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- The Begining of the Billy Jack ERA
There's no other way to describe this movie other then the word classic. Tom Laughlin stars in the role that reeled of four straight movies as Billy Jack. Delores Taylor plays the role of Jean Roberts, and Clark Howat plays the role of Sheriff Cole. Billy Jack is a half-breed Indian that leaves by his own code as well as Indian code. Jean Roberts runs a school on Indian Reservation land for trouble teenagers that come to the school to learn how to express themselves. Every time the students go to town people try to make their lives a leaving hell. That's when Billy Jack gets involved and things get out of hand when Jean is ***** by one of the towns upper class sons who can do no wrong. This movie will keep you on the edge of your seat from the start to finish. One thing though if you watch this movie then you'll end up watching the other 3 just to see how this ends.
- A Very Dated, Very Guilty Pleasure
One of my favorite Twin Cities pundits has said that the 1970s "began with Billy Jack and ended with the first Sex Pistols album." Having just viewed this movie for the first time in over thirty years, I can see why "Billy Jack" got its fifteen minutes (or less) of iconography. It has everything an early-70s cultural extravaganza could hope for: an epic struggle between good (peace-lovin,' folk-tune warblin' hippie youth) and thoroughly despicable evil (raping a skinny-dipping schoolmarm??! Shooting beautiful wild mustangs for... DOG FOOD??!!), and best of all, slow-mo martial arts (which would later be copped for the classic 70s TV show, "Kung Fu"). I loved it as a twelve year old, and still enjoyed it last night--and not *entirely* for campy, ironic reasons.
What still holds up thirty-plus years later is the Southwest scenery, some of the real Native American actors featured (although Billy Jack himself looks about as Indian as my Uncle Ole), and the organic feel of some of the scenes: I'd bet that many town council meetings of the era looked and felt about like the culture-clash depicted in the film. Although some of the more free-form scenes tended to drag, one could argue that they were accurate real-time depictions of the era.
The "70s moments" that had me alternatively chuckling and shaking my head were almost too numerous to mention, but included: the earnest, off-key folk singing (and equally earnest, but ear-bleedingly shrill, theme song); the untalented attempts at improv and street theater; Bernard's fancy new "$6,000 car"; the aforementioned schoolmarm's funky sideburns. But most of all, Billy Jack (aka Tom Laughlin) himself is a real doozy: so steadfast, so conflicted and tormented, so seriously spouting pseudo-spiritual babble while getting ready to kung-fu the crap out of someone. He is so obsessive and near-psychotic in his Great Protector role that its surprising that they let him hang around all those gentle hippies, in lieu of having him committed: it's a bit like having Travis Bickle (another 70s troubled loner) in charge of security. When Billy Jack finally takes that bullet, nearly goes down in the big shootout (there's even a character named "O.K. Corrales," for Pete's sake) and surrenders himself to the authorities in the wake of the raised fists of his young charges, one thinks: *finally*, Billy can get the help he needs.
Alas, the Tom Laughlin franchise was short-lived, with two truly wretched movies to follow before petering out altogether. Given the opportunity, he's probably champing at the bit to give us "Billy Jack Returns Yet Again" or some such thing. However, I'm happy to settle for this flawed, deeply silly yet highly entertaining timepiece and haul it out from the archives whenever I want to revisit my twelve-year old self....more info
- Violence is Bad Until I Have to Hit You
I really have mixed emotions about Billy Jack. Some scenes were quite good - while others had me laughing out loud at how inane they were. Whether you like or hate this movie will depend on how well you can deal with the silly moments.
Tom McLaughlin stars as mixed-race Billy Jack, a man who is very much like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. He's very skilled at violence, but wants to find the peaceful solution. Even many of the ways he moves and talks are quite similar to Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You have to wonder if Viggo saw and admired these films when they came out.
It's not that Billy wants to kick butt - but those darn townsfolk are just so nasty! They're killing off the horses, illegally, for profit. They're trouncing on the local school which tries to let kids be kids. The townsfolk are deliberately nasty to anybody who is different. Billy tries to reason with them - but when reason fails, out come the fists.
The school marm loves Billy, even while she tries to hold in his more violent tendencies. Even when she is raped, she could easily set Billy off for revenge - but chooses not to. The emotional mix in this situation was very much like in the Sopranos when Tony's therapist is in the same situation. She knows she has a viscious animal at her beck and call ... and deliberately makes the difficult choice to "do the right thing".
I don't mind that there are open ironies here - that the peace lovers turn to violence when it's convenient, just like everybody else does. What does get to me are some of the more "meandering bashing" segments, which appeared to be ad libbed for long stretches. The town hall meeting scene sticks in my mind. The townies are giving the kids a chance to be heard - and what do they do? They yell, they scream and are disrespectful. I like to think of myself as someone who always fights for the underdog, and it made me embarassed, actually, to think that I could have been in that room with them, pleading my point for them to be treated fairly while they were acting like spoiled three year olds.
I certainly agree with the theme, and with the idea that the townsfolk were very much in the wrong. However, this wasn't the 1690s. Many avenues existed in the early 70s to resolve this situation. It didn't need to come down to a standoff right out of the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird. If dad is slugging his pregnant daughter, even in the "ancient days of the 70s", I'm sure there was a way to handle that.
