|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 #65. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Jacknotbilly
I forgot to mention:
Some here complained that "They" would not not let the 4th movie of the saga, BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON, be released or shown. Just who this They was/were never got specified. It guess it was the ubiquitous, omniscient, omnipresent, and totaly anonymous They who retain/s tight control over mores, actions, and speech, under threat of well-known, severe, and unspecified punishment. ("You can't do that! What would They say? Don't you know that They will get you for that?")
Yes, there is Freedom of Speech, a precious right in the USA.
But Freedom of Speech does NOT carry with it the concomitant Obligation to Listen by others.
Furthermore, the right toFreedom of Speech does not protect one from the consequences of saying untrue, unpopular, or offensive things.
In practical terms, you p**s off the Hollywood Movie Establishment once, you don't get your next flick distributed or shown.
Reply #66. Posted on January 26, 2006, 06:44:55 PM by Jacknotbilly
BTW--Did anyone but me notice the cameraman and later on microphone plainly visible in the rape scene?
Reply #67. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Jacknotbilly
Well, I spent the afternoon watching the very move that the omnipotent They would not allow to be shown or distributed: Billy Jack Goes to Washington.
It's a very poor imitation of the Frank Capra classic MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.
E. G. Marshall's performance brightens up the movie just as flowers brighten up a sickroom.
Question: If BJ had wound up owning these 400 acres originally intended for a nuclear power plant (i/o a camp), by that very fact they used forged documents to give it to him he could has simply STOPPED the building o the nuke plant! Nobody but me noticed this inconsistency.
No, this movie is just another platform for Laughlin to agitate for laws passed in an extra-Constitutional manner--in the movie by national initiatives and referenda (which would mean ZILCH at law, even this may be a good idea), or now (according to his site) having "televised citizens' hearings" to impeach Bush and Cheney (even though the Constitution is VERY specific about such impeachments must originate in the House before they are tried by the Senate).
But hey! It's just the US Constitution. What does that matter to the Laughlins?
Reply #68. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Ryan J. Kenner
All I can say is that this is the best swewering of Billy Jack since Mad magazine took Tom Laughlin to task with their parody "Billy Jerk"
Does anyone rememeber the magazine parody?
As a film the movie is laughably bad with some of the worst music ever and what's worse is that like Jabootu points out it inspired On Deadly Ground. The gift that never stops giving, i'm waiting now for Vin Diesel to preach about hippy bullcrap.
Reply #69. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by jUDY
Tom Laughlin's caring, self sacrifice and contributions to the enlightenment of this country's people through his 'Billy Jack' series of movies is just staggering in my humble opinion. As relevant today in 2006, as it was back in the seventies.
I personally felt as if a bolt of lightening had just hit me in the head (and heart) as I walked out of that theatre after my first 'Billy Jack' experience so long ago. This young sophmore kid in high school determined to go out into the world and be an example myself, to try to make a personal and positive difference henceforth, no matter how large or small. And, all those ticket sales verifying the 'Billy Jack' movie(s) popularity....just can't be wrong! To date, the number one selling independant movie of all time!
While I'm no expert on the workings and goings on of Hollywood, CA nor Washington D.C., I have no doubt that he (and his wife Delores Taylor) hit the nail on the head when they created these films.
I bought the (new in 2005)DVD set and can't say enough great things about these movies AND their creators, Tom Laughlin & Delores Taylor. What wonderful people they were then and are now! They took the chances most people are afraid to take and stood up for what they believed in and I am so grateful to them for that. And grateful for the lessons they have taught me which are as valuable as any I've ever learned in my life.
When the singer sings the song 'Golden Lady' and the line "you are my teacher" at the end of 'Trial of Billy Jack' I surely can relate!
Back in the 70's these movies literally enlightened and changed my life! And after watching them all over again (including the 'Billy Jack Goes to Washington' which never got released) I have to say I think they are changing things yet again in my life, in ways I never imagined.
I get upset with all the negative comments I read regarding the karate scenes (there are only 2 karate scenes in each movie, 'Billy Jack' & 'Trial of B.J.') probably less than 5-6 minutes of the total movie, yet people seem to ONLY remember those scenes and not all the PEACE & LOVE demonstrated throughout the movies.
I'd recommend this set to anyone today and feel it's as current now (yes, just listen to the current daily news!) as it was in the 70's.
I think all kids in high school should see this also, as a lesson. Just look at what the government was up to then, as it is now and you may agree.
