|Walking Tall (1973)|
|Writers:||Mort Briskin, Stephen Downing, John Michael Hayes|
|Starring:||Joe Don Baker, Felton Perry, Elizabeth Hartman, and Leif Garrett.|
|The Plot: Bufford Pusser (Joe Don Baker) is a former professional wrestler who has recently given up the limelight and decided to retire home to the countryside state line between Tennessee and Mississippi. His parents and old friends are excited to see him back, but there is a certain atmosphere that brews beneath the surface of the serene world that greets Buford. It seems that his one-time simple hometown has become a haven for organized crime! Moonshine liquor and underground gambling dens are the biggest forms of criminal activity, but with these small forms of crime come much larger acts of violence. When Buford attempts to stand up for the local citizens, he is nearly beaten to death. Eventually, he discovers that the criminals that run his small town have even forced their powers into the highest offices of local government. With anger building within the citizenry, Buford decides to stand up to the law and run for Sheriff himself. Once he is inevitably elected, he replaces the entire staff with handpicked men who feels that he can trust. With his new crew, Buford heads out with the intent of putting an end to the local mob. However, with this war against crime also comes a war against Bufford, and he will have to find a way to survive in this violent era.|
Joe Don Baker was never a fantastic actor, for the most part, but he was an actor with great charisma and screen presence. Although his range was essentially mocked as being “tough, funny, and even tougher,” he managed to carve out a very interesting place within the world of cinema. Known better today for his string of b-movies during the latter part of his career, he was an actor who could command a great deal of authority when necessary. Starring as a young man in this film, Baker looks spruce and very able. Although the majority of the movie requires him to be a quiet and reserved toughguy, Baker is given a few very tough scenes to hash out some very real drama. There is a sequence revolving around the death of a pet that is both unnerving due to Baker’s commitment to the intensity of the scene, and also slightly humorous because it is one of the few moments where Baker drops his shield of invulnerability – and it is over a dog. Ultimately, this is Joe Don Baker at his most accessible to audiences, and although he would become an even more rugged man during his later years, it is perfectly understandable how he fit the ideal of a leading man when it came to casting Walking Tall. He carries a charm to him that compliments his slightly brutish appearance. You can believe that this man was once a pro wrestler, and yet he doesn’t intimidate the audience. He’s a big man that can be seen as an “everyday guy,” and most of this comes down to Baker’s ability to charm the pants off of his audience.