As a side note, it was rather funny in modern times to hear the kid lamenting about the "$6,000" he paid for his 1971 Corvette :)
Not very much about Indian ways at all, despite their snake ceremony. With Billy Jack being half native, I really would have loved to have much more said about his culture and background. Instead, he was more a typical Western Guy, taciturn until provoked. ...more info
- Preachy Hypocritical New Age Nonsense Pretending 2 be Indian
Now I remember why so many of my parents friends protested against this movie when it came out. They were proud of the role they played in making sure the second Bill Jack movie bombed. Most Indians then and now can't stand this racist movie.
1)It's insulting in the way it recasts Indians to fit new and Age and hippie fantasies of what they WISH we were like.
2)It's downright ignorant in its view of Indian religions. Worse yet, you have a preachy blond white woman pretending to teach an Indian character his own religion. (Actually, what they show as Indian religion is Southern Holy Roller Snake Charming-yes, it really is THAT ridiculous.)
3)Yes, believe it or not, they have a WHITE guy playing an Indian. Tom Laughlin thinks all he ahs to do to "pass" as Indian is squint and wear a feather in his cap. Sorry Tom, didn't work for yankee doodle, won't work for you. White guys playing Indians on film IS racism. The whole let's-love-everyone bit comes off as phony and hypocritical.
4)And let's not forget this movie was based on the (alleged) life of a New Age leader who impersonated being an Indian medicine man. John "Rolling Thunder" Pope's lies were as ridiculous in this film as anywhere else.
Like another reviewer said, I'm just sorry this rating system won't let me give it ZERO stars.
One of the WORST movies allegedly about Indians ever made!...more info
- A "hippie" western
There are a lot of people who consider the late 1960s and early 1970s to be a great era in movie making, with such ground-breaking films as Bonnie and Clyde, the Godfather and Easy Rider leading the way. Billy Jack is proof that even during this era there were still lousy movies being made.
Esssentially, a counter-culture modern day western, the movie deals with the title character, a stoic war veteran who is half-Indian and lives a solitary life on a reservation, occasionally appearing to help the people of the Freedom School, an alternative sort of campus run by a teacher who Billy secretly loves. The local townspeople, led by the corrupt man who owns most of the town, are generally intolerant and fearful of these strange students, occasionally resorting to violence, at which time Billy Jack intervenes.
Even taking into consideration that this film is extremely dated, it has little to recommend it. The acting and writing are poor, the villains are one-dimensional (the remaining characters are hardly less so) and the fight scenes are infrequent and not all that exciting. There are long, boring scenes glorifying either the hippie or Indian lifestyle, which are not only tedious, but smugly self-righteous.
There are a couple minor good features in the film. The sheriff is the only character who is not a pure stereotype, so he is mildly interesting. Also, Howard Hesseman, uncredited in an early role does a decent enough job; it is little surprise that he's the only person to emerge from this film with any sort of successful acting career. I have a lot of praise for the ending, too: while it is ludicrous that the climatic scene would turn out the way it does, I still liked the ending, merely because it meant that this awful movie was over and I could go on to better things in my life....more info
- Not as naive a movie as you might think
This film captures the ideals of racial equality of the late 60s tempered by the realities of living in America in a waning civil-rights era of the early 70s.
Billy Jack returns to the reservation after a tour in Vietnam to find tension between the students of the Native "Freedom School" and the local townspeople. Some townspeople are motivated by fear and distrust, others buy old-fashioned racism. Billy Jack defends the students of the Freedom school, violently if need be.
The hippie, anti-racism/fascism message is not subtle. However, the answer to the world's problems does not lie in the simple "love one another" mantra of the the peace movement. Billy Jack gets respect and some degree of safety for the students at the Freedom school only by kicking the racist antagonists in the face.
At the same time, taken too far, a confrontational approach doesn't make it all better..even if you have the moral authority. Billy Jack finds this out as he is surrounded by the authorities, wounded and bleeding to death in a shack. It takes courage to fight back, and it takes just as much to realize that black and white responses to life's challenges do not amount to functional solutions to those problems.
As stated in some reviews of this movie, some of the acting and music leave much to be desired. However, we know that in real life people don't act as emotionally convincing as actors portray them, and the bad hippie songs actually make the movie believable. The improv-theatre scenes are a bit corny, but honest and quite amusing. A few are excellent, actually.
The movie is honest about violence, race, and sexuality. I think it would be viewed as politically incorrect today, in spite of its hippie message.
The opening scene where wild mustangs are coralled against the visual backdrop of a Southwest canyon and the musical background of Coven's anti-war anthem is quite moving. A very beautiful movie, and one of my favorite movies of all time....more info
- Five star movie and a five star DVD!!!
This great DVD of the classic film Billy Jack is a real treat!!! The full-frame transfer of the film is top notch!!! A great DVD for the price!!! A seventies classic!!! Two thumbs up!!! 5 stars!!! A+...more info
- The sum of the 60's for some?And A Confused Time Capsule!
I saw this movie 30 years ago in the movies on the big screen, before multi-plex theatres. It seemed larger than life and obviously righteous. Now, as a mature man, I question the whole idea of a "Billy Jack" as a hero, anti-hero or anything. He seems self-destructive in retrospect to the point that the events of the movie could never have happened in the first place. Having said that, while I enjoyed the movie from an entertainment standpoint, I knew the movie suffered from many structural flaws, not the least of which was the lack of an ominous villian. No Darth Vador or Liberty Valence here. Instead, a father and son who illegally shoot horses in the Indian Reservation that Billy Jack policed, for dog food [.06 lb]and an abusive father who happens to be a Deputy Sheriff [Kenneth Toby]who is a minion of Mr. Horsemeat, with a pregnant 15 year old daughter that Billy Jack has given refuge to will have to surfice. Just think of how many action features fail because of a weak villain lacking in pathos. Anyone recall the "Return of the Seven"? Lorca was the villain and who cares?
