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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Walking Tall (1973)

March 17, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #500: Walking Tall (1973)

The Walking Tall Marathon: Week 1

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that never thought it would last five issues let alone five hundred, and yet here we are, still kicking and still talking about the world of the B-movie, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred(!), the Walking Tall marathon begins with the movie that started it all, Walking Tall, which first hit movie theaters in late February of 1973.

Walking Tall (1973)

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Walking Tall, directed by Phil Karlson, stars the great Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser, a retired pro wrestler who returns to his Tennessee hometown with his family to settle down. Pusser promised his wife Pauline (Elizabeth Hartman) that he would quit fighting and find a way to relax. After finding a house and piece of land with the help of his father (Grandpa, as played by Noah Beery Jr.), Pusser figures that he is well on his way to fulfilling his promise to Pauline and his kids (Mike and Dwana, as played by Leif Garrett and Dawn Lyn) when he runs into his old buddy Lutie McVeigh (Ed Call). After some quick catching up and overacting by Call, McVeigh takes Pusser to the new bar/casino/whorehouse that’s on the edge of town. Pusser isn’t all that interested in going, but he checks the place out anyway because McVeigh is incredibly interested and excited about being there. Maybe the beer is good?

While inside the club, it doesn’t take long for both Pusser and McVeigh to get into trouble. After trying to get the money back he “lent” to McVeigh, both men get their asses kicked when a full scale brawl ensues. McVeigh is killed (basically, he’s beaten to death) and Pusser is cut badly and left for dead on the side of the road. Pusser doesn’t die on the side of the road, though. He’s picked up, sent home, he sees a doctor, and he tells his story to the sheriff, Al Thurman (Gene Evans). Thurman claims that he doesn’t have enough evidence to prosecute anyone and tells Pusser to forget it ever happened. Figuring right then and there that the town and county is run by corrupt asshole pieces of shit, Pusser decides to take the law into his own hands and plot his revenge.

With a gigantic wooden board that he made with his own two hands at the mill he works at during the day, Pusser goes back to the club and fucks the place up. He destroys tables and other furniture in the building and clubs several motherfuckers into piles of bloody goo. Sheriff Thurman shows up afterwards at Pusser’s home and arrests him for assault and destruction of private property and robbery (Pusser took $3600 from the club to cover his medical bills and the cost of his station wagon that someone stole). Pusser is then put on trial by the local corrupt judge (Judge Clarke, as played by Douglas Fowley) and it’s expected that Pusser will be sent to jail for decades. However, the jury decides that Pusser didn’t do anything wrong and is acquitted of all charges. It’s at this point that Pusser decides, with the suggestion of another old friend, Obra Eaker (the great Felton Perry), to run for sheriff.

Run for sheriff? In this corrupt as fuck county? How the hell is that going to happen? Well, Pusser survives long enough to beat Sheriff Thurman (Thurman ends up “running” as a dead guy because Thurman dies in a car accident while trying to arrest Pusser for reckless driving) and then the shit is seriously on. Buford Pusser as the sheriff is a giant pain in the ass for the mobster scumbags that run the club (and various other illicit operations in the area). Pusser can’t be bought off, threats against him and his family don’t deter him, and the public is generally behind him. How the hell is the mob going to stop Pusser from fucking up their good times?

Part of what makes Walking Tall so damn good and entertaining is how downright vicious the mob is while trying to take down Pusser. The mobsters will do just about anything to take Pusser out, even when he’s the sheriff. They do a drive by shooting on him, they try to destroy his house, they kill his dog, they eventually kill his wife (holy shit that scene is brutal), and they send a fat guy in a bad suit from the big city to threaten him. None of this stops Pusser from taking the mob on and arresting and killing as many of the mobsters as he can. It’s a real battle of wills between the law and the corrupt. It also helps that Joe Don Baker is so damn good as Pusser. Sure, he can seem a little self-righteous at times, but, goddamit, in this corrupt county, someone has to be. Why not the ex-wrestler that likes to beat the shit out of people with a giant club?

