• Macon County Line

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 16th, 2018.
    Director: Richard Compton
    Cast: Alan Vint, Jesse Vint, Max Baer Jr., Geoffrey Lewis, Cheryl Waters
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Directed by the late Richard Compton in 1974, Macon County Line takes place twenty years prior in the wilds of Louisiana where we meet Chris Dixon (Alan Vint) and his brother Wayne (Jesse Vint). These two are just about to be shipped overseas to serve their country and before they go, they're found and determined to have a good time. This means a lot of booze and a lot of girls and a lot of trouble, which we witness first hand in the opening scene where they're chased out of a woman's house by her husband.

    As the Dixon brothers continue their road trip further south, we learn more about their situations, how and why they wound up with military service on the horizon, and their respective lots in life. Along the way, they stop to pick up an attractive hitchhiker named Jenny Scott (Cheryl Waters). Before too long, and somewhat predictably, the brothers start vying for her affection and with Jenny showing a clear preference for one over the other. This, understandably, complicates things a fair bit. Regardless, the show must go on, and go on it does until their car breaks down. It's then that they find themselves at the mercy of a local mechanic named Hamp (Geoffrey Lewis). While he's taking a look at their car, local sheriff Reed Morgan (Max Baer Jr.) makes it pretty obvious that they're not exactly welcome in this small town. If they stick around longer than he wants, they'll be locked up for vagrancy. Morgan, meanwhile, takes his military cadet son Luke (Leif Garrett) out on a hunting trip and it's during one of their conversations that we learn that he's a racist. The car gets fixed and the three travelers make their way out of town as fast as they can, only for the car to break down once again, this time right near Morgan's house, though Reed is still out of town with Luke. Without much of a choice, the Dixon's and Ms. Scott camp out in a barn for the night, and during their stay the sheriff's wife (Joan Blackman) is raped and then murdered…

    What starts out as basically a light and breezy mix of a road movie and a T&A comedy takes some unexpectedly dark turns as it moves towards its big finish. Macon County Line might have been marketed as fairly standard drive-in fair but it's smarter than that. As the story plays out, the movie does a good job of letting us into the Dixon brothers' heads, letting us understand how and why they have wound up where they are and tying it all in to their upcoming tour of duty. In that way, it's very much a product of its time, but that's not a bad thing, particularly if you're one of those viewers with an affinity for seventies cinema and the unique counter culture time capsules that movies from that decade can sometimes unexpectedly turn out to be.

    The performances are pretty solid across the board here. Alan and Jesse Vint are well cast are the two brothers in the film. The fact that they were real life brothers doesn't hurt the film at all, there's a palpable camaraderie here that works in the picture's favor. They're both likeable enough guys, troublemakers sure, but they're not bad per se. Cheryl Waters doesn't have as much to do dramatically as the two male leads but she does just fine in her part. She looks great and handles her character really well. Young Leif Garrett is surprisingly good in his part here, very believable, while Max Baer Jr., he of The Beverly Hillbillies fame, is surprisingly effective as the sheriff. He plays his character with enough humanity to make him more than just the typical ‘small town racist sheriff' stereotype. The movie never makes him out to be perfect, mind you, but it does at least allow us to see him as human, which makes the ending all the stronger. Supporting work from Geoffrey Lewis as the mechanic and Joan Blackman as the sheriff's wife is also solid.

    Production values are decent across the board. The movie was made on a modest budget but it never strives for more than it can pull off. The southern locations work well, the soundtrack suits the tone of the picture effectively and both the camerawork and the editing are rock solid. The movie proved a surprise box office hit and a year later in 1975 director Richard Compton got behind the camera for a sequel with Return To Macon County starring Nick Nolte and Don Johnson.


    Macon County Line arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. By and large, this is a very nice picture. There's some miniscule print damage here and there, the odd white speck and what not, but for the most part the image is nice and clean showing good detail and solid color reproduction. There's nice depth here, good black levels and no evidence of noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts. All in all, this is a nice, film-like transfer.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional subtitles available in English only, sounds just fine. Dialogue is a tad flat in spots but otherwise it is clean, clear and easy to follow. The levels are properly balanced and there are no audible problems with any hiss or distortion worth noting.

    Extras on the disc begin with an audio commentary featuring director Richard Compton moderated by filmmaker/Blue Underground head Bill Lustig that originally appeared on the long out of print DVD that came out from Anchor Bay Entertainment. This is a well-paced track that covers a lot of ground with Compton talking about how and why he wound up directing the picture, the involvement of the cast and crew in the film, the locations used for the shoot and loads more. Lustig, who clearly knows his stuff, manages to keep him engaged throughout. Lots of good information here, this is definitely worthwhile.

    Up next is a new twenty-two-minute-long interview with editor Tina Hirsch. Here she speaks about heading to Los Angeles from New York to work on the picture, the early part of her career working with Roger Corman, and her thoughts on director Richard Compton. Shout! Factory has also included a vintage featurette in the form of the eight-minute Macon County Line: 25 Years Down The Road, also taken from the aforementioned Anchor Bay DVD release. It's a bit on the short side but it's a decent look back at the making of the film.

    Outside of that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, a radio spot, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Macon County Line holds up really well and that ending still packs a punch decades later. The film works as a drive-in picture but it's also considerably more serious than many of its kin, offering up a fair bit of food for thought before the picture is over. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good and contains a decent selection of extra features as well. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!