I did say I liked this movie and I did and I still do, but while I applauded the characters for their principles and the courage of their convictions 30 years ago, today I see it as a confused but entertaining time capsule that summed up the 1960s in its own way. Today I enjoy the movie more for its spectacle value than its ideology, but I do recall that I believed in some of what I saw when it was first released though what exactly that might be would be a guess at this point. It was fun telling my wife who is 15 years my Junior that,"before their was Dirty Harry or Steven Seagal there was "Billy Jack" to which she just nodded with the same confused look I must have felt when I watched the film again after 30 years. I was wondering now if 6 cents a pound was enough money to be an incentive to hunt, catch and process wild stallions into dog food? Rated PG, I was surprised that frontal nudity and a couple of other graphic scenes were included but it is still 3 STARS, certainly worth watching, but once should do it for most....more info
- BILLY JACK WAS AN EARLY AND EFFECTIVE IF CONFUSED HEROIC ANTI-HERO
BILLY JACK WAS AN EARLY AND EFFECTIVE IF CONFUSED HEROIC ANTI-HERO
I saw this movie 35 years ago in the movies on the big screen, before multi-plex theatres. It seemed larger than life and obviously righteous. Now, as a mature man, I question the whole idea of a "Billy Jack" as a hero, anti-hero or anything. He seems self-destructive in retrospect to the point that the events of the movie could never have happened in the first place. Having said that, while I enjoyed the movie from an entertainment standpoint, I knew the movie suffered from many structural flaws, not the least of which was the lack of an ominous villian. No Darth Vador or Liberty Valence here. Instead, a father and son who illegally shoot horses in the Indian Reservation that Billy Jack policed, for dog food [.06 lb]and an abusive father who happens to be a Deputy Sheriff [Kenneth Toby]who is a minion of Mr. Horsemeat, with a pregnant 15 year old daughter that Billy Jack has given refuge to will have to surfice. Just think of how many action features fail because of a weak villain lacking in pathos. Anyone recall the "Return of the Seven"? Lorca was the villain and who cares?
I did say I liked this movie and I did and I still do, but while I applauded the characters for their principles and the courage of their convictions 30 years ago, today I see it as a confused but entertaining time capsule that summed up the 1960s in its own way. Today I enjoy the movie more for its spectacle value than its ideology, but I do recall that I believed in some of what I saw when it was first released though what exactly that might be would be a guess at this point. It was fun telling my wife who is 15 years my Junior that,"before their was Dirty Harry or Steven Seagal there was "Billy Jack" to which she just nodded with the same confused look I must have felt when I watched the film again after 30 years. I was wondering now if 6 cents a pound was enough money to be an incentive to hunt, catch and process wild stallions into dog food?
Rated PG, I was surprised that frontal nudity and a couple of other graphic scenes were included but it is still 4 STARS, certainly worth watching, but one viewing should do it for most people - more if the times, places, and ideas are especially close to home.
I get upset with all the negative comments I read regarding the violence/karate scenes 'Billy Jack' causes(there are only 2 karate scenes in each, '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. Ignorant people and ignorant federal, state and local government caused any other violence portrayed in these films!
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! 'Billy Jack' is the biggest selling independent film and on the list of the biggest selling top 20 films ever! Back in the 70's these movies literally enlightened and changed my life! And after watching them all over again in 2006 (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.
While I'm no expert on the workings and goings on of Hollywood, CA nor Washington D.C., I have no doubt that Tom Laughlin (and his wife Delores Taylor) 'hit the nail on the head' when they created these films. Writing, producing, directing and staring in them too, no small feat!
Yes......you should view (all) the 'Billy Jack' movies!!!! (Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack and Billy Jack Goes to Washington).
- Billy Jack still kicks *ss 35 years later
The DVD of Billy Jack played great and was pretty much as I remembered it to be. It also brought back alot memories from my high school years and is interesting to see how things were in the 1970s, definately more simple times. It's far from the greatest movie ever made, but is a nice nostalgic walk in the past. The town square fight scene is worth the price of admission alone....more info
- Don't ever dance with a snake.
The first film to introduce "Billy Jack" was BORN LOSERS (1967).
Tom Laughlin returns as "Billy Jack" in this second film.
Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) is a man who rides a horse and lives on the Indian reservation. He tries to keep the peace on the Indian land especially when the white people trespass and have no-good in mind. Mike wants to kill the horses for a dog food company. Along comes Billy Jack to stop him.
Harry runs a cafe, but when the Indian kids come in wanting an ice cream treat, Harry won't let them. This white soda fountain jerk doesn't like to serve Indians. Furthermore, Bernard (David Roya) and Dinosaur (John McClure) come into the cafe to harass the Indian students. Here comes Billy Jack to try and keep the peace, but outside it ends up being a karate match. Deputy Mike's daughter, Barbara(Julie Webb), runs away from home and when Billy Jack finds her, Barbara has been beaten and claims she is pregnant. Billy takes her to Jean's (Delores Taylor) school for young girls on the Indian reservation. Of course it is illegal for Jean to be "hiding" Barbara there along with the other girls, so the town council must get invovled to create a measure.
