May 17 2012

Blu-ray: ‘Walking Tall’ x 3

Walking Tall: The Trilogy (Shout! Factory) – Joe Don Baker plays real-life Tennessee Sheriff Bufford Pusser in his sort-of true story (the credits make a point that it was “suggested by certain events” in the life of Pusser), a good ol’ boy maverick lawman who carves himself a big stick, the better to bash in the dens of iniquity polluting his small Tennessee hometown. He’s beaten up, shot, and assaulted by car, surviving every attack and coming back for vengeance against the syndicate. And he even integrates the department, a nod to civil rights in the midst of his righteous vigilante spree. The original film was directed rather bluntly by Phil Karlson, whose earlier, more compelling The Phenix City Story took on a similar true story to greater effect but smaller box-office. But if his directing chops have lost dramatic focus and stylistic flair, his commercial instincts were sound: the film was a sensation, becoming a big hit and spawning a whole industry of southern-fried vigilante lawman action pictures.

Bo Svenson took the club from Baker for the two inevitable sequels. But where the first film is a minor piece of seventies pop culture history, the sequels simply rehash the basic story with drastically diminishing returns. The 1975 Walking Tall, Part II: The Legend of Buford Pusser picks up where the original left off without any real sense of direction or purpose beyond excuses for more violence and destruction (he tears up an assassin’s sport car with his bare hands to make a point). Since it ends with the (off-screen) death of Pusser in a car accident, Final Chapter: Walking Tall from 1977 rewinds to some vague time period in the middle of the second film for an even more sloppy and shapeless film. There’s violence and destruction aplenty, as well as obligatory  nudity and language, in each film: the staples of drive-in success. The two-disc Blu-ray features a new documentary, a vintage featurette, and trailers and TV spots. Also on DVD, presented in anamorphic widescreen for the first time.

More Blu-ray debuts at Videodrone

For more releases, see Hot Tips and Top Picks: DVDs, Blu-rays and streaming video for May 15

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