|Copyright 1971 National Student Film Corporation.
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 9 May 2001.
- Billy Jack - Judo master, medicine man, and crack shot who loves to wear denim.
- Jean - Pacifist founder of a revolutionary school where kids go to explore their creative talents.
- Sheriff Cole - A pox upon this worthless creature. Why does he even bother getting out of bed in the morning?
- Barbara - Hateful young woman with no self-respect or common sense.
- Martin - Young man who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time and usually gets punched in the stomach for his trouble. At long last somebody doesn't punch him in the stomach, they shoot him four times in the head.
- Mike - Deputy that acts as a toad for the evil bigwig. He is also doing a fantastic job of raising an abrasive and unhappy daughter, until she runs away and Billy Jack shoots him.
- Mr. Posner - Evil bigwig who calls the shots in this small desert town. I don't know why he is the bigwig, especially after seeing the car he drives, but that's the deal.
- Bernard - He is the bigwig's son and a complete wuss for the most part. Finds just enough courage to annoy Billy Jack and get his throat crushed.
|I've had an epiphany: I really don't understand my parents' generation at all.
All things considered, I wanted to like the movie a whole lot more than I did. Our hero is a soft-spoken man who honestly tries to get along with people, until they do something stupid (usually stupid = racist); then he completely knocks their block off. It's a philosophy to live by.
You also have to understand that Billy Jack will be repeatedly referred to as an "Injun," usually with the adjective "damn" preceding. Tom Laughlin does not look like a Native American to me - at all. Except for the hat, one has to admit that the hat looks like something you'd find in a store selling leather products and Native American crafts. So, just to prevent any confusion for first time viewers, if somebody is called an "Indian" (or nasty derivative) then they are probably referring to the Caucasian guy in the denim jacket and black hat.
After being discharged from the Army, the protagonist has taken up residence among Pueblo ruins near a small southwestern town. There he protects the land, wild horses, and Jean's "Freedom School" from evil white men. Mr. Posner is the leader behind the EWMA (Evil White Man Association) and, just to let you know how much of a bigwig he is, the EWMA spends half a day rounding up horses on the reservation. They plan to slaughter them and sell the meat to dog food companies for six cents per pound. They rounded up about two dozen horses and we will say that each weighed twelve-hundred pounds (healthy). Now, let's also say that they garnered eight hundred pounds of usable dog chow from every horse. After dividing the profit between six men you end up with about two hundred dollars each; probably an appreciable amount of money for your average evil redneck, but if this is how Posner amassed his fortune then it's no wonder why he is driving that station wagon.
The day does not turn out profitable for Posner and his men though; Billy Jack rides up and lays down the law, 30-30 style. Thoroughly cowed, the bad guys drop their rifles and leave the reservation with phantom tails tucked between their legs. Enmity between Posner and Billy Jack now established, we can now learn why Mike sucks as a father.
Barbara is supposed to be a character we see grow and mature. At least that is my hypothesis. In reality she is easy to despise. When we are first introduced to the character she has just been returned home (having run away some time ago) and is encouraging Mike's domestic abuse theology. "I'm back, I hate you, I'm also pregnant and, since I've had sex with every guy between here and there, I don't know who the father is. Oh yeah, it's your fault too dad." Now, the jerk might very well be a grand turd in the hopper of parenthood; it is still hard to feel sorry for his daughter. She actually seems to work at proving herself a selfish and hateful witch. Every time her character appeared I had to scowl.
After yet another thumping Barbara runs away and is found unconscious in a field. Sheriff Cole has to do something about the situation, so he elects to hide her at the Freedom School. What the HELL? Half of this town's problems are the result of the Sheriff turning a blind eye to actions that are plainly wrong. How about blaming the man with the badge? Innocent people die during this film and not one person gets mad at Cole. Heck, everybody is happy to be his buddy.
We have mentioned the Freedom School several times now. It is a commune started by Jean to rescue runaways and turn their energy to creative work. One of the saving graces is an impromptu stage group led by Howard Hesseman, because other than that almost everything that happens at the school is agony. What do you think happens in a commune full of hippies? Darn right, they sing songs. They sing a lot of songs. Somebody stop the 70's, I want to get off.
Things start going downhill when the school enters the picture in all its horrible glory, but one of the best scenes in the film results when a busload of students take a trip into town. The kids know that they make the citizens nervous, so what do they do? Drive through town chanting, singing, hanging out the windows, and flashing peace signs at all the squares. Maybe not causing a scene would have been a good idea. Yah think? It was like ringing the dinner bell for Bernard and Dinosaur (an aptly named friend). They come running and bully the kids around until Billy Jack arrives. He sets them straight, but Mr. Posner and a large group of EWMA members have been waiting for a chance like this. Things look glum for Billy, but he calmly removes his boots (butt kicking is best done with bare feet) and does as much damage as possible.