Walking Tall, even at two hours, is a fairly lean and mean movie watching experience. Director Karlson doesn’t waste time either introducing the good guys (Pusser and his family) or showing just how bad the bad guys are. Some of the movie plays like a biopic as the story is “based on’/”inspired” by the real life Pusser (once Pusser becomes sheriff the story jumps around to events in Pusser’s life that connect together like a “greatest hits in this guy’s life” kind of thing. You know, like a biopic), but whether or not what we’re seeing is true or real is irrelevant. Walking Tall, at its heart, is a story of the good guys taking on the bad guys. It’s a story we’ve all seen a million times before. There’s nothing particularly new going on with the story. It’s all about how the story is told and the performances. And, as I said, director Karlson keeps things moving along at all times and knows when to jack the energy up a bit. The action and fight scenes are all played straight with minimal camera trickery, Some of the fight scenes do have that hurried, shaky cam feel to them, but, unlike modern movies that do the exact same thing, you can actually tell what the hell is going on in Walking Tall. When Pusser beats a guy up, you can see him do it. When Pusser wields his big ass wooden stick, you can see Pusser swing the thing and see what happens afterwards. That’s always preferable to shaky cam where you can’t see anything. Always. There are also some excellent car chase scenes.

Baker, as I said, is just so damn good as Pusser. He’s a big tough guy, sure, and perpetually righteous, but he also has a soft, sensitive side that’s endearing as fuck. When he’s interacting with Pauline or Obra or, shit, McVeigh, Pusser is just a nice guy family man. He couldn’t/wouldn’t hurt a flea. When Pusser is provoked, though, watch the fuck out. Buford Pusser is going to get his man and, in the process, beat the fucking shit out of him. Sure, he doesn’t know the law when he starts his job as sheriff, but he figures it out (he reads a law book) and then becomes an even bigger pain in the ass to the corrupt. That’s what you want in a guy who probably shouldn’t be sheriff but is because there’s no one else willing or able to do the job. Baker didn’t participate in any of the Walking Tall sequels, which is a shame because it would no doubt been interesting to see what he could have done with the character in another Buford Pusser story. I bet he would have hooked up with that prostitute that he used as a confidential informant and then took to the bus station so she could get out of town.

Elizabeth Hartman has a sort of thankless role as Pusser’s wife Pauline as she doesn’t have much to do beyond fret that her husband is engaging in violence again, but she has some nice moments spread throughout the movie. At the same time, I think you have to look at her as Pusser’s ultimate gateway to what he wants to do. Pusser doesn’t run for sheriff until she tells him it’s okay. Pusser doesn’t start carrying a gun until she allows him to (Pauline hates guns). When she dies, Pusser’s world almost ends. His last act against the mob bastards that killed his wife isn’t triumphant in so much as it’s the last act of a desperate man who has been pushed to his limit. It’s a sad moment more than anything else. How many revenge stories end on a note of sadness?

Bruce Glover does a good job as the perpetual deputy Grady Coker. He becomes a more interesting character when Pusser becomes the boss because Pusser is the guy he wants to be. And Felton Perry, the future Johnson in Robocop, is a pretty cool friend to have. He’ll be there no matter what, even if the town is kind of racist. Man, Perry had a pretty awesome 1973, didn’t he? He was in Walking Tall and the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force. That’s quite the resume if you ask me.

The rest of the cast is good, although, truthfully, I can’t remember any of the names of the bad guys. They’re all ruthless bastards. That’s what matters most in the end, right?

The only performance I didn’t care for was the one given by Ed Call, who plays Lutie McVeigh, Pusser’s old buddy. Call plays him as a ridiculous hick who seems to be sort of drunk all of the time, which doesn’t really fit in with any of the other characters in the movie. It’s almost like Call is acting in a different movie. It’s sad when he dies, yes, but, shit, I’m surprised he didn’t get his ass kicked earlier in the movie for being a goddamn hick. This story may take place in the south but, shit, no one else is acting like a hick. What the hell is McVeigh’s problem?

Walking Tall is a rousing, badass movie about one man taking on a corrupt system, and Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser is damn close to being the perfect good guy. It doesn’t always work out for the good guy, his life can be completely destroyed while trying to do the right thing, but at least he’s trying. And he doesn’t give up, either. That’s a good lesson to internalize.

