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  Framed Tennessee Turmoil
Year: 1975
Director: Phil Karlson
Stars: Joe Don Baker, Conny Van Dyke, Gabriel Dell, John Marley, Brock Peters, John Larch, Warren J. Kemmerling, Paul Mantee, Walter Brooke, Joshua Bryant, Hunter von Leer, Les Lannom, H.B. Hagerty, Hoke Howell, Lawrence Montaigne, Roy Jenson
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ron Lewis (Joe Don Baker) is a professional gambler from Tennessee who truly believes he has a high stakes poker game coming up that will establish a fortune for himself that means neither he nor his lounge singer girlfriend Susan Barrett (Conny Van Dyke) will ever be wanting from now on. He tells the owner of the bar she works at about his plans and he asks to place a bet as well, so when Lewis returns from fleecing those New York "turkeys", as he calls them, it looks like all has worked out, especially since his massive win has seen him be invited to run a casino in Las Vegas, so will never have to gamble with his own money ever again. However, on the way back to his home, he finds his car blocked - and someone shooting at him.

Walking Tall was the major drive-in success of 1973, so naturally it was decided by the team who created it to make a follow-up, but they did not opt for a sequel, instead they manufactured an entirely different movie with Baker back as the leading man, though with the same rough, criminal setting. Sequels to that hit would be forthcoming, but not from these guys, as for director Phil Karlson Framed would be the final time he would take the helm of a motion picture; he retired after this and a lengthy career as a well-regarded B-movie craftsman who occasionally made it to the big time through sheer professionalism and some carefully honed talent that made the best of oftentimes slender resources.

By the looks of Framed, the presumably enormous profits from Walking Tall were not being blown on their next movie, as it slotted neatly into the economically budgeted action and thriller genres that were taking over from Westerns in the nineteen-seventies as the foremost style of movie entertainment from those wishing to make unpretentious diversions containing mass appeal. Baker was perfect for this sort of thing, as comfortable playing the villain as he was the hero and his Lewis character was the epitome of his approach to the latter, more anti-hero really when you saw the activities he got up to in order to get even with the bad guys who had connived to get their hands on his loot.

The title stemmed from the fact that Lewis was arrested for the murder of a Deputy Sheriff, though he had an excuse that he had merely been acting in self-defence, for when he finally reached his house after his swanky sports car had been inflicted with bullet holes that officer of the law was awaiting him with designs on the case full of dollars, the representative of some dodgy syndicate we will learn more about the further this went on. The Deputy attempted to kill Lewis, leading to a brutal brawl in his garage where the lawman came off second best, but the exhausted Lewis is in no shape to tell anyone what happened for a while afterwards. It makes no difference, as the cops are in on the corruption and he is, yes, framed, though you might observe the title is stretching things when he genuinely killed the guy.

OK, he was justified, but as he is sent to prison once out of hospital he starts cultivating a decidedly violent streak, fighting back against the institutional injustices of the situation that are just as likely to use violence against him. There he makes a connection with John Marley's mafia boss and his henchman Gabriel Dell (of The Bowery Boys) which assists him when he finally receives parole, fighting the corrupt with the criminal. In truth, the plot became overly murky at this stage as you found yourself watching Lewis turn detective without being very certain of where this was heading, but that bloodshed was certainly not skimped upon, with such sights as him shooting off a man's ear or a baddie being eaten alive by his own guard dog among the viciousness on display. This assuredly offered what was at heart a basic revenge yarn a hefty kick, though the reason this was a minor cult movie was thanks to one shot, an incredible stunt involving a train and a presumably overenthusiastic stuntman. It lasted ten seconds in slow motion, but was worth watching the whole film for. Music by Patrick Williams.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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