• Walking Tall

    Released by: Rhino
    Released on: N/A
    Director: Phil Karlson
    Cast: Joe Don Baker
    Year: 1973

    The Movie:

    Joe Don Baker (a personal favorite of mine since seeing him in Final Justice) plays living legend Bufford Pusser, in this drive in classic hillbilly exploitation film.

    Bufford has just retired from his wrestling career (where he was known as Bufford the Bull) and has moved back to his sleepy hometown in Memphis with his wife, two kids, and dog. But when he goes out with his old friend Marty to get reacquainted, the two of them end up in a bar fight at ‘The Lucky Spot’ when the bad guys running the tables in the back try and swindle Bufford and Marty out of their money. Things get rough, and Bufford is sent to the hospital where he gets a lot of stitches. Marty doesn’t fare any better; in fact, they find him at the bottom of a lake.

    When Bufford finds out that the local police are on the take and aren’t going to do anything to bring the hoodlums to justice, he takes it upon himself to carve a club out of a piece of wood and bring his own brand of justice to the hoods, Joe Don Baker style.

    The corrupt cops take him to task for this and Bufford ends up in court, where he gets off thanks to the unanimous vote of the jury, who are sympathetic to his situation and sick and tired of the corrupt officials in the town. This inspires him to run for Sheriff himself, but when he does, the current Sheriff will have no part in that and decides to take Bufford down himself rather than risk losing the election. Things don’t go so well though, and Al ends up dead by his own mistake and Bufford wins the election and decides to fight the corruption in the system and clean up the town…. but at what cost?

    While the movie may sound a little hokey, it’s better than you might think and Baker is actually pretty good in this role, bringing an unexpected air of sympathy to the character. As the movie goes along and Bufford gets it worse and worse from the thugs, you’ll find yourself cheering when he goes in swinging, you just can’t help but feel for the guy.

    The films low budget shines through quite often, but it’s the characters and performances that make Walking Tall work, but the effects. Shot on location in Tennessee, it feels like the Deep South because it is and while it may hit almost every ‘Southern’ cliché in the book, it does it well.


    Judging by the amount of visible boom mikes, this film may very well have been shot open matte. There doesn’t really appear to be anything missing from the sides, so I’m guessing that it was composed for either 1.66.1 or maybe even full frame (which is how it’s presented here). The quality of the transfer and the materials used in it, however, are terrible. The beaten up print that they used is full of scratches and other visible defects and the transfer itself has its share of mpeg compression artifacts visible as well.

    The Dolby Digital Mono track is muffled with plenty of hiss, pops and background noise throughout the duration. For the most part, you can understand what’s going on, but it doesn’t sound too pretty at all.

    There is nothing else on the disc except for an annoying Rhino commercial at the beginning of the film that I fast-forwarded through.

    The Final Word:

    Likely Joe Don Baker’s most remembered film, Walking Tall is given a shoddy treatment on DVD, but the low retail price still makes it worth owning for fans of the film until a better version comes along.