Walking Tall

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Walking Tall
Walking Tall (1973 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Written byMort Briskin
Stephen Downing
John Michael Hayes (uncredited)
StarringJoe Don Baker
Elizabeth Hartman
Music byWalter Scharf
Editing byHarry W. Gerstad
StudioBing Crosby Productions
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release dates
  • February 22, 1973 (1973-02-22)
Running time125 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$500,000
Box office$23,000,000[1]
 
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Walking Tall
Walking Tall (1973 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Written byMort Briskin
Stephen Downing
John Michael Hayes (uncredited)
StarringJoe Don Baker
Elizabeth Hartman
Music byWalter Scharf
Editing byHarry W. Gerstad
StudioBing Crosby Productions
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release dates
  • February 22, 1973 (1973-02-22)
Running time125 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$500,000
Box office$23,000,000[1]

Walking Tall is a 1973 American action semi-biopic film 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.[2] Based on Pusser's true story, it was a combination of very loosely based fact and Hollywood revisionism. It has since become a well known cult classic (with two direct sequels of its own, a TV movie, A Real American Hero, and a brief TV series, also called Walking Tall).

Plot[edit]

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. Later, working at his dad's lumber mill, Pusser makes a club out of a tree branch. Late one night, Pusser waits until after the Lucky Spot is closed, and beats up the same thugs that left him for dead. The next day, Pusser is arrested and represents himself at trial. At one point, he rips off his shirt and shows the jury his scars. He informs them that "If you let them do this to me and get away with it, then you're giving them the eternal right to do the same damn thing to any one of you!" The jury finds Pusser not guilty, and he 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 dispatching criminals and destroying their clandestine gambling dens and illegal distilleries.

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 attacked several times, and finally he and Pauline are ambushed in their car. Pauline is killed and Pusser is seriously injured. He is admitted to the hospital after being shot and while still in a neck and face cast, attends his wife's funeral with his family. Afterward he rams a sheriff cruiser through the front doors of the Lucky Spot, killing two of his would-be assassins.

As he leaves with two deputies, the townspeople arrive and begin throwing the gambling tables out into the parking lot. They light a bonfire as an overwhelmed Pusser wipes tears from his eyes.

Sequels[edit]

The original Walking Tall was a hit, but the sequels, Walking Tall Part 2 (September 28, 1975), and Walking Tall: Final Chapter (August 10, 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.

Remake[edit]

In 2004, a remake starring professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was made. Although it utilized many elements from Pusser's life and the original Walking Tall, many things were changed. Johnson's character's name was now Chris Vaughn, and the film's setting became 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 own hands when his father is killed in a suspicious car accident.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The film is certified fresh on the site Rotten Tomatoes where it holds a 75% approval rating from critics.[3]

The film earned an estimated $8.5 million in North American rentals in 1973.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Walking Tall, Worldwide Box Office". Worldwide Box Office. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ Vincent Canby (1974-02-09). "'Walking Tall':Film Depicts Violence in a Small Town". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  3. ^ "'Walking Tall'". Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  4. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19

External links[edit]