Ruckus (1980)

Ruckus arrives at the end of the 1970’s, a time when The Dukes of Hazzard and Smoky and the Bandit led a redneck renaissance in pop culture.

Kyle Hanson (Dirk Benedict) spent eight months as a POW and stuck in the jungle, never speaking, which left him a damaged man, unable to adjust to life back at home. When he passes through a small town, local bullies harass him, which he easily handles, but things spiral out of control when local deputies and the townies just can’t let him be.

Only one person, Jenny Bellows (Blair) understands. She’s the daughter-in-law of Sam Bellows (Ben Johnson, The Town That Dreaded Sundown), the richest man in town. His son was killed in action during the war, but his body hasn’t been found yet. Instead of the rich guy being the villain here, he’s actually one of the most sympathetic people in the picture.

Jenny brings Hanson out of the darkness, but after being attacked by local bullies and the police time and time again, Hanson claims a small island. Only the intervention of Sam stops the carnage, as they decide that Hanson can keep the land for himself.

Richard Farnsworth plays the only good cop in the film. You’ll remember him from a ton of movies, like him playing Buster in Misery, as the lead in David Lynch’s The Straight Story and as Red in The Natural.

I was struck by this film’s similarities to the first Rambo film, First Blood. That may not be a total coincidence. The original rights the David Morell’s novel that First Blood was based on spent a decade making the Hollywood rounds. went through 10 years of passing hands before culminating in the 1982 Sylvester Stallone film, so this movie could have been based upon that script. There are parts that are just too close to believe otherwise.

This movie is a million times better than I thought it was going to be. It’s pretty entertaining and I’m surprised that it isn’t discussed more. Director Max Kleven would go on to work with Blair again in the film W.B., Blue and the Bean. A stuntman by trade, the supporting cast is filled with his fellow daredevils, all of whom go all out to deliver some great action.

Even better, the soundtrack is packed with a mix of songs by Willie Nelson and Hank Cochran, along with Janie Fricke singing a few of them. It’s the perfect music, including the song “Ain’t Life Hell.”

Ruckus also has some great alternate titles, like The Intruder of Madoc County, Big Ruckus In a Small TownThe Devastator, Eat My DustDestructorThe Loner and Ruckus in Madoc Country.

Here are some of the amazing posters I’ve found that place it across a variety of genre, from Smokey-style car race fun to Rambo-esque military vengeance. It’s truly amazing how one movie could play to so many styles and audiences.

9 thoughts on “Ruckus (1980)

  1. Hahahaaa!? “Eat My Smoke.” That’s a riot. Never seen that before. The things you find on the web.

    I remember the ads for this in the newspaper with “The Loner” posters. But the trailer ran on TV and it was “Ruckus.” The only reason I went to see this was because Starbuck was in it. And it was a lot like, at the time it just felt like Smokey and the Bandit to me. (Thus that Eat my Smoke poster). Then HBO had the movie on endless repeat in the early ’80s, right around the time when First Blood was released. They used The Loner title.

    I love the marketing: one poster looks like an Italian Apoc flick, one’s an action flick, the other markets it as a comedy. The newspaper ad I recall looks like the middle one. Only it wasn’t art work, it was a photo of Dirk Benedict in that same pose, only in a profile, with some flames around him and the title: The Loner.


  2. Yeah, that’s right! Here you are watching a movie with Michael Sopkiw . . . and there’s an artistic rendering of Mark Gregory on the cover! Or was it the other way around?

    Now I remember! The Ron Howard movie, Eat My Dust, and that Janet Julian (!) flick, Smokey Bites the Dust, so there’s why you ended up with Eat My Smoke. Eat My Smoke. Dear lord.

    Now I have a hankering to search for episodes of my favorite kid series: Chopper One. Off to You Tube. Man, I was bummed when that was cancelled. Dirk rules. And you got Sssss! and his (awful; not his fault) contribution to the “American Giallo” cannon: W. I remember falling asleep on that one. “W . . . suspense beyond words!” Indeed. Both which fit into the B&S oeuvre.

    Oh, and The Georgia Peaches. Oh man. Terry Nunn AND Tanya Tucker in a weekly series. How that didn’t make it to series. . . .


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