I loved Walking Tall. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 17

Explosions: A few.

Nudity?: Yes, although it’s not really appealing.

Doobage: A nice, serene opening, a room full of trophies and a hunting rifle, house hunting, reckless driving, a jiggling ass, a woman with giant nipples, gambling, a full on bar room brawl, a wicked kick to the face, stool to the back, side kick, a full on group beat down, of screen chest carving, wood cutting, mild racism, club to the back of the head, serious arm breaking, major league ass kicking, skeet shooting, jury trial hooey, election posters, a car chase involving vehicular assault, exploding car, two rules, young dead people in Mississippi, henchmen bullshit, a new office in the restroom, a warrant montage, attempted murder, gun shit, exploding still, ass slapping, house shooting, a dead dog, pistol whipping, a new puppy, multiple bullets to the head, picnic hooey, machine gun attack, exploding head, car window punching, a big funeral, big time vehicular assault, furniture burning, and a sad ending.

Kim Richards?: Attempted.

Gratuitous: Joe Don Baker, Joe Don Baker driving a station wagon, a “Buford the Wild Bull” banner, car horn beeping, Joe Don Baker describing pro wrestling in the 1970’s as not on the up and up, Joe Don Baker showing a kid a rifle, a metal bucket, an idiot driving like, well, and idiot in public, campers filled with prostitutes, hick bullshit, a can of beer and plastic cups at the bar, illegal gambling, Joe Don Baker left for dead in the rain, Bruce Glover, a brief logging montage, log running, Felton Perry, white people not wanting “black power” around them, Joe Don Baker carving a big stick, strength in numbers, mugging a drunk guy, Joe Don Baker fucking people up with a giant stick, a very corrupt judge, Joe Don Baker driving his truck backwards, Mississippi, more mild racism, a still out in the middle of the woods, the special effects explosives guy from that fourth season episode of Knight Rider with Robert Englund, warrants, Joe Don Baker smoking a cigar, family board game night, scumbags whipping a naked blonde woman, X-mas eve, exploding head, that whole “handful of dirt” thing you do at funerals, and a Johnny Mathis song.

Best lines: “Hey there!,” “A regular house with a solid foundation,” “First thing we do is sell the trailer so we won’t ever be tempted,” “Looking’s for free,” “Ain’t this something?,” “Place your bets, gentlemen, Lady Luck is spreading her legs, All right, show this bastard who runs things around here!,” “An ordinary man wouldn’t have made it through,” “It’s not like you to threaten a man, Carl,” “Thurman! I’ve known you since you were a kid! I always thought you walked tall!,” “There it is again. The system,” “Walk softly and carry a big stick, huh?,” “Mister, your hands are shaking. If you miss you’ll never shoot again,” “Buford, I don’t understand,” “Looks like violence runs in your family,” “You’re a damn fool, Buford, but we’ve already established that, haven’t we?,” “You’re out of order! You’re out of order!,” “We’ll get him! We’ll get him, Grady! And we’ll nail his ass to the cross!,” “Sit down, Willie Ray,” “If you live long enough you’ll wish this day never happened. Smart ass,” “I’ve got nothing against a little drink, a little fun. But the law of the land shouldn’t be for sale,” “Here comes that big stick,” “Craps,” “I’m just a deputy, Willie Ray. I don’t have authority to make deals,” “I said give us six beers!,” “Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it?,” “What the hell is going on here?,” “They knew! Dammit! They knew!,” “I don’t want to relax,” “A man doesn’t know how many friends he’s got until he’s flat on his back,” “Are you going on the take, Buford?,” “Kelly, I know you got a key to open this door. You got a warrant? Yeah, I keep it in my shoe!,” “You run your store, I’ll run mine,” “Merry Christmas,” and “Oh, Buford, it’s such a beautiful day!”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!

Please check out and “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which is here.

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page! Yeah!

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Things to Watch Out For This Week

Crossbreed

Crossbreed: This appears to be a low budget sci-fi action flick about a team of mercenaries who have to rescue a super weapon from a research facility that just so happens to be orbiting Earth. It almost sounds like something John Carpenter would make. Almost. Vivica A. Fox and Daniel Baldwin appear along with the immortal Vernon Wells. This looks pretty decent for this kind of movie, and it also looks very rentable, just to see if it’s as good as it seems. It’s only 90 minutes. I think we can all find a spare 90 minutes to see this.

