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Burly Brian Dennehy, despite his failure to maintain the local dialectic condiment in his speech, nonetheless makes for a believable physical personification of the real life Buford Pusser of Selmer, Tennessee, the sheriff who finds it easier to follow his own rules while contending with the local criminal element than to abide by the constraints of probable cause. This particular entry in the series relating of Pusser's deeds was made for television with its original title being "Letter of the Law", and chronicles how Buford decides to use very old county laws and statutes which have not been revoked or superseded in order to keep control of his office against the opposition of well meaning citizens and of lawbreakers. The script is actually rather leisurely in spirit with a number of scenes written in the main to supply local colour, including some humourous and musical moments, and there is some opportunity for character development, but the film's mass media lineage has infected its climactic minutes, with formulaic actions abounding as Pusser singlehandedly attempts to vanquish a surfeit of felons. Ken Howard dominates his scenes as bootlegging Danny Boy Mitchell, primary adversary of the freewheeling sheriff, while Sheree North gives us an effective turn as an aging ex-harlot freshly released from prison after seven years for killing her procurer, and who subsequently meets resistance from local bluenoses who wish for her to go elsewhere, and Forrest Tucker produces a smooth performance as Buford's father, but Lane Bradbury as a blemished sheriff's office employee, sinks 'neath the freight of her mawkish lines.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Slight Spoilers) Somewhat fictional account of the life and times of
Sheriff Buford Pusser, convincingly played by Brian Dennehy. The film
"A Real American Hero" Brings out both the courage combativeness as
well as the sensitivity of the late and legendary sheriff of
Tennessee's's McNairy County and what he was faced with both the bad
guys and the law, that in most cases protected them in, fighting crime.
Keeping the violence in check we get to see Buford's attempt to stamp
out crime in McNairy County but soon realizing that when you take the
law into your own hands you end up, instead of enforcing, breaking it.
Sheriff Pusser is incensed at the deaths of two local teenage boys and the blinding of their two girlfriends, whom he caught speeding. Finding out that they were served bootleg whiskey, or rat gut hooch, at the nearby Danny's Disco. Buford goes there not for a drink or to dance but to takes the place apart. Hauled into court like a common criminal for a number of violations of the law, like destroying private property, Buford promises the judge that he'll be a good boy from now on. Going the letter of the law Buford attempts to get Danny Boy Mitchell, Ken Howard, the owner of Danny's Disco and top hood in McNairy County and put him behind bars by doing it.
Danny Boy who at first felt safe from Sheriff Pusser with the law and courts being on his side soon becomes a paranoid nut-case as his enterprise, of bootlegging and being a night club disco entrepreneur, was in danger of going bankrupt. With Pusser finding the most obscure laws on the books, some over 100 years old, to fine Danny Boy he's in danger of being put him out of business. Getting desperate Danny has his hoods try to run and gun down Buford and his two kids only to get him really pi**ed off at them and work twice as hard, in finding violations on Danny Boy's business ventures, to put Danny not only out of business but behind bars. Which leads in Danny now really losing it, after Buford worked him over in a "friendly" boxing match, and has his hoods set sheriff Pusser up for the kill, with the help of his girlfriend who works in Buford's office. This action his his part in the end spells curtains for Danny Boy not Sheriff Pusser.
Nowhere as violent and brutal as the previous two "Walking Tall" or "Buford Pusser" movies but more interesting though according to the movies epilogue the story is fiction. Actor Brian Dennehy heroic as well as sensitive portrayal of the legendary sheriff made him far more human, and not being a mindless and unstoppable one man wrecking crew. Besides being a loving father and husband Buford also goes out of his way in a side plot that had really nothing to do with the movie to help beautiful ex-convict Carrie Todd played by Sherre North.
With the self-righteous and stuffed up women of McNairy County wanting to run Carrie out of town Bufrord invited her to go the big dance, with him of course, in order to stick it to the overlay concerned women in town. Carrie herself won over their respect by saving the life of Eunis', the head of the righteous squad, daughters life when she was chocking on a chicken bone using the Heinrick maneuver. You see Carrie studied being a nurse while spending time behind bars.
P.S The theme song in the movie "A True American Hero" aptly titled "Walking Tall" was sung by Don Williams.
