According to the film's producers, the remake is part redo and part sequel. Wearing a Confederate flag patch on his sleeve which all the police wear, and which wouldn't have been inaccurate for 1954 Louisiana law enforcement officers' uniforms at the time , Baer's Reed shows no outward signs of being an overtly racist or bullying police officer as so many other reviews have described the character. Only the names and places have been changed. Cartoonish at first the film's opening sequence, where both brothers share a whore off-camera, is low-brow, barnyard Southern humor at its raunchiest , the film switches tone almost immediately and becomes increasingly somber and contemplative as the brothers get closer to meeting their inevitable fate. But it's Luke, in a terrific, unexpected twist ending, who finishes off Wayne and Jenny, and almost kills Chris Compton quite skillfully tricks us into thinking Reed is the one doing the stalking.
As Chris, Jenny, and Wayne roll through the back roads of Louisiana, their fuel pump starts to act up, and they stall out in Reed's town. The movie itself gets a highly recommended, but the disc is a rental at best - try and find an out-of-print Anchor Bay copy on Ebay. Shepherded by actor Max Baer, Jr. His discussion of race with his son, Luke, who has befriended some black youths who play ball near the military school they're at the school when Reed picks up Luke , is always noted by critics who point to Reed's wish not demand that Luke not play with them in the future, as a sign of his bigotry. Unable to buy a new pump, they scratch together enough money to get it patched up by garage owner Hamp Geoffrey Lewis. But a simple twist of fate - the fuel pump gives out - puts the three into a deadly situation with Reed, with a shattering conclusion for all.
In 1974 the independent movie Macon County Line was released. The screenplay by Baer and Compton is careful to make sure we understand the brothers aren't exactly innocents before their fateful meeting with Reed. You have to be sitting with somebody in your car just like Chris and Wayne , with the windows down and the strange sounds of the woods nearby, and as the night sky gets deeper and the darkness envelops the car, that's when the events on the screen seem quite creepily real, and threatening. The story is simple - as all good allegorical nightmares are. Macon County Line will forever be associated in my mind with those summer days in the early 1970s when I was a kid, when seemingly one drive-in cult movie after another crossed over into the mainstream popular culture. Waiting at the garage, they're casually threatened by Reed, who reminds them that they could be thrown in jail for vagrancy - if they decided to stay in town. Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the , and the author of.
Getting the message, the brothers and Jenny head out as soon as the car is fixed. There's an effective twist ending to the film that I will be discussing, so be forewarned. English and French subtitles are available, as well as close-captioning. Owners of the 2000 Anchor Bay release will be disappointed to hear that not only is the transfer the same here for this Warner release, but the feature-length audio commentary by director Richard Compton has been dropped, as well as the excellent documentary on the film, Macon County Line: 25 Years Down the Road. Some critics at the time simply dismissed the character as a buffoonish bigot, but he's far from that. How the West Was Won belongs on a Cinerama screen and nowhere else. Macon County Line is a drive-in actioner with brains.
The cast is studded with the familiar faces of steady-working character actors like Geoffrey Lewis Every Which Way But Loose and James Gannon Major League , who give even minor characters grit and texture. It may not be fair, but that was law-and-order down South during that time. It's 1954, and brothers Chris Alan Vint and Wayne Dixon Jesse Vint , originally from Chicago, are on a two-week bender of prostitutes and low-crime hijinks throughout the South before their upcoming stint in the Air Force. But it's important to note that Reed's reasons are measured and thoughtful - within the prejudiced framework of 1954 Louisiana, of course - and not openly cruel. And of course, if those ads screamed that the gore-and-sex-soaked sleeper down at your local backwoods drive-in was based on a true story, then admission was mandatory Walking Tall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town That Dreaded Sundown owned that marketing gimmick.
In a nicely stage sequence, director Compton shows how Reed is totally misguided as to which strangers in his town he should be concerned with. His subtle yet clear warning to Chris, Wayne and Jenny is get out of town while the getting is good. Certainly Luke's strange slow-motion dream as he sleeps in the car he dreams of hunting with his father, who looks disapprovingly at him when he fails to bag a bird seems weirdly out of place until we start to understand what Compton is doing with it. Coming onto the body of his brutally butchered mother whom Elisha had sexually assaulted and then - perhaps with Lon helping - murdered , Luke, goaded on by his unthinking father who keeps calling for Luke to follow him like it's a hunting party, stumbles around the river area in a dream-like daze. Indeed, one could make a case that in their screenplay, Baer and Compton wish to show Reed as well-meaning but decidedly misguided in almost all his actions.
The plot involves two brothers who are out for a good time before they have to report to boot camp. And films like Macon County Line belong on a deserted drive-in screen, out in the middle of nowhere - and nowhere else. Wayne re-upped to go in with his brother when Chris, in trouble with the law, was given the option of military service or prison. The movie was touted as a true story to bring in a larger audience, but the plot was completely fictional. Warners didn't even include the original trailer. Rolling through Louisiana, the brothers pick up hitchhiker Jenny Scott Cheryl Waters , a pretty blond with a backstory she's not all that willing to divulge.
Meanwhile, the sheriff's wife is murdered just before the brother's car breaks down near the crime scene. Compton, going against the usual drive-in exploitation standards of showing a lot of skin and action right up front remarkably, most of the acute violence in Macon County Line occurs off-camera, until the final blast , is equally interested in showing all of the characters actual falls from grace, including even those characters we might suspect are minor. As hard-core criminals Lon Timothy Scott and Elisha James Gammon , who are getting gas at the station at the same time Deputy Reed is getting ready to harass Chris and Wayne, Compton shows Reed, behind dark sunglasses, peering out at the brothers - while completely missing Lon and Elisha freaking out because they think Reed is staring at them. As for the film, as much as I enjoyed revisiting the film on disc, I'm not sure Macon County Line works as well on your home theater system - regardless of how big your screen is. These are troublemaking rowdies, out for a good time. This movie needs to be seen in its natural environment: the drive-in.