew how to build up a good storyline and how to stage it as well as possible with whatever budget he had available.
ATTENTION ! This comment here is NOT COMPLETE, because the IMDb allows only 1000 words and I wrote more, so please go to my entry in the message board (if you liked to read my few cents) to get the whole review and to be able to comment on it! :-)
If you are a southern male who grew up in the 1970's, "Walking Tall" is
your "Gone With The Wind". This 1973 movie is based on actual events in
the life of Sheriff Buford Pusser of McNairy County, Tennessee during
the 1960's. Though the screenplay takes some liberties with Pusser's
story, it is an exciting account of one man taking on organized crime
and corruption .
The story begins with Buford and his family moving back to his home town in McNairy County. Shortly after arriving, Buford realizes that his home town has changed. Gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging have taken over. Buford exposes the gambling operation to be corrupt and is brutally beaten and left for dead. He recovers and seeks vengeance using a big piece of lumber. He is arrested for his troubles. Buford is cleared of the charges and is soon elected Sheriff. He promises to rid the county of crime and corruption. The rest of the movie shows how difficult it was for Buford to follow through with his promise.
Buford Pusser is played by Joe Don Baker, who gives the performance of his career. Baker's Pusser faces the tragic events of the movie with a sense of sad but heroic nobility. The audience is able to feel what Pusser must have felt when these events actually happened through Baker's brave performance.
The story is ultimately a tragic tale of one man who walked tall and stood up against the forces of corruption. It is the rare action movie that makes you cheer and cry at the same time. This is essential viewing for anyone who loves true heroes.
Yes Virginia there really was a man named Buford Pusser. He was a south
Tennessee sheriff who was shot 8 times, knifed 7 times, survived a ambush,
and even jumped onto a speeding car to make a arrest. The film, which was
admittedly given the Hollywood treatment, looks at his exploits in a
somewhat routine,somewhat gritty style with some surprisingly stirring
moments. Though by the end when Johnny Mathis sings a ill advised syrupy
song do you realize how emotionally manipulative it all really
Shot right in Tennessee and not some reprocessed Hollywood backlot. The excellent location shooting almost becomes a star in itself. However someone should have told the producers that even in the south the grass is not all green and the leaves aren't all on the trees at Christmas time.
Baker plays the lead role very, very well. Not only does he resemble the real Pusser, but shows some real fiery anger that's just lurking beneath the surface.
The action is intense, bloody, and well staged. Good for those who are game for this type of standard actioner.
It is interesting to note that the real Buford Pusser acted as a consultant to the film and then ended up dying in a very mysterious car crash just a year after the films release.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Joe Don Baker is Buford Pusser, an ex Marine who returns to find his
small, peaceful Tennessee town corrupted by an immoral cabal marketing
illegal stuff like gambling, white lightning, and trailer hos. He is
elected sheriff and cleans it all up.
Baker is mulling over the decision to run for County Sheriff. It's a dangerous job in this milieu. He's already seen a friend killed and has himself been horribly tortured. His wife, Elizabeth Hartmann, objects. "Is your pride worth the lives of your wife and children?", she asks. Both Baker's character and the viewer take the sentence to be rhetorical. It's not.
But it's the sort of challenge that every wife lays down before her man when he's about to commit himself to some heroic deed. How many times has John Wayne's cinema wives clashed with him and his career as a sheriff or a Marine because they want him safe at home, not out risking his life, wondering if he'll come home in a body bag? Phil Karlson, the director, has made a couple of powerful movies but I'm not sure that he understood the import of Hartmann's question. It may have been that he realized it, but it may also have been an accident, the kind of phrase that slips easily by someone's critical apparatus. That's what I meant when I called the movie ironic.
There's another scene that demonstrates the same irony. Baker has just been ambushed, his wife murdered and half his jaw shot away. His face is encased in plaster up to his eyes. He's weak and can barely move. And we see the crowd of friends in the corridor gawk and make a path when Baker's young son solemnly enters the room, carrying the little rifle that Baker gave him for Christmas. The kid is going to kill anyone who tries to hurt his Dad. Do the film makers know what they're saying? Anyone expected a Steven Segal wisecracker or anything resembling the loutish remake with Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson will be disappointed. This movie is ambiguous in too many respects. It's not a simple revenge movie like "The Punisher," although there is an abundance of violence and blood. After that first mauling and the subsequent humiliations, Baker is rabid with revenge. His face turns into a horrifying Gargoyle mask as he tortures the spies and law breakers.
I would guess -- judging from some recent polls and comments from our own politicians -- that about one out of four Americans will see this as the simple triumph of good over evil. (The distribution will be skewed in the direction of boys in their early teens.) It won't occur to them -- though the notion is brought up once or twice by character is the movie -- that Baker is a flawed person, that his pride verges on arrogance, and his anger on enjoyment. He brags about his scars.
It's hard to argue with such a black and white view of the sheriff. He only drinks an occasional beer to be friendly, doesn't smoke, doesn't cuss, doesn't approve of see-through blouses, doesn't hold with loose women even if they love him, he's all tenderness with his wife and children, and doesn't gamble. Has there ever been such purity -- outside of the Bible and Arthurian legends? Baker is surprisingly good in the role of the real-life Buford Pusser. You can tell the story is based on actual facts and personalities because where else would you find people with names like Lutie McVey or Ferrin Meaks? As for Buford Pusser, that name would be the first to go. As the heroic central figure, he'd have to have a name like Matt Steel or Bull Durham.
But the acting (and the location photography) are fine across the board. Nobody is a dud. Baker himself always sound like he's reciting lines in an acting class, doing his level best, but it's okay in this kind of role. After a while you get used to it and come to believe that this is how he sound off screen. He had a similar role, except as a murderer, in "Charlie Varick," where he was easily the most complex character. Probably the best performer in this film is Rosemary Murphy as the villainous Callie Hacker, head of the Whore Division. She doesn't get a chance to exercise her chops here, but catch her in "Night Moves" if you can.
It doesn't really matter how you take the movie. You can either accept it as a shallow revenge story full of blood and sentiment or as the rather deeper and murkier thing I suspect it is. It will still be gripping and emotionally moving. The climax has the law-enforcer breaking the law in search of insurance that the law will prevail. Dirty Harry with a motive. Ironic.
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