"Framed" (1975) was legendary film noir director Phil Karlson's first film after the gargantuan success of his 1973 biopic of Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, "Walking Tall." In "Framed", Karlson continues the theme of revenge which has dominated his body of work since the early 1950's. His masterpieces include "Scandal Sheet" (1952), "Kansas City Confidential" (1953) and, of course, "The Phenix City Story" (1955). "Phenix City" is a fact based biopic, along the lines of "Walking Tall", about the murder of the Attorney General Elect of the State of Alabama. Long considered Karlson's greatest achievement, it was made prior to the sentencing of those involved in the AG's murder, and greatly affected the outcome of their trial. "Framed", compares well to Karlson's best works. Karlson always worked on a limited budget. Like Samuel Fuller and Don Siegel, Karlson was a talented and resourceful filmmaker whose films are often more than they seem. On the surface, Karlson's films appear to be violent exploitation pieces; but, they are much more. Each of Karlson's efforts, particularly the ones mentioned here, are morality plays. Their protagonist is usually a morally just man who wanders too close to immorality, and pays a price. Gambling is often featured as the tempting vice in Karlson's films and "Framed" is no exception. Joe Don Baker, a remarkable and underrated actor, stars here as a small time gambler who owns a bar with his girlfriend, Connie Smith. Following a successful out of town game, Baker is robbed by an unknown assailant and then nearly killed (in one of the most graphic scenes in any Karlson film) by a crooked Deputy Sheriff responding to the scene. In self-defense, Baker kills the officer. Proving once again that there is corruption at every level of the legal system, Baker is sent to prison by a corrupt District Attorney, a corrupt Judge and a corrupt attorney. There's even corruption at a higher level that will ultimately be revealed. While in prison, Baker meets a powerful mob figure (a fine supporting performance by John Marley), and thereby sets in motion his revenge. Vigilante justice is often also a theme of director Karlson. With or without a badge, Karlson's protagonists carry out true justice in spite of the law, while gaining revenge for themselves. They are ultimately heroes because they can be seen as protectors of "the little people" who are downtrodden by the corrupt hierarchy. "Framed" also contains another Karlson trademark: promotion of racial equality. Karlson's films contain some of the most powerfully accurate portraits of racial prejudice along with black characters who are thoughtful and intelligent. Brock Peters, a fine actor, is very good as a deputy who comes to Baker's aid. What other filmmaker, appealing to a largely white southern audience--well, yes, a predominately "redneck" audience--would have had the courage to feature such characters in his films. An intelligent study of Karlson's body of work is long overdue, and "Framed" should be part of that study. It is entertaining and has something to say about our society. It is expertly directed and the performances are above par. If you are looking for an exciting, action packed film with something extra, look no further than "Framed."
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
A gambler kills a sheriff in self defense. But as everyone in conspiring against him, he is condemned to a long sentence in prison.
November 27, 2020