Sunday, November 14, 2010

. . . tick . . . tick . . . tick . . . (1970)

Gotta love a Southern racial-tension flick that begins on a day hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement—as shown by an egg actually frying on the pavement. That opening scene perfectly captures the pulpy entertainment value of this drama starring Jim Brown, George Kennedy, and Fredric March. Brown plays Jimmy Price, the first black man elected sheriff of a small Deep South community, and Kennedy plays John Little, the white predecessor who angrily surrenders his badge. Camping it up with amusing details like taped-together cigars and a Colonel Sanders string tie, Hollywood veteran March is along for the ride as the mayor who tries to keep his town from exploding after Price’s polarizing election. The plotting is arch (Price alienates half the town by arresting a white man, and the other half by arresting a black man), but the pacing is swift and the performances seethe with sweaty intensity. Brown’s low-key persona and Kennedy’s combustive style make for a fun combination, and they’re surrounded by vibrant personalities: Clifton James plays a strutting redneck who grows a conscience, Bernie Casey plays a hot-headed townie resentful of Price, and veteran varmints Anthony James and Dub Taylor lurk around the periphery of scenes, adding Southern-fried flavor. The movie’s wildly inappropriate music adds to the overripe appeal, like the random use of “Gentle on My Mind” during a scene of Price chasing down a drunk who killed a six-year-old girl in a traffic accident. Oddly pitched ’70s cinema doesn’t get much better than that, except perhaps when Brown forces a straight face for lines like, “I’m the sheriff. Not the white sheriff, not the black sheriff, not the soul sheriff, but the sheriff.” (Available at

. . . tick . . . tick  . . . tick . . . : FUNKY

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