Time to discuss Bernard briefly (let's just waste an entire paragraph). He refuses to shoot the cute horsey for his father's dog food franchise, but loves beating up people and later on rapes Jean. He even murders Martin! I understand that Billy has to have some good reason for killing the young man; it's just that we are all over the board with our villains. Is it a statement about him valuing the life of an animal more than an Indian's? Who knows?
Eventually the situation, that Sheriff Cole failed to defuse, breaks down and people start getting hurt. Billy Jack avenges Martin's death and then holes up in an adobe fortress when the law arrives. Barbara is with him at first too, largely on account that her father was indiscriminately throwing lead at the pair (doing a much better job of fatherhood now, Mike!). Will the hero surrender to the white man's law? A law he has no reason to trust? Um, there are two more movies in the series and the next starts with "The Trial of." What do you think?
Kudos on some points, but the film quickly goes downhill around the middle. Even some explanations of the strange crossbreed religion the good guys subscribe to only succeeded in confusing me further. Just imagine a mix of Native American spiritualism with Flower Child ideals and adding a healthy dose of Christianity. Jean starts explaining about Jesus talking to a medicine man at one point while Billy Jack is preparing to become a "brother to the snake." The latter involves taunting a very large rattlesnake until it bites the heck out of you. Just in case you were wondering.
I agree with the general themes, but there were far too many songs sung by girls with long hair (straight of course) and guitars.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Wild horses and mountain goats are distant cousins. Key word being "distant."
- Hitting a woman in the face once will cause her to miscarry.
- Racial tension is easily fixed with a liberal application of bleached flour.
- The naked eye can discern facial features at a quarter mile.
- Interactive theater is great training for law enforcement officers.
- Corvettes do not float.
- Learning how to ride a horse while you are pregnant is not advised.
- When selecting a building (for your last stand) try to avoid ones made from mud and pine.
- 4 mins - Yelling loud enough to be understood over a herd of stampeding horses; now that's vocal power.
- 6 mins - "Hey Earl, did you hear the theme music change?"
- 20 mins - She really is playing that guitar...
- 22 mins - Notice how Jean's hair keeps changing; it just depends on what camera angle we are at.
- 27 mins - I'm confused. Is he holding the flour scoop at waist level or what?
- 47 mins - Somebody please stop this scene!
- 65 mins - A suitcase full of yogurt?
- 67 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A BRA!
- 74 mins - That is most certainly not Jean...
- 91 mins - Billy guessed that? Just off the top of his head? Is this man Sherlock Holmes reincarnated or something?
- 107 mins - So, you castrate him in your mind about twelve times (rounding up) every second?
- Angry Girl: "Damn your pacifism! I am not going to let that sick animal get away with this!"
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Posner: "We got the law here Billy Jack." |
Billy Jack: "When policemen break the law then there isn't any law. Just a fight for survival."
||Barbara: "In other words concerned father: I got balled by so many guys I don't know if the father's going to be white, Indian, Mexican, or black."
||A "rainbow, made of children?"
||Barbara: "What is the snake ceremony?" |
Jean: "The ceremony where Billy becomes a brother to the snake."
Barbara: "How does he do that?"
Jean: "By going on the mountain and being bitten by the snake, over and over."
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Here is the scene with Billy Jack surrounded by a crowd of Posner's goons. They are definitely going to put a hurting on him, but the warrior intends to met out some justice before that happens.
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
Reply #17. Posted on May 28, 2002, 09:45:08 PM by Jolynn
I guess the reason that I liked the movie when it came out was that it spoke to a lot of the issues that were going on at the time. The Vietnam War and all of the racial tensions were taking a real toll on people; this movie seemed be a way to live vicariously through the hero and release their own emotional stuff; especially those of us who were young teens. Hey, the acting was bad, the songs were sappy; but in its time it served its purpose. For that, a generation is grateful.
Reply #18. Posted on October 22, 2001, 10:50:49 PM by 1@peace
for all to watch and try not to understand the meaning that it always takes one to stand against all to set things right, and for the ones who choose not to fight one must seek that demon within, control him and use him to ones advantage, even though it might make him to be the bad guy.
