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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.
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.
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! :-)
*** 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
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.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw "Walking Tall" in the theater when it first came out way
back in 1973,back when tickets were only $1.50.I was only 17 at the
time and I was very impressed with the movie.Saw it at least 3 more
times within that year with various family members and friends whom I
insisted go see it."Walking Tall" became a big sleeper hit making
around 40 million at the box-office.Adjusted for inflation that
translates to around 100 million in today's dollars.That's considered a
legitimate blockbuster by Hollywood's standards.Not bad for a low
budget movie with no big stars from a small independent studio.That
studio called Cinerama Releasing unfortunately went out of business in
1974.The late Phil Karlson did a good job directing the dramatic scenes
and intense action sequences.Joe Don Baker,who hails from Texas and
attended the acclaimed Actor's Studio,is a fine actor and gave an
emotionally charged performance.He really didn't look like the real
guy.By comparison,Buford Pusser at 6 foot 6 inches tall with
short,light hair and Joe Don Baker at 6 ft. 2 in. with longer dark
hair. Anyway,there are some spoilers ahead.Anyone who wants to know
more about Buford Pusser read on.
Late in 1973,Buford Pusser said in an interview in NEWSWEEK magazine,"That the film was about 80 percent accurate." He served three two year terms as sheriff from 1964 to 1970.In another interview he said,"That his only criticism of "Walking Tall" was that it wasn't violent enough." The film mentions in the opening and closing credits that this was a fictionalized account of certain events in the life of Buford Pusser.In the book "Reeling" by Pauline Kael,who was the film reviewer for THE NEW YORKER magazine for around 25 years that I know of,it included a review of "Walking Tall",along with reviews of many other films from that time.Ms.Kael had published several books of her movie reviews.She was considered by many to be one of the foremost film critics.She retired in 1991.She passed away in late 2001 from complications from Parkinson's disease. In Ms.Kael's review of "Walking Tall" she shed some light on the facts.For instance Pusser was never in the Marines.The crooked Sheriff Thurman,(played by the late Gene Evans),whom Pusser said to,"Thurman!I'voe known you since I was a kid.I always thought you walked tall.But,it looks like you done learned how to crawl!",was killed in car accident,but not by trying to run Pusser over,as it was depicted in the movie.Also,his father,(played by the late Noah Beery,Jr.),was a former sheriff of the county.Also,he had many deputies but never a black deputy,(in the movie well played by the actor Felton Perry.Mr.Perry was also very good in "Magnum Force" that same year,where he played the partner of Inspector Harry Callahan,(Clint Eastwood).Remember this was the segregated South of the 1960's.The filmmakers understandably wanted to appeal to the black audience.Also,he didn't have a young son.His wife had a son by a previous marriage but he was a few years older than the young boy portrayed here.And,Kael mentions in her review that he wasn't reelected sheriff.It seems he developed a reputation of being a big bully when it came to arresting suspects.He was accused of excessive use of force.The candidate who won the election for sheriff,in his platform asked the voters"Who would you rather have arrest your son? Evidently the voters didn't want him arresting their sons any longer.I found "Reeling" to be a good book.Although I didn't agree with some of her reviews.I think the book is out of print now.
Some footnotes,Mort Briskin,the producer and writer of the film,decided to do it after seeing a 10 minute interview with Sheriff Pusser with Roger Mudd on the CBS television network in 1969.Red West,who was one of Elvis Presley's bodyguards,had a small role in the film as a sheriff from Alabama.West was one the bodyguards Mr.Presley fired for being a bit too rough on certain fans.There were fears of lawsuits for assault.Also,it is known the Mr.Presley sent an anonymous donation to Sheriff Pusser when his home was badly damaged by certain criminal elements to help with the rebuilding.They both lived in the same neck of the woods.Mr.Presley was a very nice guy.Actress Elizabeth Hartman,who played Pusser's wife,this was her last film role.Ms.Hartman died in 1987 from a suicide.She suffered from manic-depression or bi-polar disorder.And,the actress Brenda Benet,who played the kindly prostitute who helped the sheriff out by being an informer,died in the early '80's from a suicide.She had been recently divorced from the actor Bill Bixby and she had been very despondent over the death of her young son after a long illness.How sad.I saw Buford Pusser in a television interview in 1974 talking about going to Hollywood for a screen test for Part 2 Walking Tall.But,he never got the chance because of his death later that year when someone or some people,presumably the criminal element,planted a bomb in his Corvette.He was killed driving home late one night.His demolished car was found on the side of some lonesome road.May he rest in peace.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film is set in McNairy County, Tennessee in the early 1960's (where
the actual events took place). And with all films made in Hollywood,
names, events, and facts are changed to make it the film you see. And a
good job they do. The famed sheriff who tried to take down the Dixie
mafia, is portrayed by Joe Don Baker in this great retelling of history
through the eyes of the Pusser family.
