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WILLARD PARKER & KENT TAYLOR IN MAURY DEXTER'S 'WALK TALL'

WALK TALL Year: 1960 Score: ****
In Maury Dexter's b-Western, WALK TALL (not to be mistaken with the WALKING TALL series over a decade later), the second scene... following a massacre of an Indian tribe with only women and children around for the slaughter... is a nifty herd of Infantry men riding horses across a creek where a bevy of tents are spread at the foot of mountain landscape..

A minimalist, low budget and intentionally sparse version of a John Ford style of scenery-driven Western adventure, WALK TALL is directed by the man whose eclectic filmography includes bikini beach babes, marauding bikers and determined cops after sneaky robbers and declining robbers thwarting dogged, determined cops: And following the aforementioned exterior shot, the wonderful aesthetic does not sustain inside a tent where a one-color backdrop conveniently frames three men: The film's star, experienced Calvary veteran Willard Parker (who the Indians say "Walks Tall") flanked by Maury Dexter regular-everyman Russ Bender as Parker's affable superior, and, last but not least, a wise old Indian Chief dead set on finding the one man everyone knows killed the tribe that included an Indian warrior's young wife.

Brawling Quiet Man style in WALK TALL
The mellow, contented pace of the lone Parker setting out on his mission... which will keep the Indians from waging war if the guilty party is captured and punished on time... heightens during the bridge of the first and second act as his character, Captain Ed Trask, finds and captures Kent Taylor as Frank Carter...

While the arrest was extremely simple — an oblivious Carter relaxing on the store steps of a ghost town where, once forced out of an idyllic malaise, he quickly hides the loot received for scalping the (what turns out being the wrong) Indians. From this point on, Trask's biggest obstacle is the most entertaining aspect of WALK TALL. Taylor is the main actor (like Hitchcock's James Stewart/Preminger's Dana Andrews/Wood's Bela Lugosi) in Maury Dexter's early-60's troupe and, with a pencil-thin mustache no matter what side of the law he resides, here he's got the charm of a resilient snake, coolly playing down the "Gentleman Heavy" with sly humor and meticulous goading that intensifies once Joyce Meadows as Sally, whose family was attacked and slain by Indians a stone's throw from the duo's morning campout, gets easily brainwashed by the proud Indian Killer: after what she's been through, all Indians are better off dead. The sneaky chemistry between the Indian haters and sole protector make up for the most moments, overall...

Willard Parker in WALK TALL
And while the TALL and sturdy Willard Parker — older than most Western-Action heroes who weren't young superstars to begin with — has to keep weathering Taylor's perpetual mind-games, what really fleshes out the otherwise cliché character is how he never gives an inch and always, literally, sticks to his guns...

In fact, both lead roles, the good and the bad, relies on pushing each other's buttons while the surrounding landscape makes you forget this is a very low-budget venture with a good cast and a familiar "Cowboy Picture" script, rushing towards an inevitable and utterly predictable conclusion — ending way too soon since the trio's chemistry makes wordplay trump gunplay. When being reunited with his dimwitted three-man gang to collect the loot, Kent Taylor's  just another cerebral leader of vapid, one-dimensional brutes while our main man is back to the typical hero we started out with before the combined synergy provided more than we (or they) paid for. Thankfully, b-pictures usually have a short, to-the-point runtime, and for the sixty-one minutes, most of WALK TALL is a three-person show.
Maury Dexter's WALK TALL opening title credit
Maury Dexter's WALK TALL opening main cast credits
Joyce Meadows in WALK TALL with Willard Parker and Kent Taylor
Joyce Meadows in WALK TALL with Willard Parker and Kent Taylor
Maury Dexter's WALK TALL with Ron Soble and Kent Taylor
Injun attack from Maury Dexter's WALK TALL
Maury Dexter's WALK TALL with Willard Parker
Willard Parker in WALK TALL with Kent Taylor
Joyce Meadows in WALK TALL with Willard Parker and Kent Taylor
Russ Bender in WALK TALL with Willard Parker and Dave DePaul
Maury Dexter's producing and directing credit from WALK TALL
David Crosby's dad Floyd Crosby shot WALK TALL and before that High Noon
Maury Dexter's WALK TALL with Willard Parker and Kent Taylor
Maury Dexter's WALK TALL with Willard Parker and Kent Taylor
Joyce Meadows in WALK TALL
Joyce Meadows in WALK TALL

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