Reply #19. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Swamprat
When I was young and stupid, this film was a message masterpiece. Now I'm middle-aged and stupid. This movie almost makes me puke quicker than eating Captain Crunch with a Peach Wine Cooler instead of milk. Anyone who was there at the time and could see those times in such simplistic terms and turn this cheesey film into a sort of life-philosophy, needed therapy to start with. We had people coming to school dressed like Tom Laughlin. People pretending to be white people pretending to be Indians, and preaching the "Great Spirit and Brotherhood" way. Few of us put up an argument at the time...we figured if they were already this nuts they might be crazy enough to actually try to kick us in the teeth to try to make a point. Billy Jack was a social soap opera. A bad one. Period. But age has shown me that desperate times call for likewise measures. I think Billy Jack was a sincere attempt to point out what was wrong at the moment, to get it across to a wide public mainstream. It did, but with it's "dramatic" approach, simplified good guys verses bad guys plotting, and hokey "message of brotherhood" preaching, the only ones who got "it" were the idiots who were the major cause of most of the problems of the time to begin with. Most people went to see it for the famous fight scenes anyway! "You gotta see it! He kicks the hell outta the bad guys! Twelve atta time!" I saw the thing a half a dozen times when I was kid. Now I can't sit through it once. I feel like I was fooled...taken for an idiot. I can see myself walking up to my nextdoor neighbor and saying, "Peace to you, my brother." Then kicking him in the groin as wild horses run a muck through his backyard. Knowing that Mr. Laughlin later went into politics makes the message of brotherhood preaching of the character even harder to swallow now. Watch the opening scenes of South Pacific...you'll catch "Billy Jack" flying the plane that's delivering the Marine Officer to the Island for his secret mission. He smokes a cigar and chucks beer bottles out the window while flying over Japanese held islands. Now I ask you...is that a tasteful act of brotherhood? The only way I recommend this movie is to show younger people just how easy it is to fool the general American public. "Yes, many people found some great meaning in this movie...even I was taken in for awhile...but it just turned out to be a movie, and not even a very good movie at that. But keep watching, he's gonna leap over that jeep parked there and kick hell outta 36 rednecks with one foot and his elbow." Make's me wish he really was an Indian.
Reply #20. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Crow Ravenheart (Yes its Real)
Half you guys are racist a***oles that dont get it do you? The reason for the Native American theme was because we were becoming unrully at that time. Remember when we nail the two feds in 72. As for the charecter Billy Jack, he was half Nishnobie (thats an "injun" for you ignorant f**ks). It was also a movie dealing with the struggles of a soldier coming back from vietnam. Nothing like getting spit on for doing a job yu either did or get locked up. So f**k YOU ALL!
Reply #21. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Swamprat
Even I have to admit...I still love his hat...and I too, wear a lot of denim. As much as I laugh at the movie now...the guy did have groovy fashion sense. As far as the Nameless Poster's remark about the military IQ levels go...Soldiers are young...hopefully they live to grow older. All I've know over the years (Several in my own family) grow wiser and calm down. I have several combat vets in my bloodline, they all say the same thing. "Young=Stupid=Brave"...This is not a put down, it's just the way the tired old world works and has, sadly, for generations. We need the willing soldier...a sad but true fact...One of the ugliest aspects of films like Billy Jack is how the fact that the character is a vet is stressed...So what? Racism has little to do with little personal facts like this...Racism is a huge swipe across the canvas, it already covers everything and everybody...Pointing out that the character is a native AND a p**sed off Nam vet just cheapens the price any man pays for going to war for whatever cause he either belives in, or as was the case in Vietnam for many, was forced to be cannon fodder for. I'm thankfull for the Green Beret...and if I were an Apachie I'd be damned sure everyone would know it too...But calm down young friend, and have a good laugh with the rest of us...I hope you're old and stiff someday, sitting on a porch with a grandson or two, trying to convince them that at one time you were able to jump into the air and kick bad guys in the teeth without breaking a sweat...Billy Jack was just a character in a bad-funny movie and he wasn't even a real "Indian"...Grandad was the real thing. Peace...
Reply #22. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by sam
For your information, Tom in real life is white and his wife (Jean) is the real halfbreed. I don't understand the 60's and 70's either but the idea of BJ being a real hero is awsome, not like these fake heros they have now in movies. Also their daughter Teresa Kelly in the movie made some real good points.
Reply #23. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Deej
The key to watching this movie is to have the remote handy, finger poised above fast forward. Skip all the hippy bits. and stop only to watch the nasty bits of violence. Billy reminds me of the Fonz gone mad. He does say some pretty cool crap though! If you can suspend disbelief and discernment and use the fast forward feature often, this is actually quite a good movie. And, using my method, it's only about 30 mins long! The only thing that absolutely bugs me about this flick...black hat....brown boots...HOW GAUCHE!
Reply #24. Posted on February 28, 2002, 04:40:32 PM by Filmlover
Mr Billy Jack ( AKA Tom Laughlin...Spell??? ) is ill with throat cancer. Lets hope he is doing OK and will beat his illness. Get well Tom...Best to you.
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