After several near death experiences, Buford is still not ready to give up his hunt for the bad guys. Especially after they have killed his beloved wife. They went too far, and Buford is out to get them back for all the wrongs they've done.
If he wasn't crazy to begin with, he sure has a right to be crazy by the end of the film. Unfortunately, Sheriff Buford Pusser was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1974, shortly before work on "Walking Tall, Part 2" started. It was deemed an accident by authorities, but many have their doubts.
This film is worthy of a 10 out of 10 rating.
"Walking Tall" is certainly one of the most ass kicking movies ever made. It's a fictionalization of the true story of Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, played here with conviction and intensity by Joe Don Baker. Buford has retired from life as a wrestler, hoping to settle down to a quiet life in his hometown, but he finds out that everything has gotten crooked, with local bigwigs running the show. Soon enraged at a system that does little to nothing to help the common man, he wages a personal war on corruption, using any method necessary. The movie does its job as far as manipulating its audience. It doesn't take long for viewers to get their blood lust up, and loudly cheer on our swaggering hero as he gives the assorted sleazy cretins their just desserts. And it doesn't hold back in the violence department, either; even if the blood is typically bright red movie blood that looks more like paint than anything, there's a lot of it that flows before the movie is over. And we can also definitely take interest in a story of a regular Joe who fumes at the injustices of the world, and refuses to live in a place where the big shots can have their way at any time. When Pusser puts a pompous, ineffective judge (Douglas Fowley) in his place, or humiliates a rat by having them crawl on all fours, it's not hard to pump one's fist in the air and yell, "YEAH!" All of the bad people are one dimensional, sleazy, selfish jerks; even though they may disagree with one another on methods used, they all look out for number one and enjoy their hold on the community. Provided one can take the brutality, and doesn't mind having their buttons pushed so obviously, "Walking Tall" is gripping. A superb cast really helps in the selling of the material, with Elizabeth Hartman as the troubled but loyal wife, Gene Evans as the ineffectual sheriff, Bruce Glover and Felton Perry as deputies, real-life siblings Leif Garrett and Dawn Lyn as the Pusser children, Noah Beery Jr. and Lurene Tuttle as Buford's folks, Rosemary Murphy as trouble making Callie Hacker, and assorted other character players such as Arch Johnson, Don Keefer, Sam Laws, Kenneth Tobey, Pepper Martin, Red West, Logan Ramsey, Richard X. Slattery, Sidney Clute, and John Myhers. Now, granted, all of what happens is plenty predictable, but it's hard to deny how this could become a crowd pleasing entertainment on a non-think level. And Buford's story didn't end here, with two sequels, a TV movie, a short lived series, and a loose remake & subsequent sequels to follow, just going to show how enduring the concept of a strong, principled man fighting for what's right can be. Seven out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently purchased the box set of the "Walking Tall" trilogy as I had forgotten about this movie until the remake starring "The Rock" came out in 2004. I sat down and watched them all back to back. I was rather disappointed that Joe Don Baker didn't play the part of Buford Pusser in all three. I'm not taking anything from Bo Svenson but to me he just didn't look the part. If they were not going to use JDB in all of them, then they should have gotten BS to play the lead in the first. I felt that for the time line, the movie, albeit low budgeted, was pretty decent. I am from the south and my father was in law enforcement for 30 years and I can relate to the stories of "running shine" and the like. There are so many clips that were shown that I, on a personal level, could relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole trilogy and yes, I did shed a few tears when Pauline died and a whole lot when Buford died. I give the whole thing a "thumbs-up" and hope that one day there can be a true remake of the whole trilogy with a wonderful supporting cast that can be in all three movies!
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