Walking Tall: The Final Chapter (1977)
Director: Jack Starrett
Writers: Howard B. Kreitsek and Samuel A. Peeples
Starring: Bo Svenson, Lurene Tuttle, Leif Garrett and Forrest Tucker

The Plot: In this third and final film in the original Walking Tall series, we follow Buford Pusser (Bo Svenson) once again as he lives out his final days. Still angry after the death of his wife, Buford continues to search for the man responsible for her death. However, he finds nothing but red tape standing in his way. Not only that, but there is an election coming up and the tides are slowly turning against Buford. Many of the residents, seeing the violence that has ensued since Pusser took over, have decided that they would like to see someone else filling his shoes. So, inevitably Buford does indeed lose in his election attempt, but he doesn’t let this bring him down. Even though he and his family are now in great debt, he looks for more answers by looking for employment in the highway patrol. However, a blessing comes his way when a movie producer expresses interest in taking his story and making it into a hollywood film. Although things are certainly looking up for Buford now, his war on crime will not subside!

The Review
The original Walking Tall series may never go down as true cinematic achievements that changed the world, but there’s no getting past the fact that these movies delivered something special to the film world. They are, and pardon my pun here, “tall tales” for a more modern age. They take place in a world filled with machismo and manly courage that hardly seems to exist on any plane of reality, however, they are special because there is a certain resemblance to our world. This final entrance into the original series is where the fairytale begins to come to a close, and reality starts to verge into the world of cinema. As the series heads into “meta” territory, it converges the worlds of the previous two films and creates something that is unique and yet familiar. Does that mean we ultimately have a film that is better or equal to the previous two? Not really, but it certainly delivers its own voice within the world of this trilogy.

The movie begins with Bo Svenson recreating the infamous scene from the first movie where Buford Pusser’s wife was killed in a violent roadside attack. This stark moment is in direct contrast to the fun insanity that made the previous film so incredibly different. Final Chapter immediately sets its own tone during these opening minutes, and it seems obvious that the filmmakers looked to inject more of the adult themes of the first film back into the series. This time around we actually get to see Pusser mourning the loss of his wife, instead of immediately jumping off into a stretch of prolonged violence. While it is hard to argue that there is a great deal of intense drama within this film, because Pusser is quickly back in action, the movie does actually take a while to progress into the action territory. The opening sequences give us more mourning from Svenson than was felt during the entirety of the second movie – which took place almost immediately after her death. There are certainly some continuity issues when it comes to the small leap in time between Walking Tall Part II and Walking Tall: Final Chapter. Although these sequels were made with only a two years break between them, Svenson certainly seems to have aged and Pusser’s children seem to have aged considerably. This is despite the fact that this movie was apparently set within the same time period as the second movie.

The sense of fun from the second movie does continue with the third film, even though it tries to include both the drama and the sleaze of the first movie. With the silly atmosphere of the second movie also comes the slightly episodic nature that plagued Bo Svenson’s first outing as Buford Pusser. There are numerous small subplots that pop up that seem to serve little purpose within the movie. One of the more interesting moments comes when Pusser wanders across a moonshiner in the woods who is abusive to his son. Pusser decides, as any law enforcement officer would, to strip the man naked and proceed to spank him with a tree branch. This makes for one of the most utterly bizarre scenes throughout the entire trilogy, and makes for a very weird cinematic moment altogether. The most poignant subplot development would obviously be a small relationship that builds between Buford and a young woman who is a reformed prostitute. Buford, knowing her past, is able to accept her despite these things. However, there are obvious conflicts that come with this sort of thing. Otherwise, we might not have the necessary drama that a movie about Buford Pusser needs!

The character of Buford Pusser, despite this being his third film, really hasn’t learned his lessons about beating and extorting people, or so it seems. Even though he faced the same opposition to his brutish tactics during the very first film, he once again tackles many of the same issues in this third title. The first film actually established that Buford eventually turned his back on his original lawless way of upholding justice, but here we find him once again beating and abusing the citizenry while trying to maintain arrests. Buford was shown to be a simple man in the first movie, but he became much more calculating as the movie went along. Yet, here we are and it is as if the lessons in the first film never took place. We find him doing very little to keep a lid on his temper and continually acting outside of the law, despite his foreknowledge that the “crooked” system will protect any criminal he arrests without following the proper procedures. I found his actions terribly naive this go-around, and not in keeping with the character. As the movie goes along, he seems to become more and more destructive to anyone who would question his authority. Although he is still absolutely the hero of our movie, there’s a definite moral ambiguity in his actions if you really sit down and think about what he is doing. He truly is using the law as an umbrella for him to handle his own personal vendettas. This is something different than what the first two movies represented. In the past, the crooked courts and systems may have inhibited a less knowledgeable Pusser – but now it seems as if Pusser has turned his back on the law itself. Even the laws that actually do make sense!

This sequel, as I mentioned earlier, does find the series returning a bit to the sleazy origins of the first movie. With a brothel being the focus for much of the film’s action, there’s certainly an expected amount of nudity and this third sequel brings the sleaziness with gusto. The action may not turn out to be at an all-time cinematic high, but it is certainly high quality for this series. There’s a really spectacular police raid lead by Buford alone, where he takes on all of the inhabitants of the previously mentioned brothel, and he brawls his way right out the front door. Some of the fight choreography here marks the best in the series, even if it is brief. The violence is ratcheted up a notch, with Buford busting the teeth out of several wannabe gangsters along the way. Along with some nipple torture and the previously mentioned nude spanking in the woods, this is certainly a Walking Tall that lands somewhere between the first movie and the second in terms of sleaze. Despite being lightly inconsistent, the movie manages to work.

The Conclusion
Despite being the low-point within the trilogy, Walking Tall: Final Chapter still makes for a very entertaining piece of work. There is less character in this entry, but more violence and insanity, so there are good points and bad points added to the gumbo. Still, as a part of the Shout! Factory DVD/BD set, you can’t go wrong. Two amazing films and one very solid one? Sounds like a winning combination. I give Walking Tall: Final Chapter a nice three out of five. Not the thrilling conclusion to the story that some may hope for, but it certainly delivers many memorable moments.