• Bucktown (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: March 1st, 2019.
    Director: Arthur Marks
    Cast: Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Carl Weathers, Tony King, Thalmus Rasulala, Bernie Hamilton
    Year: 1975
    Purchase From Ronin Flix

    Bucktown – Movie Reviews:

    Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson stars as Dean ‘Duke’ Johnson, a city slicker who returns to the small Midwest town where his brother lived to attend to his funeral and settle his affairs. When he arrives to find his brother’s old bar shut down, he tries to set things right with the local police but learns quickly that the cops in this town are a bunch of racist dirt bags. He also finds out that he has to hang around for sixty days while the estate is dealt with.

    Still, Duke does what he can and soon enough, he’s got the bar hopping again. He’s also taken a keen interest in lovely local lady Aretha (Pam Grier), and she responds in kind. With romance in the air and a successful new business, Duke looks like he’s on top of the world – he even befriends Harley, the old town drunk (Bernie Hamilton). This changes when a bunch of racist pigs shoot up the house that he’s staying in one night. They also try to shake him down at the bar, but he’s not having any of it. At this point that he realizes he’s going to need some help, so he calls in his old pal Roy (Thalmus Rasulala) who shows up with a few other gun-savvy tough guys in tow (Tony King, Carl Weathers and Gene Simms) to help him out. Soon enough, they’ve cleaned up the town, but life isn’t easy for Duke and before you know it, he’s got a whole new set of problems to deal with.

    Bucktown has a bit more going on than your average ‘funky’ seventies blaxploitation picture. Yeah, there’s action and the requisite love scene, there’s the black community fighting back against white racism, and there’s some questionable fashion choices but in and amongst all of that we get a genuinely strong storyline and some interesting twists and turns. It doesn’t cut as deep as it could and maybe should have, this is still very much an exploitation picture, but it is smart enough to work and Marks keeps the pacing quick and manages to not only get solid performances out of his cast but also create some genuine tension.

    Of course, much of the film rests on the capable shoulders of Williamson and Grier, and they deliver. Williamson has it all. Star power. He’s tough, he’s cool, he’s handsome and he’s smart. Just the right guy to stick it to the man. If he doesn’t have the most dramatic range you’ll ever see it hardly matters because the movie and the script play to his strengths. He makes it all seem easy. Grier is also excellent. She’s a firebrand here, rarely calm and seemingly always agitated but she does ‘angry’ really well and you can’t help but love her in the part. Supporting work from Thalmus Rasulala is really good as well, while smaller supporting performances from King, Simms and a young but instantly recognizable Carl Weathers just adds to the fun. Keep your eye out for adult film actress Jody Maxwell, who has a small part as a topless dancer in the film.

    The ending might be more than a little ridiculous, throwing the realism that the rest of the film had kept front and center in the mix out the window, but when it’s done in the name of entertainment value as it is here, you don’t mind so much. Solid cinematography and authentic small-town locations help out with the film’s atmosphere, and Robert Birchall’s cinematography is slick enough to work. On top of that, Johnny Pate contributes a pretty killer score. When it’s all said and done, Bucktown comes together quite nicely!

    Bucktown – Blu-ray Review:

    Bucktown arrives on Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. There’s minor print damage noticeable throughout, but it’s nothing more than small white specks, nothing too serious or distracting. Colors look quite good here, the reds in particularly really pop, while detail, depth and texture are pretty solid throughout. The image is free of noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction issues and there are no noticeable problems with compression artifacts.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is fine for the most part, though there are some lines that sound a bit muffled. The score sounds solid and the gunshots pack a nice punch. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    Extras consist primarily of a selection of new interviews, starting with Williamson himself who speaks for just over ten-minutes about the inspiration for Bucktown and where the story ideas came from, the importance of ‘selling image’ when it comes to certain movies, other pictures he worked on over the years like That Man Bolt where they tried to create the first black James Bond, dealing with the studios, and the importance of having Pam Grier in the film and how she’s such a bad ass (fact!). Up next, Tony King speaks for seven-minutes about his work on the picture, shooting on location in Kansas, how much fun it was to work on the film, his thoughts on working with Williamson and the rest of the cast and more. Director Arthur Marks gets fourteen-minutes in front of the camera to talk about the making of the film that he describes as a ‘wonderful picture I made a long time ago.’ He talks about making Detroit 9000 and how that eventually led to Bucktown happening. He talks about dealing with AIP, working with writer Bob Ellison, how they tried to create an authentic atmosphere in the film, the importance of some of the locations that they had access to, and of course, working with the cast members on the picture. Last up is editor George Folsey Jr. who gets seventeen-minutes in front of the camera to talk about how he got his start in the film industry and his first exposure to Blaxploitation movies. He then talks about meeting John Landis and how he wanted to make a spoof picture called Schlock, which eventually wound up getting him work on Animal House. Before then, he was editing a series of Blaxploitation pictures for AIP and he talks about that for a bit, working with Arthur Marks, his thoughts on the genre and more.

    Aside from a static menu and chapter selection the disc also includes a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Scorpion titles - Angel Unchained, Gas Pump Girls, The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, and Killer Force.

    Bucktown – The Final Word:

    Bucktown is a solid mix of drama and action offering some strong performances to go along with some moments of legitimate tension. Fans of blaxploitation pictures will definitely get a kick out of this one, and Scorpion has given it a solid Blu-ray release, presenting the film in nice shape and with a few decent extra features too. Recommended!

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