In a small Southern town during the Civil Rights movement, Sheriff Track Bascomb (Lee Marvin) constantly has his hands full keeping the peace. His work is cut out for him with the KKK boasting a strong contingent in the county, but a majority of the population is African-American. The problem? It's the whites who control his job security come election time. It's a lose-lose battle, and it's about to be much, much worse. A white woman is raped by a black man and soon after the bodies begin to pile up until ultimately part of the KKK rapes a black woman. An upcoming demonstration to get the African-Americans in town to get out and vote is fast approaching, and the county has turned into a powder keg just waiting to be set off. Track is in trouble and his saving grace may be a rich local man, Breck Stancill (Richard Burton), who has absolutely no use for the KKK or its "objectives." The problem though...Stancill may be too extreme in his counter to help.
I was born in 1985 so it's difficult for me to get my ahead around the Civil Rights movement. Sure, I can read books, watch movies, shows and documentaries about it, but I'll never really know horrific the time truly was. It is a time period often explored through film, recently with movies like Selma but also including Malcolm X, In the Heat of the Night, Mississippi Burning and many more. This may sound obvious, but if you're going to take on a Civil Rights movie, it should probably have...well, a serious tone. Or at least I'd think so. You don't want to get too over the top. Just let the story and characters speak for themselves. 'Klansman' decided not to go down that route.
Yikes. What a stinker. This racially-charged drama is from director Terence Young who directed far better movies like Dr. No, Thunderball, From Russia With Love, Triple Cross and several others. This is just a lousy movie. It starts with the tone. Frighteningly enough, the racism we see on display from our KKK members was probably pretty accurate. On the other hand, it plays out here in almost cartoonish fashion to the point I was laughing out loud at this dreck. The n-word is used so many times by sneering, driveling hillbilly yokels you become numb to it. And that becomes the issue. 'Klansman' is so overdone and over the top that any potential impact or message is beyond muddled. Instead, it plays out like a spoof of sorts. If the message is 'No one wins with racism'.....well, thanks. Quite the message.
Searching through the iTunes movie library, this one caught my eye because of the cast assembled. Unfortunately, that's as far as it went. I didn't look any further into it, and I most definitely should have. There goes $2.99 (even off a gift card) I'll never get back. The production stories indicated that star Richard Burton needed three bottles of vodka a day to get over a back injury. It shows. Delivering his lines in an odd Southern(ish) accent, Burton mumbles and stumbles his way through the movie in a really bad part. The scary part? Co-star Lee Marvin supposedly matched Burton drink-for-drink and ends up delivering the movie's best performance. His Sheriff is torn between his duty, what he believes, what the job means in support of his family, and what he knows is right and wrong.
Too bad then that Marvin's pretty decent performance is lost in a winding, kinda episodic story that doesn't really know where it's going or how to get there. There are too many characters, too many subplots that go by the wayside. The rest of the cast includes Cameron Mitchell as Deputy Butt Cutt Cates, hamming it up with hate, O.J. Simpson (taking a break from football) as Garth, a rifle-wielding vigilante, Lola Falana as Loretta, a friend of Breck's who becomes a KKK target, David Huddleston as the mayor and KKK head honcho, Luciana Paluzzi (obviously dubbed) as Trixie, the police secretary who has a thing with Breck, and Linda Evans as Nancy, the white woman raped in the movie's opening scenes.
It's just a bad movie that doesn't deserve too much more analysis. Bad script, out of place soundtrack, and an ending that would have been halfway decent if the build-up wasn't so painful. I wouldn't have continued watching if I hadn't paid $2.99 to rent it. Watch at your own risk!!!
The Klansman (1974): */****