TheClovehitcherKiller

The Clovehitch Killer: This low budget serial killer flick is getting some decent reviews, especially for star Dylan McDermott. I do have to say that the trailer is pretty damn creepy and, yeah, McDermott is giving off a sort of charismatic BTK killer vibe. The movie also sort of reminds me of Found, a movie about a kid that finds out his older brother is a serial killer (check out my review of that movie here). Anyone out there see The Clovehitch Killer? Is it as creepy as messed up as it seems?

Prospect

Prospect: This low budget sci-fi flick did receive a brief theatrical run in late 2018, so there’s a chance that you may have seen it then. I know I missed it, although I wanted to see it because, well, how often does low budget sci-fi actually get into movie theatres nowadays? Anyway, I’m sure that this movie’s audience will only grow now that it’s on home video. I want to see it now more than ever. So, did anyone make an effort to see this in a movie theatre?

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Do you like Cult TV?

StreetHawkDVD

The 1985 action show Street Hawk is up next! See what I said about the first episode here!!

And check out what I said about the entire run of Kolchak: The Night Stalker!

Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3
Issue #4

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: the very first issue!

Since this is the 500th issue of The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, I thought it would be interesting to sort of reprint the very first TGB-MC that I did way back in the early part of 2008. For whatever reason, the issue no longer exists on the internets (things get lost and, shit, I’ve been writing this thing for over a decade so losing things is bound to happen). As you will see, the look of the column has changed quite a bit since 2008, but the general spirit of it hasn’t. It’s still all about the B-movie world, at least as I understand it.

The first two movies I reviewed (when the column started I saw it as a “double feature a week,” which I did for the first thirty issues or so) were Afghan Knights, this sort of action horror thing that featured Michael Madsen in it, and Greenmail, a sort of action flick starring Stephen Baldwin. I remembered not liking Afghan Knights at all, but, for whatever reason, I remembered liking Greenmail more than I apparently actually did when I wrote the review.

The following column appears as it did back then, more or less. I cleaned up some of the spelling mistakes I made and I fixed some of the links and other stuff that were in the article back then. My God I was pretty mouthy back then, wasn’t I?

Well, here it is. Enjoy.

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #1: Holy hooey! The first ever issue! “Afghan Knights” and “Greenmail”

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the first ever issue of the Gratuitous B-Movie Column here at the 411mania.com movies zone, and I’m your host Bryan Kristopowitz. You may know me from my other column here at 411, the incredibly popular “What?!! This Column!??,” or from my many well received regular theatrical movie reviews, or from my weekly contributions to the immortal Trevor Snyder’s Top 5 feature aptly titled “The 411 Top 5.”

Or maybe you don’t.

What the heck have you been doing with your free time?

So anyway, this new weekly column, “TGBMC,” will be about (wait for it) B-movies. Or, more specifically, I’ll be looking at the movies that line the shelves at the video store or that appear late at night on cable, the kinds of movies you’ve likely never heard of but you decide to watch because you like the title or the picture on the DVD case. Action flicks, science fiction flicks, horror flicks, and cheap and quirky flicks that try to do more with less, and in some cases seriously less.

Practically nothing.

Cheap city.

Now, for this here first issue, I’ll be looking at two movies, each featuring a genuine B-movie star. The first flick, “Afghan Knights,” stars the great Michael Madsen, and the second flick, “Greenmail,” stars the the low budget Baldwin brother Stephen Baldwin.

Afghan Knights

AfghanKnights

Well, eventhough he’s featured prominently on the DVD case decked out in combat gear and whatnot, I think “stars Michael Madsen” is a bit of a stretch. “With Michael Madsen” or “and Michael Madsen” is more appropriate. The real star of the flick is Steve Bacic, who plays Pepper, a disillusioned and somewhat psychotic former Special Forces soldier who hangs around in an apartment building that looks abandoned, having homicidal war flashbacks and engaging in suicide by gun to the head practice. And he blames himself for the disappearance of his brother and fellow soldier Johnny (Chris Kramer). Pepper is seriously messed up.

