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EDDIE MACON’S RUN

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: The great Kirk Douglas was 66 when he made this picture, an age that was considered rather ancient by Hollywood moguls in the 1980s — but, hey, he wanted to work. I respect that. So, like so many other ‘over-the-hill’ movie stars of the period, he took some less-than-worthy projects to remain vital. And he continued to work into the early 2000s, although none of his later films is particularly noteworthy. But Douglas got the last laugh since he’s outlived nearly all of his contemporaries; he is now 103 years old. This film is less than sterling but it’s now the recipient of a Blu-ray upgrade from Mill Creek Entertainment. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 29, 1983.

Tom Selleck isn’t the only TV star trying for a shot at the big screen; “Dukes of Hazzard’s” John Schneider is up there, too. And like “High Road to China,” there are times when “Eddie Macon’s Run” looks like it’s better suited to the small screen.

The difference, of course, is that “High Road” is kind of mindless fun, while “Eddie Macon” is just mindless.

Despite Kirk Douglas having top billing, this is clearly Schneider’s picture (though “Dukes-philes” may be disappointed that there’s only one car chase and only one spectacular crash). And if his fans are used to bland TV fare, they might enjoy this exercise in idiocy, but everyone else had better beware. I haven’t seen this many prison-movie clichés in one film since Cagney and Bogie last banged their cups on a table.

And if you hail from Texas, you may want to put out a bounty on writer-director Jeff Kanew.

But, first things first.

The opening scenes of “Eddie Macon’s Run” seem to be right out of the ending of “Stir Crazy,” with Schneider as the title character, sneaking into a cattle truck during a prison rodeo and escaping.

     

He’s worked out a plan with his young wife (Leah Ayres) to jog across Texas — that’s right, jog — to the Mexican border, where they and their little boy will live happily ever after … so long as mean cop Kirk Douglas doesn’t capture him. This is Schneider’s second escape and he and Douglas tangled once before.

I did like Kanew’s use of flashbacks, which successfully gave us a sense of Schneider’s desperation and love for his family. And the technical work is very good, with some lovely photography.

But most of the film is, at best clichéd, and at worst downright sadistic.

Schneider is, of course, an innocent victim of an abused legal system. He moved his family to Texas to work in the oil fields because he needed money for his little boy’s blood disease. But the corrupt Texans he worked for tried to keep some of his pay from him, so he punched one out. The corrupt police captured him and threw him in the corrupt jail, then the corrupt judge threw him in the corrupt prison … for 20 years.

But those guys are sweethearts compared to the cattle ranchers he runs into during his escape. They accuse him of being a rustler and try to hang him, forcing Schneider to kill them in self-defense. (This segment is a strange, watered-down version of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”)

To be fair, all of the Texans in this film aren’t corrupt or sadistic. Some are just stupid.

In fact, Schneider’s out-of-state character and Douglas’ displaced New Jersey cop both have their own viewpoints of Texas depravity, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film run out of town the first time it plays in Dallas.

     

Schneider has a certain amount of charisma but not much of a dramatic sense. In the quieter moments he’s much less believable than in the action or screaming sequences. Douglas is “Dirty Harry” pure and simple.

As Schneider’s wife, Ayres is rather stiff, playing the antiseptic, never-complaining TV sitcom housewife, so devoted to making a home for her husband she even refurbishes and completely paints their house (inside and out) by herself before he receives his first paycheck.

She is an extremely bland character (except for one odd moment when she leaves her son in a hotel room and goes drinking in a rough bar by herself). She is especially bland in contrast to the woman Schneider links up with about two-thirds through the film, Lee Purcell as the governor’s rich niece, who helps him make good his escape.

I don’t know why movies (especially TV movies) always portray devoted housewives as pale and lifeless compared to their swinging single counterparts but Purcell is undeniably terrific, with a great screen presence, and she’s easily the best thing in the film. Not enough to save it, however.

Kanew is much better as a director than a writer but this whole film looks like a package deal. You know the type: “We got yer basic TV star, yer basic country-music background, yer basic older movie star for the adult audience, yer basic innocent hero against a corrupt systemm… it can’t miss!”

But it does.

Rated PG for violence, profanity, sex and nudity (including a ridiculous shower scene, in which Purcell washes down Schneider while he sleeps standing up — thus remaining true to his wife), “Eddie Macon’s Run” is strictly for die-hard Schneider fans, and even they will probably be disappointed.