"A Real American Hero" looks and feels like what it is: a late '70s telefilm. But it benefits from strong performances by Brian Dennehy as the legendary (or infamous?) Sheriff Buford Pusser, Forrest Tucker as Pusser's father, and Sheree North as an ex-prostitute trying to start over after serving a prison sentence for killing her pimp. Ken Howard is okay as Pusser's moonshining nemesis, but he lays on the phony Southern accent a bit thick. A film like "A Real American Hero" is best viewed on a warm summer night as you relax in your favorite chair, a can of beer in your hand. If you're from my generation (and particularly if you grew up in the Deep South), the car chases and punch-outs will bring back pleasant memories :)
I have seen several versions of this sheriff and for me, Brian Dennehy is the one who seems most able to hold his own against the "bad guys". He portrays a man who loves his town and wants more than anything to rid the area of those who would destroy it.....including the children and teens. (Ken Howard did a great job with his part) I think it was excellent because I found it believable. The surrounding characters also lent great credibility, well done by all. I am a fan of Sheree North anyway, and find that in this movie she is as beautiful a lady as always. I really enjoyed how she was finally accepted by the better-than-thou church lady. If you have seen the other Buford Pusser movies and not this one, then you have missed a treat. Of all of Brian's movies, (I am a Jack Reed fan), this is one of his best of his earlier ones. I bought mine second hand online and was not disappointed.
A Real American Hero. Is a fictional account of Buford Pusser's life.
The story is there are some deaths that have occurred in McNairy
County. The evidence and witnesses point to a former friend of
Buford's. Now a local mobster he opposes Buford at every turn using the
town's by laws against him. Buford turns the tables on him by using the
same trick. Butthe mobster is still selling his poisoned moonshine.
Then an old friend of Buford's comes home a former Hooker who was
Buford's informant against the state line mob. She's come home to find
a respectable life but the townspeople hold her former life against
her. and Buford decides to help her by making her respectable. He finds
a good job for her and slowly wins the town over. Meanwhile Buford's
war with his old friend heads towards a tragic ending as Buford and his
friend are forced to fight to the bitter end.
I see A Real American Hero as a love Letter to Buford Pusser.. The film is in step with the legend of Buford Pusser. and it keeps in character the way Buford was. A Highly enjoyable made for TV movie. Brian Dennehy is the perfect choice for Buford Pusser. and my favourite actor to play Buford after Joe Don Baker. Worth watching and highly recommended.
The three original theatrical "Walking Tall" movies eventually lead to a short-lived television series in 1981, but three years earlier there was apparently an attempt by the makers of the theatrical movies to bring the legend of Buford Pusser as a TV series. It was with this made-for-TV movie, a series pilot in disguise. After seeing it, it's probably best these guys didn't get the green light to make a series. It's a really slow and dull movie. Though the movie starts off with Pusser's pursuit of moonshiners, it soon forgets to focus on this plot, and instead focuses on unnecessary characters and subplots. There is also a lack of action; after the opening car chase and disco smash-up, there's no more action for the next hour or so. That previously mentioned action, as well as the climatic action sequence, are flatly directed and have no excitement at all. And while Brian Dennehy may seem like a good choice to play Busser, his performance here lacks spark. He seems very uninterested in every scene he is. The 1981 television series (made by different people) was far from a great show, but it was still a lot better than this sorry TV pilot!
Tame TV version of the "Walking Tall" Sheriff with the name you don't
forget - Buford Pusser - played by renowned tough guy Brian Dennehy in
one of his first screen appearances. Dennehy finds himself on his last
warning after unlawfully conducting a search of a local disco in which
he believes illegally distilled liquor is being sold. Told to shape up
or ship out by the local magistrate, Dennehy elects to become the law's
most abiding exponent, and enforcer, penalising anyone for the most
trivial and often antiquated infringement to make his point and mete
out a unique brand of justice by a thousand cuts.
Dennehy is okay as the one-man band, essentially no different to most of his characterisations, Ken Howard also watchable as the smarmy local bootlegger who finds himself the target of Dennehy's vendetta. Most notable amongst the cast is the sultry Sheree North, who had a string of memorable roles in her later career, here playing a former prostitute who served time for murdering her pimp. Dennehy takes on her cause as she struggles to re-adjust, shunned by the local ladies' club who treat her as persona non-grata.
Low key TV drama is light on violence (nothing more than a bit of fisticuffs, intimidation and jukebox smashing), but heavy on the noble causes proffering the justice to those who deserve it, and comeuppance for those don't approach to law enforcement. If you like that sort of thing, or have some regard for the minor cult hero Buford Pusser, then "Real American Hero" could be worth the watch.
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