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Walking Tall (1973)
A compelling,intense,fictionalized account of Sheriff Buford Pusser
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.
Eastwood on Eastwood (1997)
Fans of Clint Eastwood will enjoy this documentary.
"Eastwood on Eastwood" was originally a TNT cable special broadcast in 1997.The documentary was written,produced and directed by Richard Schickel,film critic for TIME magazine since the early '70's.He also wrote "Eastwood" the authorized biography in 1995.Mr.Schickel has also written and produced documentaries on actor Gary Cooper,Director Alfred Hitchcock,Director Stanley Kubrick and many others.He also made the entertaining documentary "Happy Anniversary 007:25 Years of James Bond" which was broadcast on network television in 1987.He also made "From Star Wars to "Jedi":The Making of a Saga" a terrific documentary about the "Star Wars Trilogy" from 1986.And,he has worked on some documentaries for The American Film Institute.
"Eastwood on Eastwood" is narrated by actor John Cusack who worked with Clint Eastwood on "Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil" in 1997.That film also starred Kevin Spacey and Alison Eastwood,his then twenty-something daughter who also appears in this documentary.This tells of Eastwood growing up during The Great Depression to his two years in the U.S. Army to his days as a contract player doing mostly bit parts in low budget B-movies in the 1950's to his early years doing the television series "Rawhide" to the Italian "spaghetti" Westerns in the 1960's to his hit movies in the 1970's when he became a top box-office draw,a few times being the No.1 box-office attraction in the world, all the way up to the 1990's when he became an Oscar winning producer and director.In 1996 he won The American Film Institutes' Lifetime Achievement Award which is considered by the film community the greatest honor an actor or director can receive,even more than The Academy Award.
This features many film clips and the highlight is the interview and commentary by Eastwood himself on his personal favorite film roles.This runs just over 90 minutes,is digitally processed so the picture and sound is terrific.I have been a Clint Eastwood fan since around 1972 and I believe my fellow Eastwood fans will enjoy this documentary as much as I did.