So in walks Madsen’s Cooper, a shady CIA operative/ex-Special Forces guy (you know he’s shady because he’s got dark sunglasses on). After some tough guy hooha, Cooper gets down to business: he wants Pepper to go into Afghanistan and escort an Afghan warlord and American ally from Basul to Pakistan. Simple, clear cut, a couple days, no fuss, no muss, he can pick his own team, and he’ll get one hundred fifty G’s when it’s all over. Pepper really doesn’t want to do it, but after yet another flashback Pepper decides to do it. He’ll go back in country, do the job, get paid, and, hey, maybe he’ll find out what really happened to Johnny.

And so Pepper assembles his team (there’s the black guy, “J.T.,” as played by Colin Lawrence, Frankie, who may be gay, as played by Vince Murdocco, and Joey as played by Pete Antico) and off they all go to Afghanistan. There they meet Nash (Gary Stretch), an ex-British SAS agent whatever, a guy Pepper doesn’t trust at all. Nash wasn’t part of the agreement, but Cooper tells Pepper that Nash is good, he knows the area, he won’t get in the way, etc. Again, Pepper doesn’t want the shifty limey around, but decides that as long as he doesn’t cause any trouble it will all be ants at a picnic.

So, of course, bad stuff immediately happens. While attempting to bribe some Pakistani border guards, Nash opens up on them, which forces the rest of Pepper’s team to open up, killing every Pakistani in range. This obviously complicates things. The Pakistani army is going to be on the hunt, more so than they would have normally been (those dead guys aren’t going to be checking in anytime soon). Pepper and his crew eventually find their warlord (Amad, as played by Francesco Quinn) and make a mad dash for Pakistan. They have to change their route into Pakistan because of Nash, and then some more bad stuff happens.

They find a burned up skeleton in the dirt.

And a frozen dead kid in the brush.

And then Nash starts freaking meditating for some reason (he actually claims to be taking a “shite”). Pepper and Nash start arguing over whether or not Nash really was taking a shite. Some stuff happens, and then there’s an avalanche, and Pepper and the gang run into a nearby cave. This is where everything turns to hell, because not only do they all have to deal with the usual “How the hell are we going to get out of here?” stuff, they also have to deal with Amad’s wife beating, the “return” of Johnny, and some kind of weird beard white burqa wearing super ghost that hangs out with ancient Mongolian horse riding killer spirits who are all apparently guarding some kind of ancient super weapon that was sort of briefly explained in the opening.

And this is also where “Afghan Knights” stops being interesting.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a cross genre movie, because cross genre movies are cool. Action horror movies, horror action movies, sci-fi action flicks with kung fu aliens, they’re always fun to watch. “Afghan Knights” desperately tries to be both an up-to-date, “relevant” action movie and a killer ghost story at the same time, but it really doesn’t work. As soon as the story moves into the cave and Pepper’s brother Johnny becomes a major character in the action the flick gets boring fast. When the team is driving through the flatlands, or the mountains, or the characters are walking through a village interacting with people, it’s interesting. Everything’s dreary and sad, there’s an element of potential danger everywhere. It’s scary. The cave, though, is just a big, dark hole with some lighting in it so you can see everyone. There’s no atmosphere, there’s no tension, you don’t get a sense of where the cave goes or what could be in there. When stuff starts happening in the cave, it comes out of nowhere. It just happens. And it’s just not scary.

Want to know what would have been scary? If the team had stayed out of the cave and set up a base camp somewhere out in the open. There would have been the elements to worry about, potentially heavily armed roving Pakistani army patrols, and that white burqa ghost sure as heck would have been scarier appearing in the dust off in the distance. And the Mongolian hordes definitely would have been more interesting appearing out of the distant horizon. But that probably would have cost several thousand dollars more than the producers were willing to spend (and, you know, they have to pay Madsen. I’m sure that he’s not, relatively speaking, cheap). It’s too bad as there’s plenty of potential here for a kick butt movie experience.