Billy Jack deeply believes in the Indian ways, but when some of the bad white guys find out Barbara has been with an Indian man, it sure does ruffle a few feathers.
This film became popular by word-of-mouth when it was released in 1971.
Best scene in the movie: An Indian student explains to "Barbara" (Julie Webb) why he will not have sex with her. She has always been in "anybodies". An "anybodies" is someone who puts out so she can get dates... He wants her to experience the fact he don't love her because she will give him some sex. He loves her for herself and who she is. She is a soft and beautiful person and he loves her in that way. He continues to work and does not have sex with her.
Also in the cast: Clark Howat, Richard Stahl, Howard Hesseman.
THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK (1974).
BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON (1977).
It is hard to believe that Indians were a victim of discrimination and humiliation because of some prejudice white men. 37 years later, unfortunatly some prejudice still exists against Indians.
Update: Tom Laughlin was in remission of cancer of the tongue. He is currently suffering from Coeliec disease, an auto-immune disorder. ...more info
- Great Condition!!!
"Billy Jack" inspired my husband to take martial arts back in the 70's (he's a 6th degree black belt), so I really wanted to give him this movie for Christmas. He had not seen the movie since the 1970's! It is now out of print and I couldn't find it anyway until I came here. When I received it, the movie was in great condition, the packaging looked new, and it was his favorite present. We watched it together on Christmas day (my first time seeing it) and it's a pretty good movie!...more info
- Campy But Not Worth Contempt
That any one would feel "pity" for someone who bought the movie for themselves or "contempt" for someone who bought it as a gift seems an "overipe" response. It's a movie. It's an outdated 70's flick that was hugely popular at the time and despite its antiquated sentiments, advocates some simple values that, even in a cheaply made and corny film, are not to be despised. Ideals presented like pacifism, Native American spiritualism and pride, freedom of expression, and animal activism stand in preachy contrast to depictions of racism, bigotry, and violence. But just because they're presented in goofy hippy slang and beads or in a cheaply made film, doesn't mean such ideals and condemnations are not worth advocating. The conflict between Billy Jack's violence and Jean's pacifism goes a lot deeper than just demonstrating Loughlin's martial arts skill. I think the film's also an amusing peak back into an era. IT's not for nothing the film was popular. I think a lot of young people during that period believed in the ideals the film pushes. My students view it and get a huge kick over the preachy messages, corny songs, "don't hassle me man" slang, not to mention the obvious and crudely [done] fight scenes. All in all, certainly not a film to be offended by, and certainly not a film to get worked-up over. Those who take offense to its depicition of violence are most likely still living in 1971....more info
- Exploiting the Culture War
This film opens with a police car driving out of town. Sheriff Cole gets a message from the most powerful man in town. Riders are rounding up wild mustangs to harvest for dog food. [Mustangs eat the scarce fodder needed by cattle.] Mr. Posner wants his son to fire the first shot, but he refuses. [This is done for effect, Bernard's true character is shown later.] Billy Jack rides up to order them off the Indian Reservation. The wild horses are released to freedom. [Symbolism?] A Deputy Sheriff has a runaway daughter who is returned from Haight-Ashbury with an abscessed tooth, hepatitis, and pregnancy. [Lack of a mother's care?] The "school" at the Reservation is different, there are three rules. [Do the inmates run this asylum?] Are they getting the education and experience to prepare them for their future in Civilization? What will happen to them in twenty years?
Are there too many stereotyped or cartoon characters? Bernard Posner says hello but is rebuffed. There is a needless conflict in the ice cream parlor. Billy Jack really tries to stay calm. There is a confrontation in the town square. The Sheriff breaks it up. There is a search for the missing runaway Barbara. "Those damned kids won't listen." [Their education from television?] The town council wants to ban the students from the reservation from coming into town. [A loss of business?] An eleven-year old girl reads a speech: who said that? [Who put that idea into her mind?] Is this another conflict between generations or cultures? [Does this scene run on too long?] The town people visit the school to watch their skits. Are they still funny? Tedious? Do Stone-Age customs have any relevance to the Atomic Age? Its just acts for entertainment, speeches that sound pretentious.
Back in town some seem to walk into a trap. [Note the familiarity with guns.] Does the story go downhill from here? Is that play-acting credible? Or just padding to fill out the film? Billy Jack shows up to rescue a maiden from the danger she put herself into. [After the opening scene, why would he reward his son?] "I really wish you would." Did that new car need a wash? Will Bernard and his buddy commit a felony? [Another deliberately shocking scene?] One student is kidnapped as a hostage. Will he escape? An ambulance is summoned.
The Sheriff has search warrants to find runaway Barbara. Mike shoots at Billy Jack, who returns one shot. [More shocking scenes?] There is a final stand-off with dramatic shooting. [Like some old western film.] Can Billy Jack get a fair trial because the whole world is watching? "That's a bunch of crap!" A deal is made so Billy Jack surrenders. [The movie wouldn't work without this.] What happens next?
The "National Student Film Corporation" is listed as the producer. Who exactly is that? What happened to the actors later? The dramatic scenes that shocked the audience resulted in its success. The political issues are shown as facts that are not resolved. Will the townspeople still dislike the students? [Yes, but things will change with time.] While still dramatic, this film seems quite dated today.
