|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 #41. Posted on November 13, 2003, 04:39:30 PM by Dan Lyon
Billy Jack should have spawned a generation of films. Instead, people watch crap. Greatest country in the world filled to the brim with nitwits. Makes me sad.
Reply #42. Posted on November 15, 2003, 05:41:06 PM by opie
By the way hippies, my father wanted me to thank you for spitting on him and calling him a baby killer when he got back home from the war in 1970. Such an understanding group...
Reply #43. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by mont
Real hippies didn't involve themselves in political activities or education or jobs or anything else with our culture. They were totally removed from it as they saw it as corrupt and insane. Those who spit on vets were jacked- up-longhaired-wannabee-dudes who in one instance, were cheerfully beaten by my friend Clay who just returned from 'Nam. There is a movie in there somewhere- "Billie Jack Beats College" or something. I did see the flick with my wife and we thought it was a total rip off. I had more enjoyment when BJ took off his boots cause the theater went nuts with anticipation- "whoo boy, watch this".
Interesting how this film generates a lot of animosity all these years later.
Reply #44. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Dave
I was really amused by this review. I know it sounds crazy, but when I saw this movie in 1971 it made total sense. It was first made in 1969 and ran until 1971. It was the 60's and early 70's....Ya just had to have been there.
Reply #45. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Steven Paul
Billy Jack was one of the most important films of our time. Because Tom Laughlin was and is the only person that ever believed in a cause, was willing to fight for it, and put the message in his movies. At first Born Losers was just a movie, the Motorcycle gang against Billy Jack and the young girls they victimized and raped. Billy Jack was the original Rambo, but this guy was more then people ever knew. He really believed in everything he stood for. This especially came true after the surprise success of Billy Jack (the second BJ movie). It became the greatest Independent film of all time, and sparked the most explosive sequel ever known (next to the Godfather movies). I remember when the Trial Of Billy Jack came out, it played in 3 theatres (the first movie to ever to so). In that movie you can start to see the political side come out more, with references to Nixon, Indian rights, child abuse, and police brutality (and the college masacres) which the whole movie was based upon. This movie reflected all real life stuff, everything you see in The Trial Of Billy Jack was not just some writers imagination. The Laughlins really believed in all this stuff and poured their message into the films with raw emotion that has never been seen in film and hasnt been seen since. They werent just acting, what they stood for in this movie, what they felt was based on the events of real life and what went on in the world. Remember the final famous scene in the church where they sang Give Piece a Chance? This scene was emotional not just for the audience that seen it, but for every actor who experienced it, the photographers, and the director. Tell me a movie where that has ever been the case? That is why it was so powerful, and only in a movie like Titanic has audiences been struck with such emotion again because the Titanic was real life (it happened) and James Cameron brought in into reality like no other has before. Then finally Billy jack Goes To Washington, which was the most revealing film of all time about the corruption of Washington and the way that Congress is run, the way laws are passed, how payoffs, and special interests buy politicians into office and how they control the country. We all know, the one who pays for the campaign funds, the elections, are the ones that buy the politicians into office. How little envelopes with money are passed around, and bills are passed or denyed based upon the highest bidder. No film ever before revealed clearly exactly the way Washington was run and still runs today. How far does one go to protect their rights or what they believe in, or when does one let it go? Tom laughlin (just as he does on his website today) brought everything into light in his movies. His beliefs and convictions were the most important thing to him, not being famous, staying rich, or seeing how long he could keep a great career. But by integrity in what he believed in. We would have never seen those movies had it not been for that. Billy Jack Goes To Washington was not even allowed to be released. Tom laughlin and his entire cast were almost thrown out of Washington and arrested for filming it there. USA is suppose to be a country where free expression is allowed, but they would not allow that movie to be released and everything in it was true. Billy Jack was much more then a movie, it was about someone who stood their ground, and stood up for what they believed in, and said it like it was. Tom Laughin is still trying to change the world, even as a guy in his 70's he is planning to make a movie about his own election campaign (another independent film). Check out the web site, and you dont have to agree with everything he says. But Billy Jack stood for more then you'll ever know! It was a movement, about people who wanted to stand up and change things.
Reply #46. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Barney Gumbel
Bought this flick for $5.55 at a Walmart in southern California. Saw it first in the 70s but not again until New Year's 2004.
I remember how everybody back then wanted to be like Billy Jack. (hat and all). What I didn't remember was how blatantly political this movie was --and how much the politics take away from the movie itself, which could have been a classic in the right hands.
It's one of the few movies Hollywood can't co-opt with a remake either, as the noble savages now run money-making casinos from coast-to-coast. Native Americans are the real-life bossess in small southwestern towns from Ruidoso to Parker and Temecula. There are sure some great lines though and doubtless this movie had influences many movie makers (beyond Steven Segal)
Reply #47. Posted on June 21, 2005, 03:40:21 AM by Fred
I really wanted to like this movie when it came out but it was simple, predictable and stupid...
Reply #48. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Dave Munger
I think "The Trial of Billy Jack" is where the fake Hitler "law and order" quote came from that hippies use to get people to admit they're Nazis.
"'Something about law and order being good'. Do you agree with this statement?"
"That was an verbatim statement from Hitler!!!!!"
"Wow, I just crapped my pants. I guess I just have to admit I'm a Nazi now."
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