I Saw A Film!
Having caught this on Mystery Science Theater 3000, decades ago, I thought it might be fun to give it a more fair run through. Also I just reviewed a made-for-TV version of Walking Tall (originally with Jo Don, but swapped out for Brian Dennehy for TV). So what was JDB doing in the mid-seventies? He was chasing a career as a casual television cop, in rumpled suit, rumpled hair, and rumpled cheap apartment. A kind of higher-alcohol-content version of Rockford. Back in the day, we were OK with slightly more anti-heroic leading characters. Our cops didn’t need to be squeaky clean, morally monkish, purveyors of perfect lawful authority, this guy drinks, swears, and doesn’t mind the paid lady-of-the-night (Linda Evans). Though he does draw the line at pot, mostly to harass Linda, who is being paid to be there by John Saxon or is it Martin Balsam? I forget.
See Mitchell is handling two cases, one in which a rich business asshat murders a dude in house and then sets it up like it was a home invasion and a self defense move. The other case is an organized criminal bring in a shipment of heroin. Balsam plays the shipping crook trying to get out from under bringing in the heroin because Mitchell has started watching him, but this isn’t sitting well with Balsam’s bosses, and all hell breaks loose. Do you think maybe this is edited together footage from two episodes of a cancelled TV show? Very likely.
We get some gunfire and high speed car chases, uptight police captains and lots of angles of Jo Don as an action star. In fact, he reminds me of Nolte a few years later in 48 Hours (though that movie would be nothing without the fun of Eddie Murphy). We don’t get an Eddie Murphy with Jo Don, and that might have helped this thing immensely. The MST3K guys weren’t entirely fair though, they picked on the look and slack of things for yucks (and they’re right, in a certain light this stuff is very funny) but while the story is a bit disjointed, and Jo Don not looking as much like his Walking Tall, Buford Pusser role as was probably expected, the humor angle was amped up, and the MST3K team killed on that. There’re a lot of goofy country and western music choices that make the campy aspects of Linda Evans and Jo Don’s relations just feel more slovenly.
So while Mitchell (it’s good to name the work by the title character name, makes it easier to remember the character’s name) annoys Saxon and Balsam, Linda Evans is sent his way to buy his leniency. The hard part to accept is the idea that the prostitute would actually build a relationship with the boy. Just slathering their bedroom scenes with country music ain’t enough. I can’t think of much more to say about it.
This is running free on Prime and the MST3K guys ended up giving it a new life.