A Small Town in Texas (1976)
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Timothy Bottoms stars as Poke Jackson, who tangles with his sheriff nemesis Duke Calley (Bo Hopkins), the man who set him up (resulting in Poke spending five years in jail) and stole Pokes' girl Mary Lee (Susan George) in the process. Poke, who reconnects with Mary Lee and the son (Mark Silva) that they had together, ends up witnessing a crime in which the crooked Duke is involved. So now Poke is obliged to take it on the lam and evade Duke (who now wants Poke dead) and his deputies.
Nicely shot in Panavision by Robert C. Jessup, this features a wonderful score by Charles Bernstein, is sufficiently rousing when it gets to its more action oriented scenes, and has some poignant moments as well as some humorous ones. The capable supporting cast includes Morgan Woodward as local fat cat C.J. Crane, John Karlen and Clay Tanner as deputies, Art Hindle and Hank Rolike as Pokes' good friends Boogie and Cleotus, and the always very amusing George 'Buck' Flower (who doesn't appear until late into the movie) as Pokes' ornery old uncle. Bottoms and Hopkins make for fun adversaries, and George is of course lovely to look at. Director Starrett has a cameo as the drunken Buford Tyler.
Nothing special but still a good example of this type of "hicksploitation" entertainment.
Seven out of 10.
If it's on, see it.
Director Jack Starrett, working from a compelling script by William A. Norton, keeps the engrossing and entertaining story moving along at a steady pace, offers a strong and flavorsome rural redneck hamlet atmosphere, and stages several exciting action set pieces with his trademark rip-snorting gusto. Bottoms and George display a winning and convincing chemistry as the personable main characters; they receive able support from Morgan Woodward as flinty local bigwig C.J. Crane, John Karlen as bumbling deputy Lenny, Art Hindle as amiable grease monkey Boogie, and George "Buck" Flower in an especially lively and funny turn as scruffy hick hell-raiser Bull Parker. Both Charles Bernstein's spirited harmonic score and Robert C. Jessup's sharp widescreen cinematography are up to par. A fun flick.
In its defence I will say that it is less dated than many films from the 1970s, and is occasionally entertaining or amusing (mainly me laughing at the dolts who populate this film). And its handful of action scenes are decent...though I suspect they may seem better than they really are because even the most inept stunts would seem exciting compared to the generally mundane tone of the film.
You could do worse, but you could do much better too.
Yet, the down-home rural atmosphere seems fairly realistic, as the movie was filmed in and around small towns near Austin. Male characters are generally good ole boys with minimal education; and the women are fairly inconspicuous. The main character is Poke (Timothy Bottoms), a local hick just out of prison who has a score to settle with Sheriff Duke (Bo Hopkins). The corn pone dialogue is about what you would expect for local yokels. There's some fairly good suspense in the second half. And part of the plot involves corruption surrounding a political event.
The script has several major problems, apart from being unoriginal. First, the inciting incident is postponed too long, so that the plot's first thirty minutes meanders. Second, the scriptwriter overuses the car chase cliché; here there are three, complete with inept cops and screeching tires. Third, the script leaves dangling the subplot involving character C.J. Crane.
Casting is less than ideal. Bo Hopkins seems to have become typecast. Timothy Bottoms looks too young to play a hardened criminal, though his performance here is acceptable. Secondary characters seem more like two-dimensional stick figures. I really like that mournful score, played at the beginning and at the end. Cinematography and production design are okay, but the film's color seems highly muted.
Life in a small, rural town in the American South, combined with some contrived drama sums up the premise of this film. "Macon County Line" is much better. But "A Small Town In Texas" is acceptable if other similar movies are unavailable.