|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 #57. Posted on January 29, 2005, 11:08:47 PM by Aussie
I remember watching BJ when i was a boy & loving the movie then , Yesterday i bought the hole collection of BJ movies & watched them all & all i can say is that nothing has changed at all , i still love watching them . THANKS TOM LAUGHLIN .
Reply #58. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Matt
I usually dont post comments to message boards, but I am seriously disturbed by some of the things I am reading here. Obviously you know nothing about the Vietnam Conflict or else you could restrain yourself from calling the pacifist movement 'crap.' Also, these types of movies were not ment to be entertaining, but educational and inspiring. If you cannot grasp the message in this movie then you dont deserve fingers.
Reply #59. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Joesy
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about something so near and dear to my heart. This movie gave me HOPE when I was a teenager in the 70's. I am of mixed descent, with some Native American, and I don't really look it, except for the eyes. I am proud of who I am, but at that time I had no home life to speak of, no one to talk to about things and no one to look up to. When I saw "Billy Jack" the first time, I was hooked. I learned that there are people out there who care, I mean REALLY care about KIDS. Even if it was just a movie, It gave me something to look forward to when I grew up. I learned that I wanted to be a "good" person and to help people. I also learned that I could turn the other cheek, but also to fight for what I believed in. For once I had something to believe in. I thought Teresa was so lucky to have parents like Tom and Delores Laughlin. I wanted to be her. I bought the soundtrack and learned all the songs. I cut out pictures that showed that this movie was playing at our local drive-in and glued them to cardboard so they would last longer and not get "dog-eared". Lastly, I went when I was old enough and on my own... and learned karate.
Make fun of it all you want and say it's a bad movie, but it inspired me as a young person and gave me the will to go on.
I'm proud of who I was, who I wasn't and who I am.
Tom Laughlin is my hero, and I now have his picture as my wall paper on my pc. I have the vhs, dvd's and soundtrack. It inspired me then, and still does today. I wish Tom a healthy future, I know he had been ill. I love you Tom, you're in my prayers...
"You know me, and you know my meaning..."
Reply #60. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Me
I used to be a fan of these movies. I saw the Trial of BJ while in my senior year of high school and included pieces of it in a psychology project. During this time of my life, I was learning about the school shootings and some of the war horrors from Vietnam. These movies helped bring interest to some issues.
What do I think now? Well, I am not so sure as I haven't watched the movies in a long time. They most likely wouldn't mean now what they did as a teen years ago.
No one has mentioned the "Master Gunfighter", another film of Tom's that didn't make it. I believe it was made after the Trial film. Years later I recall seeing it on television and wasn't impressed.
A few years back I'd heard during a show with Tom Snyder that Tom was working on another film & I guess that failed to come to pass. Now we hear of yet another Billy Jack movie which I guess will also fail to come to pass.
I took a brief look at his web site. Hmmm. When I saw him selling autographed pictures between starting at $50, I was greatly taken aback. Years ago when he was at his peak in popularity I got one for free.
Reply #61. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Steve
I can't help thinking that Tom Laughlin wrote the role that Chuck Norris should have had. Chuck would have been perfect as Billy Jack: he could have carried out the fight scene in the park (the one redeeming quality of this film) flawlessly without resorting to a Korean stunt double. He's a much better actor than Laughlin (although neither one will be bringing home an Academy Award in the near future). He's even legitimately part Indian! So why not make a remake of Billy Jack, with our man Chuck in the lead (and hopefully a less hokey script)???
Reply #62. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Jacknotbilly
We need to remember the BILLY JACK was a product of its time. "Indian" was not a perjorative, but merely a word. "Everyone" was a singular that required the use of "he", not "they." Yes, Virginia, there was air conditioning in the 70's--even in the 50's in homes. The boomers were becoming hippies. Now they are approaching retirement.
"Peace" and "love" in the 70's were slogans providing the thinnest veneer over the anger and intolerance roiling beneath, just like the pleasantness of PLEASANTVILLE.
I also noticed that those who expressed their love and understanding in terms like "f**king a***ole racist" and similar endearments for those who didn't get the message of the film never were specific about exactly what said message like, was, you know?
As many of the other postings here pointed out, the target audience of BILLY JACK has grown up. How many are now grandparents?
I really doubt that Tom Laughlin will be able to recapture the glorious days of 35 years ago. Maybe this is why he's trying to exploit the unpopularity of the Iraq war to solicit funds for some project or other.
Reply #63. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:03 PM by Mike Mando
This movie had a profound effect on me because I was very disillusioned by the Vietnam War, and by Religion at the time. The film spoke to me so much that I went out a few months after seeing the film and taught Indians in the Bush of Canada for the next two years. I even bought a motorcycle...a dirtbike that was red...just like his in the movie. This movie was live-changing for me.
I also felt that the rape scene was one of the most realistic and ugly scenes I have ever witnessed.
Reply #64. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by HMZ
The 70's were a dark time culturally. Best to let them rest in peace. Billy Jack included.
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