The Farmer

Kyle Martin (GARY CONWAY) is a Silver Star hero who returns home to his Georgia farm at the close of World War II. Behind its Currier & Ives exteriors, it becomes apparent that his farm is terribly rundown and close to foreclosure. Kyle is now in another and more primal war — his own Pearl Harbor. To save his farm, he must confront the rural power brokers.

He soon learns that Silver Stars do not pay off creditors. The only real help to come his way is the $1500 from a grateful gambler, Johnny O’Neill (MICHAEL DANTE), whose life he saves by pulling the unconscious man from his overturned car moments before it bursts into flames and explodes. The two men are destined to have a closer association.

Later, Johnny O’ is blinded in an underworld vendetta and turns to the farmer to seek revenge. He offers Kyle $50,000 as a gun for hire. “You’ve killed 26 men to save your country, probably farmers like yourself. Why not go after five scumbags to save your farm?”

“That was war,” says Kyle.

“Bullshit war!” Johnny yells. “If Uncle Sam can ask you to kill, why can’t I?”

Kyle says he’ll think about it.

But Kyle is not persuaded. War is war and crime is crime. It’s a different kind of killing to the farmer. But, he’s in deeper than he knows. One night when he’s in town, his barn is burned to ashes. Gumshoe (KEN RENARD), an old Black who long has been in the family, is shot and left to burn in the barn. And Betty (ANGEL TOMPKINS), Kyle’s girl and long-time friend of Johnny O’, is brutally raped in the barn by Weasel (TIMOTHY SCOTT), one of the syndicate men.

This drives the farmer to action. Violence begets violence. Through the courtesy of Uncle Sam, Kyle already is a trained killer. With impeccable professionalism, he begins to eliminate, one by one, the men Johnny O’ sent him after. In panic, Passini (GEORGE MEMMOLI), the rival chieftain, hires a top hit man, Conners (JOHN POPWELL), to track down the unknown killer of his men. He also has the hospitalized Johnny O’ killed by a poisonous injection.

Kyle completes his wipe-out and drives back to the farm to rejoin Betty. Out of his truck, he embraces her. At that moment, Kyle is being pinpointed on the cross hairs of a telescopic sight. On a bluff overlooking the reunion scene is the dead Passini’s hit man. He is behind a rifle slowly bringing Kyle’s face into bold focus. The farmer’s eyes, usually hard-set and wary, for the first time are sun-bright with hope. The hit man and Kyle have crossed paths once before…

The ending is unexpected – not to be revealed here – and jolts the moral complacency of the viewer. Like Billy Budd, Kyle Martin is fated to be what he is…to do what he does. We meet in the farmer the tormenting struggle between good and evil and the search for rough justice in the scheme of things. But, THE FARMER is ultimately a statement against violence, against hypocrisy, and against man’s inhumanity to man.

THE FARMER, released by Columbia Pictures in 1977, was one of many Bronsonesque revenge fantasies produced in the wake of the mega-smash DEATH WISH (1974), though its rural setting is more akin to the similar WALKING TALL (1973). I’d love to write a more detailed retrospective of THE FARMER but it’s been 32 years since I saw it at age 15. I do recall it being a straightforward, fast-paced thriller with plenty of bullets, blood and action. I can remember THE OUTFIT, which played right after it (and is also currently MIA on DVD, though it did at least have a VHS release), seeming slow by contrast. Perhaps THE FARMER is not as good as I remember, but I’d like the chance to find out. If anyone can track down a copy of THE FARMER for me, I will trade them my oldest child. THE FARMER is just 33 years old and not a ‘lost’ film, just one that is hiding. It’s lying low, aware of my obsession and mocking me (it’s probably locked in a vault next to a print of Jerry Lewis’ THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED). But there is hope. A company called Code Red DVD announced in 2004 that they were releasing THE FARMER on disc and even put its trailer on some of their other releases. They had an article on their blog about a commentary and on-camera interview with director David Bertalasky and even put up some screen shots of their transfer. Code Red has a reputation for delaying their releases and it’s been five long years since their announcement. Code Red distributed their titles through BCI Eclipse Corporation, which went under last year so the fate of a THE FARMER DVD is unclear and my emails to Code Red have gone unanswered. If Code Red DVD fails to come through with THE FARMER, I won’t get mad. I’ll get even

THE FARMER (1977)
a.k.a. BLAZING REVENGE and THE KILLER FARMER

Starring
Gary Conway (Kyle Martin)
Angel Tompkins (Betty)
Michael Dante (Johnny O’)
George Memmoli (Passini)
Timothy Scott (Weasel)
Jack Waltzer (Doc Valentine)
Ken Renard (Gumshoe)
John Popwell (Conners, The Hit Man)
Stratton Leopold (Laundry Sam)
Sonny Shroyer (Corrigan)
Eric Weston (Lopie)

Directed by
David Berlatsky

Produced by
Gary Conway

Written by
Janice Colson-Dodge
John Carmody
Patrick Regan
George Fargo

Executive Producer
Peter B. Mills

Cinematography by
Irv Goodnoff

Edited by
Richard Weber

Music composed & conducted
by
Hugo Montenegro

“The American Dreamer”
“Outside the Law”

Composed & Sung
by
Gene Clark

“There’s Only Me and You”

Composed by Jack Segal
Sung by Jackie Alter

Filmed in Panavision and Color
on location in Georgia

A Milway Production
Released by Columbia Pictures

MPAA rating: R
Running time: 98 minutes