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Walking Tall

Walking Tall

4.3 3
Director: Phil Karlson,

Cast: Ed Call, Gene Lebell, Leif Garrett


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A runaway box-office hit to the tune of 17 million dollars, Walking Tall is the unabashedly manipulative story of real-life Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser. As played by Joe Don Baker, Pusser can either be regarded as a tireless champion of justice or a baseball-bat-wielding hooligan. But with some of the most scurrilous villains


A runaway box-office hit to the tune of 17 million dollars, Walking Tall is the unabashedly manipulative story of real-life Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser. As played by Joe Don Baker, Pusser can either be regarded as a tireless champion of justice or a baseball-bat-wielding hooligan. But with some of the most scurrilous villains this side of a Republic serial as the main targets of Pusser's wrath, the audience cannot help but applaud the sheriff's strongarm methods. When the town baddies seek vengeance by killing Pusser's wife (Elizabeth Hartman), the you-know-what really hits the fan! Never resorting to subtlety, Walking Tall was such a winner that it spawned two sequels, a made-for-television movie, and a weekly TV series -- none of which were enjoyed by the real Buford Pusser, who had long since died under questionable circumstances. At the time of the film's theatrical release, the MPAA rating system was comparatively new, so the studio launched an ad campaign aimed at parents, letting them know that the R-rated Walking Tall contained violence and not sex, and therefore was good family entertainment.

Editorial Reviews

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Looked at from a modern viewpoint, it's easy to understand why critics of the early '70s had problems with Walking Tall. Its politics support knee-jerk vigilante justice, the technical credits are hit-and-miss (note the frequent boom shots), the plot rewrites the real events that inspired the story to manipulate its audience, and it wallows in brutal violence. However, it also remains easy to see why this film clicked with the audiences of the day. It is exciting, it milks its gritty premise for all the action and drama it can muster, and it is driven by an unforgettable, star-making lead performance from Joe Don Baker. Mort Briskin's script is shamelessly manipulative in its shuffling of the facts, but still manages to work on a basic good vs. evil level. Phil Karlson, a veteran director of gritty crime melodramas like The Phenix City Story, captures the story's sweaty Southern atmosphere nicely and stages the events in a tough, pull-no-punches fashion that makes up for its lack of finesse with its sheer visceral power. However, the best element of the film is Joe Don Baker's performance as Buford Pusser. His down-home charm tempers the recklessly obsessive nature of his character, he delivers an impressive physical presence during the frequent action scenes, and he pours plenty of heartfelt emotion into the film's more dramatic moments. His presence dominates the film, but it is also worth noting that Elizabeth Hartman delivers a fine supporting performance as Pusser's wife, who plays a careful-thinking devil's advocate to his justice-obsessed character and lends the story a bit of humane warmth in the process. In short, Walking Tall may be a little too dated and lacking in polish for many modern viewers, but it is necessary viewing for anyone interested in action cinema since it remains one of the most influential (and frequently imitated) films of this genre to emerge from the 1970s.

Product Details

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Special Features

Closed Caption

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ed Call Lutie McVeigh
Gene Lebell Bouncer
Leif Garrett Mike Pusser
Dawn Lyn Dwana Pusser
Lurene Tuttle Grandma Pusser
Joe Don Baker Buford Pusser
Elizabeth Hartman Pauline Pusser
Lynn Borden Margie Ann
Gil Perkins 1st Bouncer
Carey Loftin Dice Player
Don Keefer Dr. Lamar Stivers
Douglas Fowley Judge Clarke
Sam Laws Willie Rae Lockman
Kenneth Tobey Augie McCullah
Pepper Martin Zolan Dicks
Ted Jordan Virgil Button
Red West Sheriff Tanner
Logan Ramsey John Witter
Sidney Clute Sheldon Levine
John Myhers Lester Dickens
Russell Thorson Ferrin Meaks
Gene Evans Sheriff Al Thurman
Brenda Benet Luan Paxton
John Brascia Prentiss Parley
Bruce Glover Grady Coker
Arch Johnson Buel Jaggers
Felton Perry Obra Eaker, Deputy
Richard X. Slattery Arno Purdy
Rosemary Murphy Callie Hacker
Noah Beery Grandpa Carl Pusser

Technical Credits
Phil Karlson Director
Joe Altadonna Production Designer
Sass Bedig Special Effects
Don Black Songwriter
Ralph E. Black Asst. Director
Mort Briskin Producer,Screenwriter
Joel Briskin Producer
David Dockendorf Sound/Sound Designer
Phyllis Garr Costumes/Costume Designer
Harry Gerstad Editor
Andrew Gilmore Sound/Sound Designer
David Hall Asst. Director
Philip M. Jefferies Production Designer
Stan Jolley Production Designer
Carey Loftin Stunts
Jack A. Marta Cinematographer
Gil Perkins Stunts
Charles A. Pratt Executive Producer
Oscar Rodriguez Costumes/Costume Designer
Walter Scharf Score Composer
Jack H. Young Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Walking Tall
1. Chapter 1 [5:45]
2. Chapter 2 [1:33]
3. Chapter 3 [1:41]
4. Chapter 4 [2:32]
5. Chapter 5 [2:42]
6. Chapter 6 [5:33]
7. Chapter 7 [1:18]
8. Chapter 8 [5:18]
9. Chapter 9 [1:37]
10. Chapter 10 [2:52]
11. Chapter 11 [4:08]
12. Chapter 12 [2:28]
13. Chapter 13 [5:01]
14. Chapter 14 [1:04]
15. Chapter 15 [6:08]
16. Chapter 16 [:06]
17. Chapter 17 [7:01]
18. Chapter 18 [:12]
19. Chapter 19 [3:51]
20. Chapter 20 [1:08]

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Walking Tall 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One darn good Movie. That's why I searched for it online. One traditional movie about the good guy vs. the bad guy. Joe Don Baker was awesome in this movie. I know I wouldn't mess with him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
mt review it was such a good movie, i loved it. i wish i had the tape' real good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is one scene in "Walking Tall" that always stands out with me---the scene where the criminals put Buford Pusser on trial for assaulting THEM. When Buford tries to explain that he was just defending himself, with the attorney using any trick he can to trick him, Buford stands up, tears off his shirt and reveals the scars that the criminals made when they slit his chest. The courtroom is horrified. The judge is telling Buford to put his shirt back on. But instead, Buford goes straight to the jury box and tells the jurors, "If you let 'em get away with doing this to me, you're giving 'em the same damn right to do it to every one of YOU!!!" Needless to say, it didn't take long for the jury to acquit Buford. A great scene.