The performances are pretty okay for the most part. Steve Bacic can hold a movie together as the lead. Madsen, who not only gets to do his usual “standing around wearing sunglasses looking all cool thing” but also gets to have sex with a hot young babe. I’m going to say that it was more fun for him to do than for us to watch. The producers should have found a way to keep him around longer, because he has real tension with Bacic’s character and it probably would have amped up everything had Madsen been in the cave. And it would have been a blast if Steven Cree Molison’s tough as all bing bang scumbag doorag wearing biker dude Rick had gone with Pepper to Afghanistan. Molison, like Madsen, has charisma and great tension with Bacic. Just what the heck would have Rick done in the cave?

“Afghan Knights” should be better than it is. It’s pretty good for about fifty minutes. It’s just when they all get into the cave, everything turns to poop.

Pity.

So what do we have here? Gratuitous 1930’s flashback about Mongolia and Stalin and some other bullstuff, heavy metal music over a firefight, gratuitous Michael Madsen, grenades, dirt bikes, badly staged fist fights with freeze frames, choking a woman, gratuitous flashback, pill taking, attacking a closet, attempted suicide, forearm slicing, punching a heavy bag, gratuitous engagement party flashback, gratuitous black guy, gratuitous biker gang, running a truck off the road, a barbecue, beer can throwing, a Ford Mustang, dog meat eating, hot water pouring, guns in a toy chest, ancient cave paintings, gratuitous night vision, riding around in the dark, cell phone talking, bribing the border patrol, point blank shot to the head, shooting a dead body, gratuitous Michael Madsen having sex, an old yellow school bus, snot blowing, a ball of cabbage, a room lit by candles with a movie of Americans shooting guns, gratuitous luggage, beating the crap out of someone, entourage killing, a burned out skeleton, Kim Richards, bad CGI avalanche with foam rock rubble, running into a cave, head count, a broken nail, gratuitous cigarette smoking, gratuitous not naked dancing chick, kicking a basket, praying to Mecca, gratuitous killer Mongolian spirits on horseback, a garter belt, rape doggie style, setting a man on fire, a whiskey flask, liver removal, dead body burying, multiple shots of taking Pepper’s gun, stomach slicing with intestines falling out, invisible sword slicing, gratuitous helicopter rescue, stabbing, knife to the boot, liver eating, and a wildly inappropriate pseudo hip 60’s surf song over the end credits.

Best lines: “Save me,” “You’re not going to kill me, are you? I’m too young to die,” “Don’t tell me you don’t need $150,000,” “That’s a good trick,” “Thanks for the beer,” ” Get a real bike,” “When I met you you were living in a double wide. Isn’t that what they call your girlfriend?,” “You drive like a nut,” “That last op was a total goat fuck,” “I can’t eat this,” “You told me it was a sanctioned contract,” “Hey, them your mom’s cookies?,” “You’re like a backwards ass crack dealer,” “You know, I’m a great fan of the Beatles,” “Pepper, is this prick a comedian?,” “Get the fuck off me!,” “Do you have any Old Spice?,” “Would you like some tea? Some goat?,” “This is not a moving company, Amad,” “Speak English there, English,” “I’ve got to take a slash,” “Nash, what are you doing? Meditating?,” “Why am I getting the third degree about taking a shite?,” “This is bullshit, man! This is not bullshit!,” “What about you, man? You afraid of ghosts?,” “You try to hit that woman again I’ll wrap that stick around your neck,” “You should be a little more covert with your covert operations,” You are the boss,” “My wife needs to use the lavatory,” “You are filth!,” “Sonofabitch! There goes our goddamn contract!,” “Fuck off, English. I’m going to blow this place,” “I don’t take orders from a mad man,” “Do you like knives?,” and “I’d rather have my liver eaten by Mongols than live here with you!”