- 5 stars back in '71; now...well...
Poor Bernard. Yes, he had the baZERK coming to him in the ice cream parlor. But Billy and Jean should have tried to reach out to him afterwards and get him into the freedom school for "outcasts" since his father was so mean to him. After all, he didn't really want to shoot the horsies. But the plot writer never gave the poor guy a chance to turn good.
By the way, you youngsters, that fight scene in the park was one of the BEST karate scenes filmed to date at that time!!!
I rented this movie recently and am embarrassed at the fact that it was 1 of my 2 all-time favorites for so many years. It's completely silly to me now. But I'm giving it 5 stars for old time's sake and to remind me of how goofy I used to be for loving it....more info
- simply awful
Sometimes a movie is so bad that it's unintentionally funny. However, that doesn't seem to work with "Billy Jack" because so many people seem take it seriously. I know. I saw it when it came out and I remember many people I knew who thought it was a fantastic movie. I have forgiven them and have moved on with my life. Still, the movie comes to mind from time to time as an example of leftist hypocrisy.
The main problem I have with the movie is its' stereo-typic generalities. I realize that this could be a condemnation of 95% of movies ever made but, in this particular case, I figured that the creators would rise above it. Yet here we have a rural Southwestern town of moderate size with all the "bad guys" of the 60's and early 70's. We have the rich man who runs everything, the law enforcement officer who seems to take more orders from the rich man than from his own superior, the redneck rowdies who attack hippies on signal, the spoiled rich kid who could have been "real" but failed to take the right turn, the yes men who all kiss up to the rich man, etc. etc. etc. Then we have the good guys at the "school". This motley crew of misfits is really too much to believe. They are "students" at this school where the only thing that seems to be taught is creativity. Creativity is nice but not as a sole source of learning. Anyhow these hippies seem to always get beat up, harassed or humiliated whenever they go into town. That's where Billy Jack comes in. The kids never stand up for themselves and, frankly, the way the characters are laid out, they'd probably only get beaten up worse if they did. But Billy Jack, a "half-breed" former Viet Nam veteran generally comes to the rescue and kicks some major butt. He's sweet on the "school" director and she is sweet on him. Lots of things happen during the movie. They are designed to make us hate the "establishment" and love the hippies. For example, the movie opens with the bad rich rancher and his followers rounding up wild horses into a corral. They all are ready to shoot these penned-in animals until Billy Jack makes his first appearance and faces down all of these armed men. The horses are freed and the rednecks are mad and it just gets worse from that point on. The rich man's son rapes the "school" director (I hope I'm not giving too much away here) and the force of good (Billy Jack) meets the forces of evil (just about everybody else not associated with the school). Guess who wins.
The main objection that I have with this movie is that is disguises violence in a pacifist coating. The same people who would ridicule John Wayne movies as pointless violence seemed to regale the karate beatings delivered by Billy Jack. He was fighting FOR us so whatever he did was OK. I heard plenty of that from my fellow college students at the time the movie came out. The stereo-typing of really bad versus really innocent bothered me as well. We have few people who fit into any sort of middle ground. There's the Sherrif and a few townspeople and that's about it. The "students" seem to be orphans who were abused by society or their own families and have found a haven (read heaven) at this "school". This whole "school" concept is a make-believe extremity of some of the farther-out thought processes at work in those days. Viewed today, I assume that the concept becomes more laughable than it was 30 years ago. Finally, it seems that the whole concept was a self-created "star vehicle" for the creators of the movie. That's not the only time such things have happened (try watching "Good Will Hunting"). However, the whole scope of the work of Tom Mclaughlin and his wife seem to all center around this one character. I've never seen any of his other movies. I don't have to; the titles tell me what I already suspected. If I were to have to come up with one good thing to say about the movie (and if I were a student at the "school", I'm sure that could be my assignment), it would be the very good work of a comedy troupe whose professional name escapes me. You'll recognize Howard Hessman as a part of that group in one of his earliest roles.
Well, thanks for listening. After all these years it feels good to get this off my chest....more info
- Dated and Pretentious, but Possessed of a Certain Charm
I remember seeing this film three times (in a 1,500-seat theater, the sort that barely exist anymore) when it was re-released around 1973. It fired my 14-year-old imagination, notwithstanding the fact that I was never of a particularly liberal bent, and thus I couldn't resist buying the DVD recently when I found it ... It's an especially clunky piece of filmmaking, even by early-70s exploitation-film standards. Much as Francis Ford Coppola did with his daughter in The Godfather Part III, Tom Laughlin used this film as an excuse to get his wife and daughter on the big screen, and the production suffers mightily for it. I also have to laugh at the quaint notion of having a "school" for troubled young people, in which nary an academic subject is broached, but all are encouraged to "create" something, as if that were going to fit them for doing something useful with their adult lives.
However, the film retains just enough of an edge to remind me of the naively idealistic teenager I once was. Billy Jack was as much a superhero to my generation as were Superman and Batman, wiping out hordes of evil rednecks with a single roundhouse kick. The movie hasn't aged gracefully, but the feelings it evoked in me have mellowed nicely in my memory....more info
- It's about THE HAT!!!
