Empty Balcony: Walking Tall (1973)

Joe Don Baker is Buford Pusser, real-life Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, in this violent drive-in classic from 1973. Directed by Phil Karlson, Walking Tall is the fictionalized account of one man’s war on crime in rural America.

After giving up his career as a wrestler and returning home with his wife, Pauline (Elizabeth Hartman), and kids to McNairy, Pusser finds that his home county has been invaded by organized crime. Gambling dens and houses of ill-repute have opened in the once-lazy locale, and Pusser doesn’t hold with any of that. After getting angry and trying to beat up an entire casino, Pusser is cut to ribbons and left for dead on the side of the road. But, the bad folks of McNairy underestimated Pusser’s resolve. Being almost murdered just made Pusser angrier, and he continues going after the criminal element. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Walking Tall (1973)”

October Hammershow: The Satanic Rites of Dracula

Here we are. October 31st. Halloween. The end of the October Horrorshow. The final film in this look back at Hammer Film Productions is a departure from type. If there’s one thing I’ve picked up on from watching 31 Hammer films in a row, it’s that Hammer basically made the same film over and over and over again. That’s not negative criticism on my part. Hammer had a style, in the same way that a musician like John Lee Hooker had a style or an artist like Willem de Kooning had a style. Listen to an album or see a painting hanging on a wall and it becomes immediately clear who is responsible. Hammer films followed a theme. They developed over time into something that was very much their own. Towards the end, though, they began to switch things up in search of a new formula. Such is the case with today’s film. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Satanic Rites of Dracula”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Psychomania, aka The Death Wheelers

Tom Latham thinks that life could only get better if he just kills himself. Turns out, he’s right! Tom (Nicky Henson) isn’t suffering from depression, nor is he a deluded youth who is incapable of processing the permanence of death. He’s the leader of an outlaw biker gang called The Living Dead. They get their kicks by driving mildly quickly on the roads of rural England and occasionally tipping over vendor’s carts at the local shopping center. How dreadfully frightful. But Tom has an idea that can make his little band of nihilists even more of a public nuisance. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Psychomania, aka The Death Wheelers”

October Horrorshow: The Crazies (1973)

Is George Romero paranoid? It’s a possibility. At the very least, I would say he is mistrusting of authority. Night of the Living Dead, his seminal work, and all its follow-ups, showcase a horde of the undead rendering civilization waste. But it’s worth remembering that Romero’s zombies are not supernatural in origin. Rather, they are the result of government experiments gone wrong. Ergo, it’s not the zombies that are the greatest threat to civilization in Romero’s universe. It is the people who take our taxes. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Crazies (1973)”

October Horrorshow: The Legend of Hell House

The Legend of Hell HouseThe fear that we create in our minds in anticipation of unpleasant events is more often than not more powerful than the event itself. Also, the actions of unseen forces are more unsettling than those by forces we can see, and can thus relate to and understand. Along these lines, in horror cinema, the most frightening ghosts are of the unseen variety. They make their presence felt by being menacing, by toying with those who trespass on their realm. They make noise. They bang, shuffle, and walk loudly across hardwood floors. They spark chills and cold winds. They speak, threaten and cajole. Eventually they move things around, simply and quickly, such as doors opening and closing by themselves, books falling off of shelves, etc. It’s usually around here that the separation is made between good ghost films and bad ghost films.

Good ghost films try their best to maintain the creepiness of an unseen entity’s actions, even while the audience is quickly growing accustomed to being in a haunted house or hotel, or wherever. Bad ghost films just chuck all restraint and set up a titanic battle between good and evil, slave to special effects under the belief that seeing a big bad scary ghost in an explosive finale is what the audience craves after spending the first half of the film scared out of their wits. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Legend of Hell House”

The Empty Balcony: Soylent Green

The future is a rough place in Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film Soylent Green. Especially New York City in the year 2022. The population is 40 million, the city is in the grip of an endless heat wave, and apparently the only things to eat are colored crackers. At least the green kind, Soylent Green, to be particular, seem pretty popular. Man, of course, is to blame for the calamities of this bleak future, as the film demonstrates in an opening photographic montage that is artistically compelling. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Soylent Green”