Rating: 5/10

Greenmail

Greenmail

And then there’s “Greenmail,” a made-in-Canada-because-of-the-tax-breaks “action” thriller about eco-terrorists. Stephen Baldwin plays Scott Anderson, a militant super environmentalist and reporter activist under constant surveillance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). And for good reason. The first time we see Anderson he and his fellow left wing tree hugging homosexuals (Allison, as played by Suki Kaiser, and Jeremy O’Brien, as played by D.B.Sweeney) trespassing in a municipal water purification plant (or some similar place). They’re all there to expose something. While there they run into the plant’s security force, which then leads to Allison getting a sprained ankle and then blown away, and then a huge explosion. Both Anderson and O’Brien escape. But Anderson is freaked out. Who the hell set up the bombs? Anderson is militant, sure, but not that militant. So, again, who the hell set up the bombs?

So in walks grizzled veteran ATF agent Tom Bradshaw (Tom Skerritt), who immediately suspects Anderson as the bomber. See, Bradshaw and Anderson have history going back some fifteen years, and Bradshaw has been waiting for something, anything major to pin on Anderson. Bradshaw even brings in his hot, young, blonde protégé and bomb expert Ashley Pryor (Kelly Rowan) to interrogate Anderson, hoping the little green weenie will admit to something.

But then more bombs start going off, bombs that Anderson couldn’t have possibly set. Or could he have? Perhaps an acolyte? As more bombs go off Bradshaw, Pryor, and a reluctant Anderson try to figure out who the heck is setting off the bombs. When they eventually find out that it’s O’Brien (this is not a spoiler as it’s quite obvious after ten minutes who the bomber is), it becomes a race against time to find him.

It’s militant environmental activist against militant environmental activist. Sort of like a one-on-one tofu eating contest with higher stakes than winning a twenty dollar gift card to “Hemp Sweaters and Things.”

Besides the green terrorist angle, “Greenmail” is a fairly standard “hunt the wacko” movie. There’s certainly nothing wrong with hunting down wackos and meting out deserved normal justice, but it’s best when the “hook” is special and matters and adds something to the story. There’s no real debate about environmental policy, what the government has done and hasn’t done, what the corporate world has done to destroy the Earth. Sure, plenty of rich, corporate scumbags get targeted and blown to bits, but they could just as easily be drug runners or kiddie porn distributors. There’s no “oomph” here where there should be.

And what’s the deal with all of the “Waco” references? This flick came out in 2002 and yet there’s no mention made of 9/11 by anyone, just Waco stuff. It’s kind of odd to hear left wingers using Waco as a rallying point.

It’s also odd seeing now devout right wing yahoo and religiously insane Christian Stephen Baldwin as a foaming at the mouth Commie pinko spotted owl screwer. Either the money was good or this was made before he made the decision to go to the dark side. Baldwin is, at best, okay as the lead. He can definitely carry a low budget “action” movie, he just needs a better script to work off. Skerritt, as usual, is the best actor in the bunch, effortlessly making you care about his old school ATF agent. D.B. Sweeney is pretty good as the eventual villain Jeremy. He never achieves complete and total zealot lunatic evil but he comes close.

The most disturbing performance is put in by Kelly Rowan. She’s a good actor and you can tell she’s trying mightily to exude authority and expertise and toughness, but you don’t for one second believe she’s an expert at anything. And she’s the only character in the flick that swears more than once. I don’t fully understand why that is.

There are some pretty decent explosions here, both house explosions and car explosions (I think the first house explosion is bigger than the one in “Phantasm II,” and we all remember how big that was). They help break up some of the monotony of the story. At least it’s only ninety-minutes. Ninety minutes is a good running time for a low budget “action” movie.

“Greenmail” isn’t a terrible movie watching experience, but it sure as heck could have been better.

A bunch better.

So what do we have here? Water moving across glass, fence cutting, a massive explosion, running through a forest, Stephen Baldwin wearing a bandana, a sprained ankle, gratuitous walkie talkie mistaken for a gun, stock footage of a cityscape, gratuitous snoglobe, newspaper headlines, cheap digital animal picture flashing, gratuitous early morning suburban chit chat with neighbor that looks like Jack Abramoff, car bomb, exploding station wagon with blast shockwave, gratuitous plane taking off, gratuitous laptop computer, bullet proof vests, ATF headquarters that looks like a mall, gratuitous limo with rich, white corporate scumbag, security keypad, exploding front door, sloppy police work, gratuitous mobile ATF lab with cliché nerd technician, bomber notes, a neck tattoo, a padlock, an environmental Uncle Tom, a snoglobe bomb, an electronic sliding door, engine tampering, stealing land from Indians, a blast helmet, bomb in a cell phone, exploding car, bomb making, beer drinking, gratuitous soldering electrical stuff, triangulating fax calls, busting a padlock, gratuitous abandoned factory, busted ribs, looking through binoculars, handheld bomb detectors, an exploding wooden duck, key breaking, gratuitous fight on a sky lift, falling bread, headlock with punches to the face, bleeding gums, wire cutting, and gratuitous guy in a funny looking ski hat.