Violence is golden in this, the first and best of the Billy Jack films. However, you can't dismiss this as empty-headed blood and guts,although the action is superb. If you watch all 3 movies you can see the evolution of the character Billy Jack from a guy who solves his problems with his fists to a man who uses his intellect and wisdom to overcome obstacles. Also, if your in support of Indie film makers then you should see all of Laughlin's work. The film also introduced Hapkido to America, a martial art that combines elements of Akido and Tae kwon do.The fight scenes are GREAT, some of the best ever. The hippie kids are a scream and Howard Hessman is pretty funny. The troupe he works with was a pretty infamous underground comedy group back in the 70's. But above all, it's about The HAT!!!!!!!!...more info
- A hero for the 1970s generation
I don't know what it is about the 1971 hippie/action film "Billy Jack" that creates such overwhelming division of feverish opinion. One either hates it or loves it, but rarely does the opinion rest between. I remember seeing this film as a child during its infamous re-release in 1973 and was a bit confused as to what the fuss was about. After repeated viewings over the years, I think I can now offer my take.
I think most importantly, Tom Laughlin makes an extraordinarily appealing action hero. Sure he poses and broods and delivers lines of pseudo shaman wisdom through gritted teeth, but not since Clint Eastwood in those spaghetti westerns has an action hero had so much presence on screen. I really like Laughlin's performance - the key as to why "Billy Jack" became one of the greatest independent successes in history. The irony is had Laughlin carved out an acting career over the years (he's only starred in about five films since "Billy Jack"), he could have been a better actor than Eastwood. His monlogue with real-life wife Delores Taylor when discussing America, the Kennedys, etc....is very, very good. It is an earnest performance wrought with presence and charisma.
I also applaud Delores Taylor for her heartbreaking performance. As the dean of the Freedom School of society castoffs located in some small town in the southwest (New Mexico?), she gives a strikingly profound portrayal. As an eventual victim of rape, her scene where she discusses the horrible violation is one of the finest moments dealing with such trauma in screen history. Yes, I know, several critics have pointed this out, but it is an unforgettable scene. It's a shame Taylor didn't continue to forge her craft, as she only starred in two films after "Billy Jack."
I think the villains are poorly realized, most specifically the son of local bigwig Posner (David Roya). He's bullied and humiliated by his father, and eventually takes his frustrations out on the students of the Freedom School as a way to gain approval. So for him to meet such a grotesque end is pure "B" movie justice. This character's demise leaves a bad taste. I am also uncomfortable with the prolonged humiliation of Taylor prior to her rape. In fact, many women are humiliated in this film in such a way that could only be termed exploitative. And one could go on about the low budget quality, the mediocre editing, the poor supporting performances.
People complain about the film's title song, Coven's "One Tin Soldier," which is played at the beginning and end of "Billy Jack." I happen to like this extremely vibrant tune, and think it had much to do with why "Billy Jack" struck such an emotional chord with audiences. I also think the action sequences, most famously the town square battle between Billy Jack and about 10-15 townspeople who seem to magically appear from behind trees, are well choregraphed and exciting.
Quite simply, "Billy Jack" is a modern-day, New Age variation on "Shane." You have a scarred warrior/gunfighter adorned in buckskins riding down from the hills to protect innocent townsfolk from corrupt businessmen/authorities. The final shootout, in both cases, has the warrior wounded and bleeding, only to ride off into the sunset after sacrificing himself for the sake of the townsfolk/school children. While in "Shane," Alan Ladd rides back up into the mountains with a child crying his name, in "Billy Jack," Tom Laughlin rides into the sunset, handcuffed in the back of a police car. The children line the road, fists held skywards in a silent salute.
It's a story as old as the hills, but for the flower power generation, "Billy Jack" was their Shane. He was a hippie hero for the masses, scarred by the Vietnam war, pissed at the world, wanting to deliver a very well-timed hapkido kick into the stomach of a corrupt system. Why wouldn't 1971 audiences flock to see this film? During times of frustration, we all like to imagine a hero like Billy Jack/Shane riding down out of the hills to protect us from the corrupt "they" of the world. It's a fantasy that exists in today in the form of indestructible superheroes like Batman and Wolverine.
They say producers have offered Tom Laughlin the bank to remake "Billy Jack." To date, he has refused. It's probably a wise decision. The film is such a product of its time, I just don't see how the story could work for today's audiences....more info
- Stick it to The Man!
Billy Jack is one of those movies that seems to have absolutely no middle ground with people, i.e., one either hates it or loves it. I fall into the latter category.
Although this film was shot on a shoestring budget and contains some of the worst acting (and singing) ever recorded on film, I love everything and I do mean *everything* about this movie! It will appeal to anyone who is: A) a major fan of the sixties; B) who still believes in the "peace and love" idealism of that time; C) those who love movies with scenes that are aimed directly at invoking your most basic emotions by way of manipulating you with cheap and shameless sentimentality.
Billy Jack panders to your sense of utter outrage at blatant hypocrisy and injustice, and invokes the hippie/flower child fear of living in a truly hostile environment infested with mindless townspeople and hateful rednecks.
Stick it to the man! Highly recommended!
Author of Labyrinth13...more info
- The way the world is
As someone who gets disenchanted with liberal self-righteousness and psychosis quite easily, I need a reminder every now and then of why I refuse to embrace the term "conservative" instead. This film serves that purpose for me.
