It should be a rule that you just don't mess with a man named Buford Pusser, for two reasons. One, he was probably made fun of relentlessly in public school because of that last name and has been bottling up the rage ever since. And two, because of said rage he carries around a large stick and beats people half to death with it.
Now, I don't know if Buford Pusser (Joe Don Baker) was made fun of in grade school (but it stands to reason right?). There's a good possibility he was. Kids don't see a last name like that one and not say anything. Pusser, the main character of the 'Walking Tall' trilogy, shows the after effects of someone who was bullied at a young age and is now going to get the world back for being such dicks. This is all hearsay and conjecture on my part, but the way Pusser acts in these movies is like he's been waiting years for the right moment to open up a can of Whoop Ass on the miscreants and scum of society.
In the first 'Walking Tall' movie Buford Pusser and his young family move back to his childhood home. Pusser soon learns that all is not what it used to be though. A new bar in town houses the rowdiest bunch of ne'er-do-wells the town has ever seen. The new place is home to gambling, prostitution, and rivers of illegal alcohol. Pusser's friend takes him by the place to show him a good time. What he really gets is beaten within an inch of his life after he gets in a disagreement in the casino.
Like all revenge stories, one must have ample reason to turn into a stick-wielding vigilante. Pusser learns that the sheriff is in on the take and that most of the town's leaders are corrupt. With the sheriff election coming up Pusser decides to run. He wins. He fashions a huge beating club out of wood and uses it to keep law and order in the town, but the rowdies aren't going to go without a fight.
What follows is a pretty standard vigilante flick with some shocking violence and a character who turned into quite the cinematic legend. The movie went on to spark two sequels, although the role of Buford Pusser was later filled by Bo Svenson.
For people who like revenge movies, this trilogy has a little bit of everything. There's a whole lot of beatings, bad guys getting their comeuppance, Pusser dealing with the loss of loved ones, and vigilante justice. It's strange that after the very R rated 'Walking Tall,' 'Walking Tall: Part 2' went the PG route. As you might expect it created quite the shift in the way the story was told. 'Part 2' isn't nearly as good as the first because it almost seems like it belongs in a separate trilogy. There are moments in the first movie where the moments of violence feel very raw, in 'Part 2' they feel, well, PG-like.
Then that movie was followed up with 'Final Chapter: Walking Tall' in 1977 and again the story was back into R-rated territory. It felt a lot more like the first one. The same type of brutal violence and desperate situations. I just have a hard time buying into 'Part 2' because it seems so different from its R-rated bookends.
I like the 'Walking Tall' trilogy for what it is. It isn't afraid to get really personal with the life of Buford Pusser and doesn't shy away from surprising moments. It's a vengeance-fueled revenge fantasy, which for some reason we can watch played out again and again in the movies. Pusser's tales of taking back his town aren't that much different from the rest of revenge cinema, but they're sure fun to watch.
'Walking Tall': 4 Stars
'Walking Tall – Part 2': 2.5 Stars
'Final Chapter – Walking Tall': 3.5 Stars
All of these movies feature a 1080p transfer and they're all presented at 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
As you may have guessed, as you continue on the video presentations get noticeably better. 'Walking Tall,' the first movie of the bunch, features nicely filmic visuals for a movie from 1973. Yes, much of the footage is soft and there is some noise that pops up now and again, but on the whole I didn't really expect this to look as good as it did. There are a few striking scenes in the movie, one being when Pusser crawls back to the highway after being beaten to a bloody pulp. His shirt is stained with a crimson red that really shines in contrast to the night sky. Rain can be seen sleeting down, even though the sky is dark. Headlights pierce the inky blackness with a healthy contrast. Edges are fairly distinct in the first film also. Fine detail on faces is a bit lost in the hazy look of the film, but overall fans should be happy with the outcome.
As for the last two movies they're dead similar in look. They feature all the things that made the first movie look good, but have a bit more detail on hand to make it look like a real high-def presentation. Faces now have lines and freckles. Textures take on a more lifelike appearance. Colors seem crisper. Blacks seem a tad inkier. Shadows seem a little more distinct. Overall, this is a great looking video presentation on all fronts for catalog titles of this age. Fans will be more than pleased.
'Walking Tall': 3.5 Stars
'Walking Tall – Part 2': 4 Stars
'Final Chapter – Walking Tall': 4 Stars
This is where the set runs into trouble. Each movie is equipped with a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track which may be lossless, but the quality just isn't there. Throughout each of the movies hissing is a big distraction. Clarity takes a huge hit because of the extra static going on in the background. Sound effects sound ugly as a punch or a kick seem to screech more than they provide oomph to the mix. Dialogue is often hard to hear. Yells are shrill and have no real resonance. When someone yells it's more like a shriek.
Pops, hissing, and all manner of technical difficulties mar these audio mixes. Fans will still be grateful to have these movies on Blu-ray with their good-looking transfers, but I can't see them being too happy with the subpar audio mixes produced for each one. They're all frustrating to listen to. The technical deficiencies outweigh any good things you could find to say about them.
'Walking Tall': 2 Stars
'Walking Tall – Part 2': 2 Stars
'Final Chapter – Walking Tall': 2 Stars
There's not much in the way of special features on this set either. What is here is pretty minimal at best.
'Walking Tall: Part 2'
'Final Chapter: Walking Tall'Vintage Featurette (SD, 9 min.) – A short overview of the film, how it did at the box office and what the people of McNairy County thought about their real-life vigilante sheriff.
There's just something about revenge films that we'll never be able to get enough of. Watching someone take the law into their own hands, and bypass all the red tape bureaucracy is especially satisfying. It never works out as well in real-life, but Buford Pusser is the exception to the rule. With his huge beatin' log he set the ruffians in his town straight. 'Walking Tall' is an enjoyable trilogy, although the second movie with its PG rating seems oddly out of place, sandwiched between two R-rated movies. Either way, I think fans will be happy with this set. They'll love the great looking transfer which has been provided even though the audio could use a lot of work. The 'Walking Tall Trilogy' comes recommended.