Fame doesn’t ensure success in an acting career. An actor does their best to create memorable characters when they finally get cast. They always want people to remember them from roles. And there is a feeling of a job done right when a viewer bumps into them at an airport and tells them how much their character meant to them. At the same time, there’s nothing more frightening when casting agents, directors and producers can’t imagine an actor in any other role. Such was the sad fate for Max Baer Jr. when The Beverly Hillbillies wrapped up after dominating TV for a decade. He was the goofball Jethro as far as production companies and studios were concerned. He was so great in the comic role. Who was going to give him a chance to be serious? The answer eventually became only himself. He came up with a film that would change how people though with him and collaborated on the script with director Richard Compton (Angels Die Hard). Macon County Line did more than change the view of Baer as only capable of being an idiot.
Brothers Chris (Badlands‘ Alan Vint) and Wayne Dixon (Earthquake‘s Jesse Vint) are cruising around the South in 1954 on their days before enlisting in the Air Force. The brothers are up to a bit of fun hooking up with women, pulling off minor hijinks and seeing the sights. They aren’t angels since one of them is joining the air force since the judge gave him a choice of it or prison. Amongst their fun, they pick up a woman (Cheryl Waters) that doesn’t want to reveal much of her past. Things are going fine until their car has issues. They pull into a garage and beg for the mechanic (Ever Which Way But Loose‘s Geoffrey Lewis) to help them. Who doesn’t want to help them is Sheriff Reed Morgan (Baer). He’s not happy with outsiders on his turf. Morgan was in a good mood originally since he bought a shotgun for hunting seasons and a visit his son (Walking Tall‘s Leif Garrett). He wants the Dixon brothers and their lady friend gone. The car gets running and they split. But trouble happens when something happens at the Sheriff’s house. Without much of an investigation, he hunts down the boys in order to be judge, jury and executioner. You won’t think of Max as Jethro when the shooting starts.
Macon County Line arrived at the perfect time as it combined backwoods law of Walking Tall with the ’50s nostalgia of American Graffiti. American International Pictures sold it just right so that it became a drive-in legend. The film exploded at the box office becoming the biggest indie hit of the early ’70s. The big part of the film is that the opening credits claim it was based on a real story like The Blair Witch Project. The story wasn’t true, but such a claim allowed people to ignore the “what are the odds that happened” coincidences. You could believe this could have happened in the South. Baer does a magnificent emotional job as he goes from good ol’ boy to vengeful husband. After watching Macon County Line, you’ll know there’s more to Max Baer than just Jethro.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. Daniel Lacambre nighttime cinematography is intense. Listening to the commentary track, you get a sense of how little light he used to capture the action. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. The levels bring out the sounds of the Southern locations. The movie is subtitled.
Commentary with Director Richard Compton being interviewed by Bill Lustig (director of Maniac Cop). He breaks down why they declared the film based on a true story. Richard shares various ways they saved on the budget to provide a massive box office hit .
Cutting the Line (21:42) interviews editor Tina Hirsch. She took a vacation to Los Angeles and found herself working 30 straight days splicing up the film. She talks about the difference of working in New York City and Los Angeles. Hirsch would go on to edit Deathrace 2000, Eat My Dust, Gremlins and Captain Ron.
Macon County Line: 25 Years Down the Road (7:56) has Max Baer Jr. talk about going from top of the sitcom world to unemployed. He goes into the inspiration for making his movie. They discuss how they made their low budget movie without a generator. Cast and crew recount making the film and the reception in drive-ins across America.
Theatrical Trailer (1:57) gives the carefree time of 1954 before things go dark. This isn’t American Graffiti. The only glimpses of Baer feature him blasting a shotgun. The “true story” seals the deal.
Radio Spot (1:01) puts the fear into crossing the county line.
Image Gallery (1:15) includes promotional photos, posters and newspaper ads.
Shout Factory presents Macon County Line. Directed by: Richard Compton. Written by: Richard Compton and Max Baer Jr. Starring: Max Baer Jr, Alan Vint, Jesse Vint, Cheryl Waters, Geoffrey Lewis, Joan Blackman & Leif Garrett. Running time: 89 minutes. Rated: R. Blu-ray Release: January 16, 2018
Tags: Macon County Line, Max Baer Jr, Shout Select