As much as we may try to forget it, there really was a time when people of color were treated like [...] in this country and the wealthy had even more unrestrained power than they do now. This movie is a product of that time, and it gives its viewers a small taste of what the poor and minorities had to endure.
It also shows that sometimes the only way to change things is to give the bad guys a kick in the head or a piece of lead in the brain. Although Jean preaches non-violence and love throughout the movie, in the end it's Billy's Hell raising that calls attention to the Indian's plight and brings them some relief.
I'll be the first to say I feel no shame for being white, male and southern. I also have to admit that people who look like me did a lot of bad stuff to people who don't look like me, and that the scars from that will take time to fully heal.
BTW, for a modern, no BS look at race relations today, see the outstanding movie "Crash."
Oh yeah, I forgot, this is a movie review, so let me start reviewing. This film is good overall. Tom McLaughlin does a very convincing job of portraying Billy Jack, a former Green Beret and half-Indian who returns home to protect students at a very alternative school on an Indian reservation. His wife Delores plays Jean, the schools' extremely idealistic leader who embraces non-violence even when it gets her and her students beaten up. The pair do a grand job playing the non-violent response to oppression against the "just shoot the [...]" approach. In the end the message seems to be "no justice, no peace," a formula which is all too true, not only in the movie but also the real world.
I dinged it a point because it is choppy and somewhat amateurish at points, understandable given the low budget the producers had to work with. Nevertheless, for anyone seeking to understand the turbulent times of the 1960s and early 1970s this movie is highly recommended....more info
- One tin script rides away(with the boxoffice)
If like me you grew up in the 70's you KNEW who Billy Jack was and what he was about. If you didn't you must have been under a rock because Billy was everywhere. This isn't a great movie as much as it is a time-capsule of 60's and 70's ideas placed in what now is a simple action story.
Tom Laughlin stars,writes and directs this pagan to the "hippie" counter-culture of the time. The fact that the "heroes" in this movie are now annoying and not very sympathetic goes to show why the movement died out. Billy protects the "FREEDOM SCHOOL" from fat rednecks who want it gone. He talks about peace but if you disagree with him this Green Beret,half-breed Indian will beat you into the ground. Along for the ride are many bad folk songs and comedy skits that are jammed into this one with a shoe horn. I still enjoy this dinosaur of another era, but to be fair it hasn't aged very well. Still it is a lasting tribute to an era's believes and that makes it worth a look....more info
- Saw the DVD last night. Never saw the movie before.
My husband is 10 years older than I, and saw the movie in elementary school with his mom. I had never heard of Billy Jack or Tom Laughlin before. I appreciate all the comments here for breaking open and examining each piece of the film's method and message. The woman who wrote about the racist depiction of Native American activism and spirituality had a good point. The person who said, hey, people loved it for the action and not the message (hence the bombing of the second movie) also had a good point. Although I found Laughlin worth watching, my own fondness was more about the message of the school and its teacher. Sure, it was wrapped in some overly sappy lines and placed in a school of overwhelming (read "nauseating") peace and love. However, the core message of refusing to toss out "bad kids," creating opportunities for learning through tapping into one's previously undiscovered creative interests, standing up to those who abuse their power and authority, and reexamining and discarding the race-rules about who we are supposed to hang out with---well, those messages are still worth listening to today....more info
- I Just Go Berserk!!
Billy Jack is classic Drive-In Movie fare.
This is one of my favorite movies. And it's one of my favorite types of movies -- it's got the best of both worlds. It promotes a message of anti-violence while showing Billy kick ass left and right.
Here's another great example -- in one scene Billy catches a pervy villain (Bernard) in bed with a 13-year-old-girl. Billy rescues the girl from Bernard, but not before we get to see her naked.
Sure it's dated and alternately corny and pretentious, but it's still powerful and moving and extremely entertaining.
Today's audiences will recognize Billy Jack as an influence on the films of Steven Segal -- but it's also a model for movies like the Walking Tall films.
The sequels are nowhere near as fun as this movie -- Billy Jack is a treasure of American Culture (for its politics, its role in independent cinema and its amazing theme song by Coven.) ...more info
- Well-Intentioned but Corny (even then)
It's all been said by the reviewers who excoriate the film's pretentious hippie-ness, it's paternalistic treatment of Indians, and all the other stuff. As it is, it's more an interesting historical curiosity than timeless literature, for sure. I remember that time, though, as one of young ignorant but truth-seeking kids trying to create a new story to supplant the old one of "the only good Indian (Commie) is a dead Indian (Commie)." The result reminds me of Peter Fonda's stupid pretentiousness in "Easy Rider" when he says, gazing on the absurd hippies scrabbling around ineffectually in the dirt on their commune trying to grow food, that "yep, I think they're going to make it," or something like that. This film, too, makes everything so unbelievable that it fails to show anything that might be taken seriously as a criticism of American culture. But it tried...and that's what people then (and I guess now) responded to (like rightwingers, many lefties are also slaves to dogma, which devours humor and leaves...stupidity). The story needs some major reworking--for one thing the idea of some savior that comes to make things right is just a little old, don't you think? With major rethinking of the story, a little editing (which is awful) and cutting out some of the more stupid lines, it might have been a fair film. Remake anyone? (Joking!!!)...more info
- Worst Movie Ever!
