Walking Tall Part II (1975)
Director: Earl Bellamy
Writers: Howard B. Kreitsek
Starring: Bo Svenson, Logan Ramsey, Luke Askew and John Davis Chandler

The Plot: This sequel to the original Walking Tall opens with Bufford Pusser (now played by Bo Svenson) recuperating from the injuries he sustained during the conclusion of the previous film. His time as sheriff is drawing to a conclusion, and it is up in the air whether or not he will seek reelection. Buford still has unfinished business, however, and he looks to break up the stateline mob! He starts a new wave of crackdowns and he begins hitting the moonshiners hard and heavy. He continues to anger mob boss John Witter (Logan Ramsey), who vows to destroy Pusser if it is the last thing he does. With his right hand man Pinky Dobson (Luke Askew) at his side, Witter intends to concoct a series of assassination attempts that are meant to finally put an end to the brave sheriff. These assassination attempts will include hiring on a racecar driver named Studd (Richard Jaeckel) in order to lure Pusser into a death trap, and also using a seductive woman who will attempt to capture Pusser’s heart before killing him. Unfortunately for the mob, they continually underestimates the will of Buford Pusser! Will he finally put an end to organized crime across the state line, or will the mob finally get what they want?

The Review
When Walking Tall Part 2 began its production, the initial concept was to create a starring vehicle for the legendary man himself: Buford Pusser. Unfortunately, when Pusser passed away, he left producers questioning what to do. Although the original intention was to create a film that was based more heavily on the facts surrounding Pusser’s life, without Buford in the lead role, that idea likely seemed more difficult to accomplish. With the original Walking Tall having been made so recently, it also likely seemed ridiculous to cover any of the same material. So, with Joe Don Baker already having been taken out of the picture (in order for his real-life friend Buford Pusser to star), the producers ended up bringing in a new face to the series. Another large man who could fill the room with his presence, the world was introduced to Bo Svenson. A large hockey player of Swedish lineage, Svenson made a considerable impact when gracing the series – even though this series would turn out to be his most memorable claim to fame. His inclusion into the series is only the first of many changes within the Walking Tall series. There can be a little controversy in the direction that the series takes with these new changes, with some feeling that the movies became a bit too light hearted after Pusser’s death. However, I am of the opinion that these movies serve a very different purpose but are equally as interesting in their own way.

While the first film essentially told the majority of Pusser’s story, audiences had to know that a sequel was going to have to get fairly innovative with its story. The first movie didn’t end on a complete climax, but knowing that Pusser was now dead, in retrospect the sequel simply seems like it is trying to cash in on the legacy of both Pusser and the success of the first movie. Ultimately, with these sequels we get a couple of titles that focus primarily on the fun and excitement of being a Southern sheriff fighting bootleggers. This is at the detriment of any real direction, since the movie forgoes most of the real drama surrounding the real-life case. This is a negative against the film, since this sequel in particular often feels episodic, but in the end you get a tonally different movie from the original. It attempts to do something different, and in a way it succeeds at being interesting. This sequel is ultimately far less serious, with more focus on the action than on brute violence or even familial drama. Ultimately, the quality of this picture comes down to preference. There are bound to be some audience members who feel that the original movie is a bit too stuffy for its own good, and for those audience members Walking Tall Part 2 is the perfect answer. I can certainly see the value in either direction. Although I believe the original to be superior, there is no question that each movie has its own advantages.

Going back to that first big hurdle the movie faces, the difference between Joe Don Baker’s role and the one that Bo Svenson plays, it truly is like night and day. Although both men have tremendous charisma, Bo Svenson plays the character in an even more heroic fashion than Baker once did. Joe Don Baker was presented as more of an everyday man thrown into a situation that called for outrageous courage, however, Bo Svenson’s character is a superhero of sorts. Action is his middle name, and he isn’t interested in presenting himself in a mortal light. He always has the witty retorts, and he is very apt for the physicality of this role. The plot puts him into predicaments that are much more heroic than what Joe Don Baker was served, and thus Walking Tall Part 2 becomes a slightly less realistic depiction of Southern justice. Yet, in doing this, it surely becomes a more flavorful and exciting film. It becomes the difference between a hearty meal and a smorgasbord of snack foods. Sure, the snacks aren’t going to sustain your energy, but they are sure to leave you happy for at least a little while.

There are many other notable differences between the tones set by both films, but I’ll only mention a few. The violence and sleaze presented in the original film are completely gone in this sequel. Walking Tall Part 2 doesn’t intend to disgust or divide its audience, instead the filmmakers present a much more straightforward action film. There is one scene of pure nudity in the movie, and surprisingly there are very few deaths throughout. Gone are the scenes of nude women being beaten with whips, and instead we get daring car chases and plenty of brawling. This direction can be seen as both a good thing, and a bad thing. It remains one of those decisions by the filmmakers that audiences will have to decide on for themselves. If there’s any decision that I personally disagree with in Walking Tall 2, it is the way the movie downplays the character of Obrah. One of my favorite characters from the first film, as he directly faced the racial tensions present in the south during the sixties and seventies, in this second title he is nothing more than a sidekick to Pusser. He, along with Bruce Glover, are simply members of the “team,” and not given much screen time to develop their personalities. There is also a twist involving Obrah that really left me dissatisfied, and ultimately seemed like a slap in the face to the importance of the character within the first movie. Still, for every negative reaction, there is a positive one. Walking Tall Part 2 may not feel as “important” as the original did, but it serves its own purpose just fine.

The Conclusion
I feel as if I am probably repeating myself at this point, but Walking Tall Part II is a lot of fun. Filled with tons of backwoods action, beautiful one liners, and a charismatic leading man who sells the movie at all times, it is a hard movie not to enjoy. It may leave behind the dramatic impact that audiences likely expected, but it certainly finds its fanbase. I give it a solid four out of five. Presented on the new Bluray/DVD trilogy pack from Shout! Factory, the movie has never looked better. As a part of this trilogy, this title alone makes it worth the purchase. The other movies simply sweeten the deal.