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Case Number 13574: Small Claims Court

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Macon County Line

Warner Bros. // 1974 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // May 6th, 2008

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All Rise...

Go ahead, Appellate Judge Tom Becker dares you, cross the Macon County Line. OK, now cross this line.

The Charge

Laugh they did, until they crossed…The Macon County Line!

The Case

It's 1954, and hell-raisin' brothers Wayne and Chris Dixon (played by real-life brothers Jesse and Alan Vint) head out for a little fun before they go off to the army. They do all kinds of drinking and driving around and trouble makin', and they pick up a pretty girl, Jenny (Cheryl Waters), who's got goo-goo eyes for Chris. When they stop in Macon County, Georgia, the not-so-friendly sheriff (Max Baer Jr., The Beverly Hillbillies), let's 'em know that strangers ain't welcome in these here parts.

Unfortunately, there's two other strangers in town who miss the bleary-eyed gaze of Sheriff Max, and wouldn't you know, when these crazy ex-cons decide to pull an impromptu job, they just happen to pick the sheriff's house, where his comely wife is awaiting his return.

Even worse, when the Dixon boys' car decides to break down, it's right outside that same house, just minutes after the goons have done their dirty deeds and driven off.

Yee-doggie! Thay is gonna be some hell to pay when Sheriff Max comes home, but the whoopin' he wants to give is to the wrong visitors across that Macon County Line.

Take a little bit of Two-Lane Blacktop, a little bit of In Cold Blood, a little bit of In the Heat of the Night, throw in a nighttime chase through the woods, and you've got the drive-in mega-hit of 1974. This low-low-budget programmer made over $30 million, which is, like, $80 zillion in 2008 currency. While it's got something for everybody—some irreverent hi-jinks by the good-looking Vint boys, a little sex with a hottish girl, a hick-pop soundtrack, cars, violence, some off-handed comments about race relations in the Eisenhower-era South—it all adds up to a weird, unsatisfying mess.

The first part is all about them Duke, er, Dixon, boys doing crazy things like beating the breakfast check in a diner and trashing cop cars. Then we meet Sheriff Max and the quaint characters of Macon County. Then we meet the killers. Then there's the crime and the identity mix-up. Then we get Max and his son (a pre-pubescent, pre-rehab-and-jail Leif Garrett) chasing the boys and the girl through the woods. Some people die, some people don't, roll credits while Bobbie Gentry sings the theme song. Basically, it's a 15-minute story stretched out to feature length so you could keep going back to the concession stand without missing much.

More interesting is the back story of how Baer, typecast as Hillbilly Jethro, couldn't find work after his hit series ended and took a risk by writing and producing this film (while casting himself as yet another hick stereotype). Its success led to Baer producing (and directing) another big Southern-fried hit, 1976's Ode to Billy Joe.

What did Max Baer Jr. do to Warner Bros. that caused them to put out such a crap disc? Put it in your machine, it goes straight to the movie. When you negotiate with your player to get the disc to go to the menu, you'll find two options: "Play Movie" and "Languages." That's it. No scene selections, no previews, and no extras of any kind, not even a trailer. A now-out-of-print Anchor Bay release had a commentary by director Richard Compton and a short retrospective film. In addition, the transfer here is soft and murky, and the audio is flat. I don't know why Warner Bros. didn't just re-release the older disc or port the extras over to this one.

Fans of the drive-in genre (or Max Baer Jr. completists) might want to pick this one up just to have it; otherwise, look for the older disc or wait for the movie to pop up on late-night cable.

Warner Bros. is guilty of trying to hornswaggle us by releasing an inferior disc. Jus' 't'ain't raight.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Cult
• Exploitation
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Trailer








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