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A small southern town has just been rocked by a tragedy: a young woman has been violently raped. The white town fathers immediately declare that the attacker had to be black, and place the blame on Garth, a young black man. Assuming that the men in white sheets aren't intent on holding a fair and impartial trial, Garth takes to the woods as the Klansmen lynching party hunts him down. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
The story goes that Richard Burton was almost perpetually drunk on set that many of his scenes had to be shot with him either sitting or lying down as no one could trust him to remain standing on his feet. Listen carefully and you can quite clearly hear him slur in some scenes. Burton was on three bottles of vodka a day. See more »
A squib can be seen under the outfit worn by the Klansman killed at Johnson's funeral. See more »
There is a lot of opinion out there that The Klansman belongs on the list of fifty worst films of all time. It's pretty bad, but I've seen far worse.
Putting it in its proper context, The Klansman is set in the years right after the Voting Rights Act has been in force for a while. It's not lost on any of the people of this unnamed Alabama county that there is a black majority out there who if they start voting now, a lot of the power structure will be radically changed. It's the underpinning of the reason the Ku Klux Klan exists. That David Huddleston is also mayor of the town and Grand Exalted Cyclops of the local KKK chapter is a very typical Alabama story for generations.
Lee Marvin is the local sheriff and as he conceives his duty it's also to protect the good name of the town and keep the peace. Bringing criminals to justice is second place in his thinking as you'll see by his actions. Richard Burton is a local landowner whose family has long been opposed to the ways of the area, his great grandfather in fact was a judge who was hung for opposing secession before the Civil War. He has a bunch of elderly blacks he keeps on as rent free tenants which has a certain element of the town worked up.
Anyway both their efforts come to naught as there is one bloody showdown in the end.
The Klansman falls back on a lot of stereotypes, racial and otherwise, in the film. It also has a very muddled message in the end, you'll wind up scratching your head as to what all of it really means.
It also in my knowledge has the only rape scene in the history of film that you might wind up laughing at. Cameron Mitchell is Marvin's deputy and a loyal Klansman. At one point under cover of his badge he arrests Lola Falana and takes her to a warehouse where he rapes her with the rest of the white sheet boys standing around gawking. It's staged so stupidly you might actually wind up laughing. That and the fact that who could take Mitchell's character so seriously with a name like Butt Cutt Bates.
Life did imitate art however. O.J. Simpson is in this and he's a black avenger after Klansmen capture and kill a friend of his. He goes around executing the hooded swine. But we well know what happened with O.J. in real life.
Samuel Fuller pulled out of directing after changes in his script were made and Lee Marvin wanted to pull out, but couldn't because he'd signed a contract. Richard Burton was doing just about anything at this point, he just sort of saunters through the film with a very cheesy southern accent.
Pass this one by folks, pass it by.
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