I truly do hope Tom Laughlin can pull off another movie about the issues currently raging in this country....we all could use it! PEACE & LOVE....that was the overall message then, as it should still be today!
GOOD LUCK MR. LAUGHLIN!!!!
Reply #70. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Little Hawk
I was fascinated to see Al Caroll's comments above about John Pope, aka "Rolling Thunder". Everything he says is correct, but the reason that I was tickled to see it is that I spent lengthy periods in the late 70's and in 1980 visiting Rolling Thunder (called "RT" by all of us visitors who knew him), and staying at the camp he set up on private land a few miles outside Carlin, Nevada.
The camp was called Meta-Tantay, which I was told means "Walk In Peace" (presumably in Shoshone). I don't know if that's correct, but that's what I was told.
I went there in '77 for a couple of reasons.
1. I was crazy about anything that had to do with Native Americans. Always have been since toddlerhood, although I am white, racially speaking. Let's put it this way...when I was a little kid my heroes weren't the cowboys and the cavalry, they were Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Cochise, Gall, Red Cloud, and so on. Why? I love underdogs. I detest the John Wayne mainstream kind of thing.
2. I went there because I had read an article about RT in a magazine, got interested, and read Doug Boyd's quite well written book about RT. Doug Boyd had visited RT in the early 70's and written a book which you can still find called "Rolling Thunder". The book blew my mind. I read it in one day, and immediately decided to go to Nevada and see RT.
What happened when I got there? Well, for a kid who was crazy about Native Americans (whom I called "Indians" at the time)...and so did THEY, by the way..."Native American" had not become the only politically correct term to call them by YET. No siree. Listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie, the great Cree folksinger, sing "He's An Indian Cowboy In The Rodeo" and "your great great grandfather from Indian blood sprang"...and you'll see that only a few decades ago Native Americans quite often happily referred to themselves as "Indians" and did not consider it a pejorative or racist term at all. My, how times have changed! You can get in total s**t with various terribly earnest people for saying that word "Indian" now, unless you mean someone from Inda.
Sorry...got carried away there...well, when I got there I discovered right away that RT was a VERY charismatic character, a born showman. He knew how to impress and entertain a receptive audience, no doubt about it. By the same token, I'm sure some of the not so receptive hated his guts, because he was always railing against rednecks, the white middle class and rich people, the government, the CIA, the US military, etc, etc...
That man just loved taking on major opposition. He lived to fight with people about stuff. ;-) Al is entirely correct that he had a paranoid worldview. More about that later.
Anyway, I was impressed. Hell, yeah! He was saying everything I had dreamed of. So I went out and stayed at the camp for nine months. There I met a lot of people who became among my dearest friends for some years. Yeah, they were almost all white hippies (or "freaks", as we called ourselves at the time), although there were a few NA's too (I'm SICK of typing out "Native American", so it's NA from here on).
I always wondered if RT was really NA at all, because he looked white to me. He claimed to be Cherokee. Well, his wife was clearly NA. Her name was Spotted Faun, and she had pretty typical Shoshone features. His son, Mala, had the same basic Shoshone features, as did RT's older son, Buffalo Horse. Mala was the camp leader. Another NA was the number 2 man and his name was...and I kid you not..."Running Bear"...and he was a hell of a nice guy, from California, I think. We called him "RB" normally. Then there were a lot of white kids, a couple of blacks, some mixed-blood people, but Al Carrol is basically right when he says that RT worked mainly with white hippy types. Not exclusively, but mainly.
Now...a word or two on the movie, Billy Jack. I saw it in '71. It made a huge impression on me. It was the perfect time for that movie, because the counterculture kids were in exactly the right mood for it at the time. This explains its huge success. There was tremendous anger and cynicism about the Vietnam War, the US government, the straight society, the rednecks...a tremendous sense of all us young people being brothers and sisters together in a struggle against massive oppression by the government and the right wing forces in America. So the movie hit a nerve all right! I walked out of the theatre afterwards feeling like I was on fire. Never was a movie more perfectly timed to suit its youthful audience.
In retrospect, many years later, I'd have to say that it's an embarrassing film in a number of respects. The extremely sanctimonious, martyr-like, whiny attitude of the kids at the Freedom School can curdle your gut now, watching it. But we just didn't see ourselves like that at the time. We believed in our cause 100%.
