James Cole Clay // Film Critic
MACON COUNTY LINE
Available today on Blu-ray through Shout! Factory’s website.
1974’s MACON COUNTY LINE is being released on the esteemed Shout Select series, a place where forgotten gems are finally given their due with a proper home video release. The film is in the same vein as the disturbing work of the late director Sam Peckinpah (STRAW DOGS, THE WILD BUNCH). It’s about two brothers, Chris and Wayne (played by real-life brothers Alan and Jesse Vint), who are just a couple of rascals looking to kick the dust up. But by 2018 standards, they are more than problematic.
Now, I don’t want to retroactively criticize a low-budget (near exploitation film) that’s 44 years old. I think most people who see this film will be able to recognize its flaws in terms of sexual and gender dynamics. With that out of the way, MACON COUNTY LINE is a well done film by Richard Compton, who is mainly known for TV work on shows such as BABYLON 5 and THE X-FILES. His film attempts to capture the realism of the Deep South in the ’50s. It certainly does just that and has to juggle some odd tonal changes that have the film going from comedy to a traumatizing third act. It’s ending will undoubtedly stay stuck in my “crawl” for weeks to come. I’m not quite sure if that’s a compliment, or a slight against the film.
At the time, MACON COUNTY LINE was known for casting Max Baer Jr. in the role as Sheriff Reed Morgan. He was known for playing the dopey Jethro on the show THE BEVERLEY HILLBILLIES in the 1960’s, but he convinced Compton he could pull off the tragically bigoted sheriff. The artwork for the film says “Meet Sheriff Reed Morgan. He likes a quiet town, he doesn’t like punk kids, strangers, or smart alecks from up North.”
I wish the film had this silly type of tone depicted on the cover. What Compton gives the audience, on the other hand, is something much more disturbing. For better or worse, MACON COUNTY LINE is on Blu-ray, and it certainly has one of the more jaw-dropping twists I’ve seen in ages.
There isn’t a terrible amount of features that one would normally see from a Shout Select release, but I imagine it’s difficult to even find people who worked on the film that are still alive and willing to talk about it. The disc features a mix of NEW and older special features that were released at the film’s 25-year anniversary.
- NEW: Interview with editor Tina Hirsch
- Audio Commentary with director Richard Compton
- Vintage Featurette: “MACON COUNTY LINE: 25 Years Down the Road”
- Theatrical Trailer