Walking Tall (1973), or Your Last Name Is Pusser? PUSSer? Well, It Looks Like The Jokes Have Already Been Written For Me

1 06 2009

Whenever I think Joe Don Baker, I think bacon. But whenever I don’t think of bacon in the same way I think of Joe Don Baker, I think of him as a man of many faces. He is a CIA agent, a sheriff, a law enforcement agent, a… well, you get the idea. The point is, he plays tough guys a lot, and more often then not they’re police officers. So what could be better than having that big Texan piece of meat as a famous cop? Not much, because Walking Tall is actually pretty good. Its morals lie somewhere in that sanctimonious Bible-Belt limbo where gambling is bad but violence is good, and I am leery of that, but it’s a lot of fun for a movie about a big guy beatin’ stuff up.

This is a semi-autobiographical look at the wrestler-turned-sheriff Buford T. Pusser (*giggle*). After retirin’ from rasslin’, Buford goes back to Tennessee to start up in the logging industry. It’s all fun and sunshine and dead trees until one day when he goes to a filthy establishment called the Lucky Spot and sees the filth and iniquity that are present. After a sound thrashing is delivered to him for being too nosy about a particular craps game in which the participants may or may not have been cheating, Pusser (*chuckle*) decides to clean up the town and run for sheriff in his county. With his popularity around town and elsewheres, he wins and starts taking care of crime in his county the only way he knows how; by beating it with a large, blunt object! The criminals aren’t just willing to lie down and take it, though. They’ll do anything to keep the status quo going on as long as possible, and if that means targeting Buford and his family, well…

This was a surprisingly fun flick. Buford beats up a lot of guys, justice is served, and we all leave feeling good at the end. Right? Well, there’s a little more to it then that, but the gist is that it’s a good morality play based on a true story. Now, Pusser (*snort*) means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some, he represented no-nonsense justice and incorruptability. To others, he represented police brutality, and the darker side of the law. Whatever feelings you have for the real-life dude, it’s easy to put them aside for this 90 minute frolic through Ass-Whoopin’-Ville, and it all hinges on one guy; that’s right, THE Joe Don Baker.

He’s just so lovable. Even when he’s kicking ass, you just can’t hate him. Perhaps it’s his Texan charm, but I always find myself with a smile when he’s on screen. It’s the damndest thing, but he just does that to me. It makes for a movie about going against the grain of the establishment that much more enjoyable. For the record, BREN, I’m not gay for Joe Don Baker. He’s just a damn good character actor, and here he’s in his element, and I can’t help but appreciate it. I’m not gay.

The script is predictable, the secondary cast is lackluster, and there’s not a whole hell of a lot more to say about this bombastic early 70s release. But damn it, Joe Don Baker really sells it to me this time. You just have to experience the world of Walking Tall for yourself, and get the painful and bloody taste of Tennessee justice straight from Joe Don’s teat. I recommend watching it to relieve some tension caused by watching ne’er do wells walking all across the law without so much as a glance behind them. I give Walking Tall 7 Pussers (HA!!!!!!!!!) out of 10. Check it out sometime. I’m not gay.

Tomorrow we travel to the edge of our universe with the delightful and care-free space romp Barbarella!

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One response

2 06 2009
Bren

You went to some pretty extreme lengths to tell everyone you aren’t gay. Seems to me like someone is in denial. And for the record, I actually wasn’t going to mention anything about you being in love with him. I was just gonna come here and sing the Mitchell theme.

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