Many of the ideals that Laughlin espoused, I still support, but I do not see the world in such blatantly black and white dichotomies of good and evil as I did in my early 20's. It's not that simple. And I do not see us "freaks" through the rosy glasses of idealism as back then. We were far too sure of our own moral superiority, let me tell you! I mean, what ARROGANCE! What presumption! My God, it's amazing what you can be like when you're young, passionate, and you think you know everything. We thought we were going to save the world somehow, and we thought that all those who opposed us were totally, iredeemably evil and stupid. It must be something to be that innocent.
Well, RT hung out a lot with Tom Laughlin in the early 70's, so I heard, and helped with the movies. He can be seen in a couple of short scenes here and there, specially in The Trial of Billy Jack, which is in my opinion a terribly badly scripted film...I mean, like a 1.5 out of 10! Buffalo Horse also appears in one of those scenes, yelling about blowing people up or shooting them or something (a perfect scene for him to do...he was a very aggressive, macho character in real life).
Tom Laughlin had donated a medium sized truck to the camp, with his famous funky hat logo on the doors. It was called the "Billy Jack" truck, and is no doubt in the junkyard by now, but at the time it was one of our best vehicles.
Life at the camp was wonderful in '77 because the shared idealism there was phenomenal. It was almost the only place I've ever lived where everyone was united in mind and purpose, where you could trust everyone to tell the truth...it was true brotherhood. You had to be there to know it. Better than that danged Freedom School in the movie, lemme tell you! ;-)
I was there for 9 months and it utterly changed my life. I have to thank RT for making that possible. I don't even care if he was a "fake", he did something remarkable there.
Went back in '78 and again in 1980, but by 1980 a lot of the people first there had come and gone, and new people came in, and the spirit of the place was souring in a way that was hard to pin down. To make a long story short, it broke my heart how the place had gone down. I believe some people's egos simply got way out of hand. They got very competitive in trying to outdo each other or something as "super-Medicine Way Indians" or "Thunder People" or whatever the hell you would call it...and they got awfully arrogant toward newcomers and outsiders and anyone who wasn't in the in-group (which was a handful of people). There wasn't the good-humoured openness and heart that had been there before. My God, it was sad. I suffered in it for about 6 months, couldn't take it anymore, and left. I think the camp shut down a couple of years after that and everyone scattered in all directions. Some people settled nearby, like in Elko (Smokestack Steve, for one). Others went here there and everywhere.
I visited RT again in '87, just passing through, stayed about a week at his house. He wasn't well, and I doubt that he lived much longer after that. I am not aware as to when he passed away.
RT was an unusual man. He was a consummate showman. If he was playing phony "medicine man" (and perhaps so) then he did it with real style. He affected a lot of people profoundly. So did the Billy Jack movie.
The really weird thing is this: Take all the reviews written above about Billy Jack. ALL of them. Take the reviews of people who love the movie. Take the reviews of people who downright hate it.
Just about EVERYTHING they all say is true. The good stuff and the bad stuff is true. That's what's amazing about people, they all perceive their own part of the Truth...the sad thing is how little tolerance they have for anyone else's part, if it doesn't match their own.
It was the perfect movie for 1971. If you want to know what the psychology of the long-haired freaks was, right at that tiny moment in history...it's in that movie.
We were inspired. We were self-indulgent fools. We were full of youthful idealism. We were self-important and pompous and inexperienced. We were dead serious about it. We demanded respect of straight society, but detested it in return. We were intense in our love for the counterculture and our hatred for the System. We were laughably naive. We were soft-hearted and hopeful. We were full of love. We were arrogant as hell. We were every good and bad thing you can imagine.
It's all true, people. All of it. But if you deny 95% of a truth for only the 5% you personally like and feel comfortable with...what good will that do after all this time has passed?
Reply #71. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Peter Hassall
Yes, Billy Jack is dated and preachy and slow...but...it has some classic dialogue quotes and that amazing fight scene in the park. The leadup to the fight is brilliant ("I'm going to take this foot and kick you on that side of your face...").
Master Bong Soo Han doubles him for the tricky kicks in the park fight (including the amazing kick to the face at the start - camera angle cuts to looking down from overhead). Full contact kicks to heads and bodies!
He doesn't use Judo or Karate. It is Hapkido.
BTW there is an amazing fight with Bong Soo Han and Tom vs. several axe wielding opponents in The Trial of Billy Jack.
Reply #72. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Rob
In "I Hated Tonto (I Still Do)," Alexie says that Indians worshipped Billy Jack, even though Laughlin is white. I see some of you disagree. Is Alexie wrong, then? Can anyone tell me if there were any protests against or critiques of the film by ndns?
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