Saturday, February 13, 2016

Buckstone County Prison (1978)



          Something of a backwoods equivalent to Roger Corman, South Carolina-based filmmaker Earl Owensby was on a roll by the time he made Buckstone County Prison (also known as Seabo), the grim story of a bounty hunter who suffers abuse after being wrongly incarcerated. An unpretentious storyteller with an affinity for drive-in fare, Owensby eliminated movie-star fees by casting himself in the leading roles of his early films, and he used outdoor locations and semiprofessional supporting players to stretch his budgets even further. His efforts gave birth to the self-sustaining E.O. Studios and eventually made Owensby a multimillionaire. Not a bad record of achievement, seeing as how most people have never heard of the man.
          Buckstone County Prison illustrates the pluses and minuses of Owensby’s modus operandi. After half-breed bounty hunter Seabo (Owensby) angers corrupt local authorities, he’s thrown in jail on trumped-up murder charges. Vicious Native American guard Jimbo (Ed Parker) beats the shit out of Seabo, among other inmates, apparently for the sole purpose of demonstrating Seabo’s toughness to the audience. Eventually, Seabo gains his freedom and participates in a manhunt for several convicts who escaped with the help of another bounty hunter, Reb (played by country singer David Allan Coe, who cut some tunes for the soundtrack). Additional story elements include a corrupt warden, a hooker with a heart of gold, and other hackneyed tropes. The characterizations and storyline are so simplistic that viewers could nap through several minutes and pick up the narrative without difficulty.
          Actors are cast to type, so most of them render perfunctory iterations of clichés—the stuttering African-American man-child, the sneering warden in a seersucker suit, the madam made of brass, etc. Some of the players deliver adequate work and some don’t, but it’s all part of the same down-and-dirty vibe. As for Owensby’s turn in the title role, he’s a paunchy everyman who growls most of his lines through clenched teeth. At best, Owensby is a weak facsimile of a movie tough guy—he neither adds much to the experience nor takes much away. So it goes for the movie as a whole. With its copious violence and hissable villains, Buckstone County Prison is a mindless rendition of things that viewers have seen a million times before, and yet the picture unspools with a measure of heaviosity. For unapologetically derivative junk, Owensby’s opus is weirdly sincere.

Buckstone County Prison: FUNKY

2 comments:

Douglas said...

The director sounds vaguely familiar. I believe he was profiled on CBS 60 Minutes many year ago.

William Blake Hall said...

You are correct, Douglas. I think at the time Owensby was coming out with works ranging from "Werewolf" to "Frank Challenge."