To movie lovers everywhere, I apologize for giving Billy Jack one star -- zero stars was not an option on the review form. This cheaply made flick gets my vote for the all-time worst! A Native-American tribal cop, skilled in martial arts, goes around beating the crud out of people -- even killing. Why? Because he believes in peace! Supposedly, he's defending people against local bigots -- no problem there. But instead, he focuses on defending a liberal school's touchy-feely values. This goofball school makes the best argument yet against the voucher system. Why study math when we can all take mime lessons in order to express ourselves better? I believe in diversity, but here it's used more as a superficial plot device than in any meaningful way. (I use the word "plot" VERY loosely.) Eerily, one suspects that "schools" such as this thrive in places like Boulder and Sedona. The female lead -- Laughlin's homely, off-screen wife -- can't act and looks 20 years older than the star. OK, I know it shouldn't matter that she's ugly, but the point is that she and Laughlin are poorly matched on-screen. The moronic ending features Billy Jack being led away by the police between lines of zit-faced teenyboppers -- fists raised in the archaic "power" symbol -- while the over-ripe song "One Tin Soldier" plays in the background. Moral: 13-year-old girls are wiser than the rest of us, and violence is OK, as long as you support a liberal political and educational agenda. I have only pity for people who enjoy this movie and only contempt for those who give it as a gift. Peace, man....more info
- The Love Generation.. in all its Embarassing Splendor
I have been catching bits and pieces of this film on TV for years, always trying to discover its identity. Finally I was drawn in by the excellent cover of this DVD editon, and the mystery was solved.
Ok, even if you've outgrown the anarchist mumbo-jumbo, "Billy Jack" is undoubtedly a classic period film. You've got to admire its intrepid spirit. And furthermore, you've got to love the way it bombards you with cliches. It's made up entirely of 60's movie cliches. Maybe if you were to watch "Bonnie & Clyde," "Easy Rider" and "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" simultaneously, it would approximate the experience of "Billy Jack."
It's juvenile in its ideology and alot of the way it presents itself. But many scenes are surprisingly thought-provoking, especially when the actors are improvising. The scene where the school debates the city council is really intense, for example. Very true to life. Then the council members participate in one of the "psycho-dramas," obviously improvised. So this compounded with the actual conflict between the characters makes for an interesting dynamic. I think by letting the characters stretch out like this, they really captured some of the spirit of the times.
I also like the portrayal of the hippies as 'kids.' The idea of all these wayward kids and misfits under the thrall of one or two very charismatic but very troubled characters. It's poetic. More of an analogy for the 1960's than a literal depiction. And by 1971 when the film was made, displaying some historical hindsight, and a touch of satire. So I like to think.
"Billy Jack" is full of such icons. Billy confronting the snake. Bernard driving his car into the river. Classic mythology - entertaining and memorable.
As some have pointed out, the live music is awkward and will make you uncomfortable.. And what's with the theme song by Coven? Weren't they the first satanic band? What's all this "love thy neighbor" from the first satanic band? All the satanists must have felt betrayed.
Overall: too dated to be considered great. Too weird to be considered sappy. Too violent to be considered childlike or innocent. Better than "Hot to Trot." Not as good as "Throw Momma From the Train." Who will love this film? See it just once....more info
- fascinating time capsule
"Billy Jack" is a very amateurish film in some ways, but it is so genuine and faithful to the zeitgeist of its time, that you have to like it. Look for Howard Hesseman (who later gained fame as Dr. Johnny Fever on TV's WKRP in Cincinnati) doing improv. All the youth fervor and ferment of the late 60's and early 70's is faithfully depicted. There is a scene where a bunch of rebellious kids confront a town council that is so real, so unscripted that it looks like documentary footage. This is worth a look just to see how the world has changed in the past 35 years...more info
- The Most important film ever made!
Billy Jack was a half-breed-and they NEVER let him foget it. He couldn't change the world-but he made his people stand tall! The greatest love story of all time. Billy Jacks love for a woman. Billy Jacks love for the children at the school he protects. Billy Jacks love for a race of people abused for 100's of years by the government and society. He sacrificed himself so the people he loved could live in peace! Watch this one with your children to teach them about racisim and to never tolerate it. The ice-cream parlor scene says it all!...more info
- Didn't Really Work For Me
After I saw this film I tried that thing where you take your shoes off when you're going to fight somebody, and the guy stepped on my toes with his boot and then he kicked my derriere into next week....more info
- One Tin Soldier
Tom Laughlin had a pretty big chip on his shoulder, but he hit on something special with Billy Jack. The movie is jam-packed with self-righteous indignation, but it carries a pretty good punch and seemed to sum up the frustration many felt as the late 60's gave way to the early 70's, with Billy Jack taking on small town America in this film. There are plenty of memorable moments in this movie as Lynn Baker tries to maintain a school for wayward kids in the desert Southwest. However, the local townfolk get tired of the riff-raff and want to force her out of town. In comes Billy Jack, an old boyfriend, to save the day. While she renounces violence, he sets about inflicting it upon anyone who messes with the kids, setting up one violent confrontation after another in which Laughlin can show off his impressive range of martial arts moves. His laconic expression and Native American temperment would later be blatantly expropriated by Steven Seagal. Ultimately the law proves to be too formidable a foe as we hear One Tin Soldier, the most memorable song in this movie, when Billy is finally ridden out of town by a fleet of police cars and the students issuing their salute by the roadside. Billy Jack would go on to defend himself in subsequent films, but this one and Born Losers are the only two worth watching....more info