|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 #73. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Margaret Lind
This movie was filmed in my town!
I've lived here my whole life. It's really very neat to see how it was in the 70s.
Reply #74. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Sally
I loved Billy Jack. Jean was beautiful. I always wanted to make a beaded band for a hat that was just like Billy Jack's, but I was never able to find a clear enough picture of it to do that. Anyone know where I can find one?
What ever happened to Billy Jack's original hat? Do you think Tom still has it?
To the person asking about it - the original One Tin Soldier was recorded by "The Original Caste" several years before Coven recorded it for the movie.
Reply #75. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by George Bush
Billy Jack rules!
To bad he voted for Clinton. I bet he smokes cigars too.
If he wore shoes wouldn't he have been more affective?
Reply #76. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:03 PM by Bad Memories
This movie also played in Dayton Ohio (a liberal mecca) for over a year. At the time, liberals were committing suicide, running of to Canada, burning flags, and hating Dick Nixon 24/7 for covering up a 2-bit political crime that he had no knowledge of at the time it happened. Lots of angst for hippies back in them thar days.
And as with all things liberal, reality is often replaced with fantasy (most often provided by Hollywood and TV (Primary Colors, The West Wing, etc.) where the villains are all older rich white guys (probably republicans) and the heroes are caring, nurturing (and often troubled) liberals.
Enter Billy Jack. Just how much boring, agonizing, inane peace/love/nuture/defiance/hate/revenge/anti-establishment drivel can be jam packed into a 2-hour cinema experience?
Watch the movie and find out.
Reply #77. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Mark
A couple of people mentioned a MAD magazine parody, but as well as this a send up titled 'Billy Jerk Goes To Oz' appeared in the 1980 movie 'Loose Shoes' directed by Ira Miller.
The premise is that Billy Jerk is bitten by a snake and transported to OZ where he teams up with a Munchkin and the Scarecrow.
Reply #78. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Big Daddy
I agree with the long post that suggested that BOTH points of view are correct.
I was a liberal teen when the movie came out. Basically a pre-teen. But it had a big impact on me from the standpoint that everyone I knew thought it was cool and thus it gave me some good insight on what 'cool' was.
Now ANYTHING that's cool in 1071 is NOT gonna be cool even 2 years later, much less a generation ago (except in either a campy or retro way) so, OF COURSE the movie is dated.
But, if you can extend yourself a little bit and see the context of the film...if you can understand the rigidity of the times that those teens were rebelling against...it might help you to understand it better.
Plus Billy Jack is a GREAT character... flat out.
If you remember the flour scene in the ice cream shop and can recall how you felt when Billy Jack rode up in his motorcycle after the children were doused, you can appreciate how perfectly Billy Jack creates a scene for his hero to ride in as the avenging hero.
It's drama 101 worked to perfection.
I'm much more conservative now but, in today's day and age, you have to learn how to filter out the liberal noise in most entertainment in order to appreciate it. See The Colbert Report for details. lol!
So, I still like Billy Jack. Even has a born again believer and Ann Coulter Republican. And not just for nostaligic reasons either. The Billy Jack character REALLY is an all time classic archetype.
My choice for the most under rated piece dialogue in this film comes from 'Drive the Corvette into the Water' scene. It's where Billy Jack says:
"C'mon Bernard...You get to choose."
Reply #79. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Linda
Well it may have been violent and maybe he wasn't indian, but living near a small reservation, it was the first time they ever saw indians potrayed in a popular light. Back then being an indian was the same as a dirt word, and he gave them confidence so i wouldn't be so quick to damn the movie. It really started a revolution here in the Upper Penisula where they could be proud of who they were.
Reply #80. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by TJ Swanson
Howdy Everyone, after reading many of the comments I find myself in the minority. I love the movie Billy Jack. I do agree that it runs long on hippies singing and improv theater but I love the way Billy is so calm even in the midst of kicking butt. I also like his philosophy, mostly. When I was a kid Billy Jack was a hero, of course, I was raised on Fort Belknap Indian reservation in Montana so maybe that has something to do with it. I do agree that Billy doesn't look like a half-blood but he does look like a quarter which, on most reservations is as good as a full-blood. Take care all. TJ Swanson (cousin to the mosquito).
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