THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Jim Brown established a reputation as one of the most badass stars of 70s cinema, and rightfully so. But one of his most interesting performances was not as an action hero. In 1970's ...tick...tick...tick..., he plays Jim Price, the newly-elected black sheriff of a small Southern county. Not everyone welcomes him; the loyalties of many white citizens lie with former sheriff John Little (George Kennedy). Two arrests threaten to push already-existing racial tensions over the edge: first Price arrests the son of a powerful white bigot for vehicular manslaughter, then a black man for the rape of a 15 year-old girl. Suddenly, lots of people are out to get him. Little recognizes that Price needs help, and decides to set an example by backing up the man who took his job.
...tick...tick...tick... is a great example of early 70s topical filmmaking. The movie clearly wants to take on big issues a crowd-pleasing way. It's not subtle, and it's not deep, but damn, is it entertaining! This is a film in which Kennedy grabs a young punk by the collar and warns him: “Next time you go to the hardware store, you stay away from the disinfectant aisle. You stay away from those disinfectants, 'cause you ain't nothin' but a bug!” How can you not love that? Like many other pictures of the era, ...tick...tick...tick... also engages in the inappropriate use of lite-pop music on the soundtrack. During a sequence in which Price chases a bad guy, the jaunty music is completely at odds with the intensity of what we're watching. By pointing these things out, I in no way intend to suggest that ...tick...tick...tick... is poorly made or campy. Far from it. The film has good intentions and sincere feelings about racial equality. I'm simply saying that the style gives it an added appeal today. In 2012, this is not just an earnest race drama, but also a fascinating example of how social issues were addressed cinematically in an earlier era.
Jim Brown and George Kennedy are both very good in their roles. Brown provides Price with a sense of unwavering stoicism, while Kennedy brings to life Little's acceptance that he can still serve the public despite no longer wearing a badge. There's additionally a terrific supporting performance from Fredric March as the town's crotchety mayor, who may or may not be secretly hoping things get stirred up. Director Ralph Nelson keeps the pace moving, allowing the themes to remain front and center without ever sacrificing entertainment value. As events build to a climactic confrontation, he emphasizes the ticking-clock nature of racial conflicts which, of course, have the potential to explode in unfortunate ways. Real life may not always provide the sort of hopeful, cathartic resolutions the movie does, but it's nice to believe that they're possible.
...tick...tick...tick... has been wonderfully remastered by Warner Archive. It looks really good. The DVD also comes with a vintage TV spot promoting the film. I found this movie to be very engaging, both as a well-told story and as a trip back in time to a period where movies tried a little harder to bring about social change. If you want to check it out for yourself, get more details at the Warner Archive website.
( out of four)
...tick...tick...tick... is rated G but does contain some racial epithets. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.
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