Monday, September 22, 2014

Walking Tall: The Trilogy

Walking Tall: The TrilogyI have waited for a long time for the Walking Tall Trilogy to be released on DVD but was not over joyed with the DVD set. First I have to say is that the movies are all outstanding and can be watched over and over aging without loosing their excitement. But, it looks like Rhino did not use a master print but a copy of the video tape. The print they used I think is a very poor print. Walking Tall part 1 has alot of what I call "video tape lines' runnig through it, the Final Chapter is real dark in some scenes, and over all the video quality is not what you expect out of a DVD. It looks like you are watching a video tape. Rhino, you did Bufford Pusser an injustice! And I have to agree with the other reviewer; Where is the TV series at??? Release them pleaseeeee.

Over all, for the movies sake I give it a 5 star plus. On Rhinos part, 5 stars for releasing the movies on DVD, and 2 stars for their transfer. Go back to the master prints, thx them, re-do a new release to DVD including a release of the TV series.

If you like Walking Tall and Buford Pusser at all, this is a DVD set you will wnat to own

A trio of films from Bing Crosby Productions, the WALKING TALL series were mostly-fictionalized accounts of the life and alternately tragic and triumphant times of Tennessee small-town police chief Bufford Pusser in the `60s and early `70s. All three films newly available on both Blu-Ray and DVD from Shout! Factory -make for ideal drive-in fare, mixing fisticuffs, some social justice sermonizing and vigilantism that would likewise become a potent formula for the "Death Wish" series.

The original "Walking Tall" is by far the best of the trio: a somewhat crudely made yet undeniably compelling B-movie with Joe Don Baker as Pusser, a former wrestler who returns to his small Tennessee town, only to find crime, corruption, moonshinin' and prostitution having overrun the local residents. Pusser nearly dies, twice, as he tries to clean up the town first as a frustrated, concerned citizen, then as the newly elected sheriff forever running into opposition from crooked judges, lying politicians and local white trash.

Baker's performance anchors the original WALKING TALL which became a huge hit in 1973, leading to a series of wannabes and similar "redneck justice" pictures. It's not a great movie by any means, but it has a certain charm about it, with the movie having been made on a workmanlike level across the board. Walter Scharf's melodic, occasionally overwrought score includes a forgettable Johnny Mathis end credits tune, while the supporting cast features little Leif Garrett as Pusser's son and a pair of young actresses who met with premature ends: Elizabeth Hartman, who plays Pusser's wife, later committed suicide in the `80s (she also voiced Mrs. Brisby in "The Secret of NIMH"), as did Brenda Benet, Bill Bixby's ex-wife, who killed herself in 1982 and makes an impression here as a hooker sympathetic to the sheriff's crusade.

Baker didn't return for WALKING TALL: PART II, a barely serviceable 1975 sequel with Pusser still taking on the local mob in a movie that feels more like a TV film recycling as opposed to a legitimate big-screen continuation. Bo Svenson, at least, does a decent job as Pusser with a few faces having returned from the original; Walter Scharf repeated his scoring chores in a film that was released shortly after the real-life Pusser's mysterious death.

1977's FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL is an appreciable step-up from its predecessor, offering an interesting account of Pusser's continued attempts to dismantle local organized crime, to his work with a film crew documenting his life and sad demise. The Howard B. Kreitsek-Samuel A. Peeples script aims higher than the second film, picking up some loose plot threads from the original that the first sequel overlooked, with Pusser's character being more developed as the lawman loses almost everything though ultimately not his legacy.

Shout's Blu-Ray set is a gem: the first film's 1080p transfer (all films are 1.85) has been culled from a pre-existing HD master and looks pretty good, with just a hint of DNR, and a 2.0 DTS MA stereo remix. Judging from the credited telecine colorist who worked on Parts II and III, the sequels appear to have been freshly transferred for this release, boasting decent detail, less DNR and 2.0 DTS MA mono soundtracks, though the modest budgets and no-frills filming of each installment certainly don't make for HD "eye candy" or demo material.

Extras are also on-hand, including a documentary offering new interviews with Baker (albeit off-camera), Garrett, his sister Dawn Lyn (who plays his sister in the film), and numerous members of Pusser's own family, who discuss the real man whose story inspired the movies (and the later, lame remake with The Rock). TV spots for all films, trailers for the sequels, and a vintage look at the production of "Final Chapter: Walking Tall" make for an excellent package, which is also available on DVD with the same extras this May from Shout!

Buy Walking Tall: The Trilogy Now

My brother got this last week at the Buford Pusser Museum, who received their shipment early.

We watched the first movie last week on my projector and 80" screen, and I can honestly say that this is the best this movie has ever looked. We saw no scratches, specks, dirt, nothing but a perfect picture. As far as HD quality, I can't speak for that since we only watched the first film.

I know a lot of people are curious about the special features, so here we go....

