A local Sheriff tries to keep the peace as racial strife hits his small Alabama town as tensions boil over when a black man is accused of raping a white woman.A local Sheriff tries to keep the peace as racial strife hits his small Alabama town as tensions boil over when a black man is accused of raping a white woman.A local Sheriff tries to keep the peace as racial strife hits his small Alabama town as tensions boil over when a black man is accused of raping a white woman.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Sheriff Bascomb (Lee Marvin) tries to keep a small Alabama town calm after a white woman is raped by a black man just days before a group is coming to town to get blacks out to vote. The local Klan doesn't take too kindly to outsiders coming in and much of their hatred goes to Breck (Richard Burton), a man who lives in the mountains and wants peace between the races.
Throughout the 70s there were all sorts of Southern pictures that took pride in their redneck factor. A lot of films dealt with racism and other issues but what's rare and somewhat shocking about KLANSMAN is the fact that it got released by a major company (Paramount), featured two legendary actors and was produced by a black company. KLANSMAN isn't a very good movie as it is certainly flawed but at the same time it does have some entertainment value to it and there's no question that something like it wouldn't be released today.
The cast is certainly the most attractive thing to the picture when viewed today. I mean, you've got Oscar-winner Lee Marvin battling the Klan. Burton, considered one of the greatest actors in history, appearing in a rather strange role. Legend has it that years after this film Marvin and Burton were introduced and neither one remembered meeting each other even though they had worked on this film together! You've also got Cameron Mitchell as a dirty and evil Klan member, David Huddleston, Linda Evans and then there's O.J. Simpson playing a man who decides to kill as many of the Klan members as possible.
The story itself here, co-written by Samuel Fuller, is a mixed bag. I mean, there's a lot of stuff going on here but I can't say that it makes for a complete story. Bits and pieces just seem to enter and leave the movie without much thought and the actions of Marvin are often confusing to say the least. The film is certainly very uneven but this is probably due to the studio changing the screenplay at the last minute. Technically speaking the film is well-made and perfectly fits that drive-in era vibe.
KLANSMAN isn't a masterpiece or even a good movie but it's an entertaining film. Just be sure you watch the original theatrical cut, which runs 111-minutes and carries a R-rating for the violence, nudity and language. I've seen the TV cut, which runs 11-minutes shorter and has all the bad stuff edited out and the theatrical version is certainly better.
- Mar 11, 2008