Best lines: “Do you have any idea what your bosses are cooking up back there?,” “Nice picture, Mark,” “Hello, would you like a ride, miss?,” “You can always go to Hawaii,” “You’re such a shithead. It’s good to see you, too,” “You find a place to park your tank?,” “You proud of Waco?,” “According to forensics the victim is all over the front yard,” “Hey, lose the padlock,” “You missed dinner. Chipped beef,” “Listen to me you fucking asshole!,” “Legality is no guarantee for morality,” “The pages of history are written in blood,” “I oughta lock you up for obstructing justice,” “You need to find out why? What the hell do you think we’re doing?,” “Why do they call you a boomer?,” “Oh, yeah, we’ve got a bomb,” “Look on the bright side. She saved a lawyer,” “We all have our causes, Mr. Anderson,” “Jesus Christ I told you to stay put!,” “You’ve got a badge, don’t worry about your tank, come in,” “Have you ever been shot?,” “No way! You shot yourself?,” “I want everything catalogued,” “What the fuck do you know about him?,” “Don’t fucking move!,” “You are so out of it,” “It’s a brand new day,” “What the hell is a charge block?,” “I can’t wait!,” and “Are they always so grateful?”

Rating: 5/10

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And so that’s it for the first issue. Hope you all liked it, loved it, and want more of it. Or at least tolerated most of it.

See you all again next issue.

“Afghan Knights”

Steve Bacic- Pepper
Michael Madsen- Cooper
Chris Kramer- Jonathan
Colin Lawrence- J.T.
Vince Murdocco- Frankie
Pete Antico- Joey
Gary Stretch- Nash
Steven Cree Molison- Rick
Francesco Quinn- Amad
Directed by Allan Harmon
Screenplay by Brandon K. Hogan and Christine Stringer
Distributed by Curb Entertainment
Release date: July, 2007
Rated R for violence including a rape, language and some sexuality.
Runtime- 90 minutes
Website: http://www.afghanknightsthemovie.com/
Buy it here

“Greenmail”

Stephen Baldwin- Scott Anderson
Tom Skerritt- Tom Bradshaw
Jelly Rowan- Ashley Pryor
D.B. Sweeney- Jeremy O’Brien
Suki Kaiser- Allison Jeffries
Directed by Jonathan Heap
Screenplay by Raul Inglis, Jim Makichuk, and Jonathan Walker
Distributed by Promark Entertainment Group
Release Date: December 2002
Rated R for language and violence
Runtime- 92 minutes
Website: none
Buy it here.

**

Check out my Widow’s Point set visit report!

WidowsPointEye

Read it here!

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Next Issue: The Walking Tall marathon continues with the 1975 sequel Walking Tall Part II starring Bo Svenson!

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Follow me on Twitter!

**

Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Walking Tall

Joe Don Baker– Buford Pusser
Elizabeth Hartman– Pauline
Leif Garrett– Mike
Dawn Lyn– Dwana
Noah Beery Jr.– Grandpa
Lurene Tuttle– Grandma
Ed Call– Lutie McVeigh
Gene Evans– Sheriff Al Thurman
Bruce Glover– Grady Coker
Felton Perry– Obra Eaker
Douglas Fowley– Judge Clarke

Directed by Phil Karlson
Screenplay by Mort Briskin and Stephen Downing (with uncredited work by John Michael Hayes)

Distributed by Cinerama Releasing, ABC, Viacom, Lightning Video, Rhino Home Video, Paramount Home Video, and Shout! Factory

Rated R for graphic violence, language, nudity, and adult situations
Runtime– 125 minutes

Buy it here