There are 2 discs on the blu ray set, and oddly enough, the first and 2nd movies are on the first disc on 1 side...the 3rd movie is on a disc by itself. I would have figured that part 1 would be on a disc alone, as it is the best film. Part 1 has 2 tv previews and a photo gallery; Part 2 has tv previews, a trailer and another photo gallery. Strangely, Part 2 is where the best feature is...the all-new "Buford Pusser Story" feature, which includes new interviews with many of the cast and real life people, including Leif Garrett, Dawn Lyn, Bruce Glover, Dwana Pusser and many more. What really disappointed and baffled me is that Joe Don Baker is only heard, not seen, as narrator. He is not shown giving his thoughts on-screen. Disc 2, which has Part 3 on it, has a trailer, more photos, and some older footage.

I can't speak yet for how parts 2 & 3 looked, as we only watched part 1, but the set is well worth the price for the fantastic transfer of the best of the trilogy and for the new interviews (even though we don't get to see Joe Don!).

Read Best Reviews of Walking Tall: The Trilogy Here

I bought the original Walking Tall Trilogy DVD set several years ago and it was packaged in a less that durable case and there were no extra features at all, not even the original film trailers. The picture quality on Final Chapter-Walking Tall was too dark at times. I have read that there will be some extra features included on this new release, but am not sure exactly what they will be or just how many. As this trilogy is fact-based, here's hoping for some factual type of documentary to maybe fill in some blanks and answer some long-lingering questions that have existed since Buford Pusser's suspicious death in a car crash in August 1974. His mother Helen firmly believed that he was murdered until her death and his daughter Dwana still believes it today.

Want Walking Tall: The Trilogy Discount?

This set gives what it promises. It provides videos of the 3 movies from the 70s about Sheriff Buford Pusser. It does little else. There are no special features to speak of; its just the movies.

If you like the movies and don't care for the frill, you will like this set. If you want more, you will be disappointed.

Synopses of the individual films appear below:

Walking Tall

The Original is still a Classic

Joe Don Baker plays the part of Buford Pusser, a.k.a. Buford the Bull, a pro wrestler who is disenchanted with the crooked sport and who decides to settle down in his home town in rural Tennessee. Home is not the way he remembers it, though. There is a hint of corruption in the air.

This does not matter overly much to Buford until it affects him personally. When the local thugs, working for the local moonshiners and madam, work him over and leave him for dead, he decides that he has had enough. He doesn't get a gun, his wife does not like guns. Instead, when he recovers, he gets a big piece of oak, heads over to the roadhouse where all the problems are and proceeds to kick everyone's collective butt. That lands him in jail.

When the trial comes about, it's a pretty open and shut case. Even Buford admits that he did the violence. It looks like he is going to be convicted until he fires his lawyer, makes an impassioned plea on his own behalf, shows the jury his scars and promises that if he is acquitted, he will run for sheriff and clean up the town. He gets off and then proceeds to clean things up.

The problem is that the crooks don't want to be cleaned up. They fight him and even threaten his family. That makes it personal for Buford. He cleans them up anyway but has to endure a fair amount of grief in the process. Throughout it all, he relies only on speaking softly and carrying a BIG stick.

This is not highbrow. Its just a simple good versus evil story. Buford is the good guy and he is likable.

Walking Tall Part 2

Vengeance in Mine Sayeth Buford

Near the end of the Original WALKING TALL, Sheriff Pusser's wife is killed while the mob is attempting to kill him. Now it is time for payback. There are a few changes, though.

Bo Svenson replaces Joe Don Baker as the likable sheriff. He does a creditable job but, under the circumstances, he is less concerned with the niceties of exactly following the law.

He's still effective, though. He is so effective that the mob is desperate to get him and hires a variety of hit men to do the job. One of the mob leaders, in particular, is just as obsessed with getting the sheriff as the sheriff is with getting them. That leads to an intense conflict and no concern for niceties. That means violence and mayhem.

Even with his proclivity for violence, the sheriff is concerned for his people. He is still a "nice" guy unless you are one of the people who is responsible for the problems. He still manages to get most of the small fry but the big fish still elude him.

This is not a bad movie as sequels go but it is not as good as the original. Anger can only take you so far in progressing the plot. It cannot make up for a lesser script and lesser story.

Walking Tall: The Final Chapter

End of the Road

The second Walking Tall ends with a notice that Sheriff Buford was killed in an auto accident. This third one picks up earlier in the story though. He is still adamant about getting the people who killed his wife and the Mob is still bent on getting the sheriff but Buford has a problem. He has lost his job as sheriff.

The job loss comes about for several reasons. In some cases, Buford is scene as having gone too far outside the legal boundaries. This happens even when his solutions make life easier for everyone, including the perpetrators. The people of his county also seem a bit jaded by continued success. Where they once cheered him, now they are not ready to support him.

The loss of his job means that Buford has to go after justice as a private citizen and he is well on his way to the poorhouse in pursuing his aims. The new sheriff is suspicious of him and is fearful that Buford might become a problem for him. It begins to look like he might have to move away with his business unfinished when he gets a lucky break.

A Hollywood producer learns of his story and wants to make a movie about him. That brings in money and a chance for achieving his goals. The mob leader with a taste for vengeance finally gets his chance and we learn the story of the end of the former Sheriff of McNairy County.

This one is better than the second but not as good as the first.

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