Friday, December 23, 2011

Walking Tall

Walking Tall Trilogy Boxed Set

Walking Tall is a 1973 semi-biopic of Sheriff Buford Pusser, a former professional wrestler-turned-lawman in McNairy County, Tennessee. It starred Joe Don Baker as Pusser. The film was directed by Phil Karlson.
Pusser, at his wife Pauline's behest, retires from the professional wrestling ring and moves back to Tennessee to start a logging business with his father, Carl Pusser. With a friend, he visits a gambling and prostitution establishment, the Lucky Spot, and is beaten up after catching them cheating at craps. Pusser is seriously injured with a knife and receives over 200 stitches. He complains to the sheriff but is ignored, and soon becomes aware of the rampant corruption in McNairy County. Pusser decides to clean up the county and runs for sheriff. Buford Pusser wins, and becomes famous for being incorruptible, intolerant of crime, and for his array of four foot hickory clubs which he uses to great effect in destroying clandestine gambling dens and illegal distilleries, and even against criminals.

Some residents praise Buford Pusser as an honest cop in a crooked town; others denounce him as a bully willing to break some laws to uphold others.

Pusser is ambushed more than once, and finally he and Pauline are ambushed in their car. Pauline is killed, and Pusser is seriously injured, admitted to the hospital after being shot for the second time. Still in a neck and face cast, he rams a sheriff cruiser through the front doors of the Lucky Spot, killing two of the men who attacked him.

As he leaves with two deputies, the town arrives and throws the gambling tables and furniture into a pile in the parking lot and lights a bonfire, while Pusser wipes tears from his eyes.

The original Walking Tall was a hit, but the sequels, Walking Tall Part 2 (September 28, 1975), and Walking Tall: Final Chapter ( May 31,1977), both starring Bo Svenson, were far less profitable. On December 9, 1978 CBS aired "A Real American Hero", with Brian Dennehy as Buford Pusser. Forrest Tucker reprised his role of Carl Pusser from "Walking Tall: Final Chapter". This 2-hour TV movie was originally titled "The Letter Of The Law". It was retitled "Hard Stick" for a VHS release in the 1980's. A short-lived 1981 television series Walking Tall (again starring Svenson) further dramatized Pusser's life and career. The TV series began on January 17, 1981, and, after 7 one-hour segments, was last aired on March 31, 1981. The real Buford Pusser himself was killed in a car crash; his daughter, in another car behind him, found him in the ditch. He died upon impact or shortly afterwards, and the wreck remains a mystery.

In 2004, a remake starring professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was made. Although it took many elements of Pusser's life and the original Walking Tall, many things were changed, such as Johnson's character's name (Chris Vaughn) and setting the film in semi-rural Kitsap County, Washington, although it was filmed in Squamish, B.C., Canada. Two sequels to the remake were produced, and released in 2007: Walking Tall: The Payback and Walking Tall: Lone Justice, both made in Dallas, Texas and released directly to DVD. These sequels starred Kevin Sorbo as Nick Prescott, the son of the town's sheriff who takes the law into his hands when his father is killed in an alleged car accident.

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