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Well, hey, I saw "Willard" when I was 10-years-old (this is the only flaw my dad had - taking us young kids to movies that we weren't old-enough for). I saw it again, after 47 years! And I thought it was very close in spirit to "Harold and Maude," and I mean that for real - this was in the Harold and Maude category of films, starring Bruce Davison as "Willard" in a very "Harold"-like role, making friends with rats, particularly one named Socrates, and specifically, another named "Ben." ("Ben"" is also the sequel in which you'll hear Michael Jackson sing the theme song). Willard is a lot like Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate," and also a lot like "Harold" in "Harold and Maude" - this is a screwed-up cult film that is very disturbing if you choose to take it literally. And yet, it's the precursor to "Ben," in which Michael Jackson seems the eponymous theme song. Damn, there are two scenes in this film that are difficult to watch, regardless of how hard you've become.
I suspect many of our younger members aren't familiar with the 1973 film, "Walking Tall," and that many of our older members have either forgotten about it, or don't remember its relative cultural importance. While it was never a threat to win any awards, it was one of the first "hicksploitation" films, which paved the way for "the angry, white vigilante" (if you look at that link, you'll see very few movies released before 1973 - one notable exception being 1971's "Dirty Harry,") However, "Walking Tall" is essentially a rewrite of the 1955 film, "The Phenix City Story," which was directed by the same man: Phil Karlson. On the Facebook page, "Buford Pusser: The Other Story," it states: "You can take the script from 'The Phenix City Story,' replace John Patterson with Buford Pusser, and you have basically the same story. Although there are some occasions where the movies strays away from being totally accurate, 'The Phenix City Story' is fortunately a true story which was told in a far more accurate way than was 'Walking Tall.'" The film is a semi-truthful story of legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser, who really did get the crap beaten out of him, who really did get tried for his "crimes," and who really did run for (and win the election for) Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee - that much of the story is true. Pusser was an enormous man: 6'6" tall, and very athletic - he was indeed (as depicted in the film) the professional wrestler known as "Buford the Bull," based out of Chicago in the late 1950s. And if you want a robust chuckle, Pusser was born in the town of Finger, Tennessee. Amazingly, The Finger Diner was purportedly the impetus and inspiration for the very first Hard Rock Cafe - you can choose to believe that, or not. In the movie, Pusser was portrayed very well by Joe Don Baker - himself a large man at 6'3" - and someone with "that familiar face" which you could swear you've seen somewhere before. And in fact, you probably *have* seen it before, because even if you don't know who Joe Don Baker is (which is quite possible, even though he was pretty famous in 1973), Baker was the man who portrayed "The Whammer" in "The Natural." How about that! One thing about Walking Tall is that the film is very racially progressive for its time - Pusser deputizes a gentleman of color, his old friend Obrah Eaker (played by Felton Perry, who was the reason I watched this film in the first place - I saw Perry in a very impressive, very important "Adam-12" episode: Season 3, Episode 20 - "Log 76 - The Militants," which I urge people to watch). Another celebrity who played in Walking Tall was Leif Garrett, who played Pusser's son, Mike. Here are Baker, Garrett, and Perry in shots from the movie: