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Theatrical release poster.
|Directed by|| Tom Laughlin |
as T.C. Frank
|Produced by||Tom Laughlin|
as Mary Rose Solti
|Written by||Tom Laughlin|
(as Frank Christina)
(as Theresa Christina)
|Starring|| Tom Laughlin |
|Music by||Mundell Lowe, Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter|
|Cinematography|| Fred Koenekamp |
John M. Stephens
|Edited by||Larry Heath|
National Student Film Corporation
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$32.5 million (rentals)|
Billy Jack is a 1971 action/drama independent film, the second of four films centering on a character of the same name which began with the movie The Born Losers (1967), played by Tom Laughlin, who directed and co-wrote the script. Filming began in Prescott, Arizona, in the fall of 1969, but the movie was not completed until 1971. American International Pictures pulled out, halting filming. 20th Century-Fox came forward and filming eventually resumed but when that studio refused to distribute the film, Warner Bros. stepped forward.
An independent film, independent movie, indie film or indie movie, is a feature film or short film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies. Independent films are sometimes distinguishable by their content and style and the way in which the filmmakers' personal artistic vision is realized. Usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films.
Born Losers is a 1967 American outlaw biker film. The film introduced Tom Laughlin as the half-Indian Green Beret Vietnam veteran Billy Jack. Since 1954 Laughlin had been trying to produce his Billy Jack script about discrimination toward American Indians. In the 1960s he decided to introduce the Billy Jack character in a quickly written script designed to capitalize on the then-popular trend in motorcycle gang movies. The story was based on a real incident from 1964 where members of the Hells Angels were arrested for raping two teenage girls in Monterey, California.
Thomas Robert Laughlin Jr., known as Tom Laughlin, was an American actor, director, screenwriter, author, educator, and activist.
Still, the film lacked distribution, so Laughlin booked it into theaters himself in 1971.The film grossed $10 million in its initial run, but eventually added close to $50 million in its re-release, with distribution supervised by Laughlin.
Billy Jack is a "half-breed" American Navajo,a Green Beret Vietnam War veteran, and a hapkido master.
Half-breed is a term, now considered derogatory, used to describe anyone who is of mixed race; although, in the United States, it usually refers to people who are half Native American and half European/white.
The United States Army Special Forces, colloquially known as the Green Berets due to their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force of the United States Army tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, information operations, peacekeeping, psychological operations, security assistance, and manhunts; other components of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas. Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works and doctrinal manuals are available.
The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.
Jack defends the hippie-themed Freedom School (inspired by Prescott College) and students from townspeople who do not understand or like the counterculture students. The school is organized by its director Jean Roberts (Delores Taylor).
A hippie is a member of the counterculture of the 1960s, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The word hippie came from hipster and used to describe beatniks who moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. The term hippie first found popularity in San Francisco with Herb Caen, who was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Prescott College is a private liberal arts college in Prescott, Arizona with the motto: "For the Liberal Arts, the Environment, and Social Justice". It is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization which has a student body of roughly 1200, and an average student to faculty ratio of 7:1 in the on-campus classrooms. The average class size is between 7-14 students.
The counterculture of the 1960s was an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed first in the United Kingdom (UK) and then the United States (US) before spreading throughout much of the Western world between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, with London, New York City, and San Francisco being hotbeds of early countercultural activity. The aggregate movement gained momentum as the Civil Rights Movement continued to grow, and would later become revolutionary with the expansion of the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam. As the 1960s progressed, widespread social tensions also developed concerning other issues, and tended to flow along generational lines regarding human sexuality, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream. Many key movements related to these issues were born or advanced within the counterculture of the 1960s.
A group of children of various races from the school go to town for ice cream and are refused service and then abused and humiliated by Bernard Posner (David Roya), the son of the county's corrupt political boss (Bert Freed), and his gang. This prompts a violent outburst by Billy. Later, Jean is raped by Bernard, who also murders a Native American student. Billy confronts Bernard, whom he catches in bed with a 13-year-old girl, and sustains a gunshot wound before killing him with a hand strike to the throat. After a climactic shootout with the police and pleading with Jean, Billy Jack surrenders to the authorities in exchange for a decade-long guarantee that the school will be allowed to continue to run with Jean as its head. As Billy is driven away in handcuffs, a large crowd of supporters raise their fists as a show of defiance and support.
In politics, a boss is a person who controls a unit of a political party, although they may not necessarily hold political office. Numerous officeholders in that unit are subordinate to the single boss in party affairs. Each party in the same ward or city may have its own boss; that is, the Republican boss of Ward 7 controls Republican politics, while the Democratic boss controls the Democratic party there. Reformers sometimes allege that political bosses are likely guilty of corruption. Bosses may base their power on control of a large number of votes. When the party wins, they typically control appointments in their unit, and have a voice at the higher levels. They do not necessarily hold public office themselves; most historical bosses did not, at least during the times of their greatest influence.
Bert Freed was an American character actor, voice-over actor, and the first actor to portray Detective Columbo.
The raised fist, or the clenched fist, is a symbol of solidarity and support. It is also used as a salute to express unity, strength, defiance, or resistance.
Delores Judith Taylor was an American film actress, writer, and producer, known for her roles in the Billy Jack films of the 1970s.
Kenneth Jesse Tobey was an American stage, film, and television actor, who performed in hundreds of productions during a career that spanned more than half a century, including his role as the star of the 1957-1960 Desilu Productions TV series Whirlybirds.
Howard Hesseman is an American actor best known for playing DJ Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati, Captain Pete Lassard in Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Sam Royer on One Day at a Time and schoolteacher Charlie Moore on Head of the Class.
Billy Jack holds a "Fresh" rating of 60% at Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews, with an average grade of 5.4 out of 10.
In his Movie and Video Guide, film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film 1.5 stars out of 4, writing: "Seen today, its politics are highly questionable, and its 'message' of peace looks ridiculous, considering the amount of violence in the film."Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and also saw the message of the film as self-contradictory, writing: "I'm also somewhat disturbed by the central theme of the movie. 'Billy Jack' seems to be saying the same thing as 'Born Losers,' that a gun is better than a constitution in the enforcement of justice." Howard Thompson of The New York Times agreed, calling the film "well-aimed but misguided" as he wrote, "For a picture that preaches pacifism, 'Billy Jack' seems fascinated by its violence, of which it is full." His review added that "some of the non-professional delivery of lines in the script by Mr. Frank and Teresa Christina is incredibly awful." Variety opined that "the action frequently drags" and at nearly two hours' running length, "The message is rammed down the spectators' throats and is sorely in need of considerable editing to tell a straightforward story." Gene Siskel gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, calling it "a film that tries to say too many things in too many ways within an adequate story line, but it has such freshness, original humor and compassion that one is frequently moved to genuine emotion." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times also liked the film, praising its "searing tension that sustains it through careening unevenness to a smash finish. Crude and sensational yet urgent and pertinent, this provocative Warners release is in its unique, awkward way one of the year's important pictures." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post panned the film as "horrendously self-righteous and devious," explaining, "Every social issue is dramatized in terms of absolute, apolitical good and evil. The good guys ... are next to angelic, while the bad guys are, according to the needs of the moment, utter buffoons or utter devils. Anyone with the slightest trace of skepticism or sophistication would tend to reject the movie out of hand and with good reason, since this kind of simplification is dramatically and socially deceitful." David Wilson of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "If in the end Billy Jack is as much a sell-out as any glossier version of commercialised iconoclasm (Billy Jack is persuaded to accept guarantees which a hundred years of Indian history have repudiated), there is enough innocent sincerity in the film to demonstrate that Tom Laughlin at least has the courage of his convictions, even if those convictions are scarcely thought out."
Delores Taylor received a Golden Globe nomination as Most Promising Newcoming Actress. Tom Laughlin won the grand prize for the film at the 1971 Taormina International Film Festival in Italy.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
|Soundtrack album by|
|Label|| Warner Bros. |
|Mundell Lowe chronology|
The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Mundell Lowe and the soundtrack album was originally released on the Warner Bros. label.
The Allmusic review states "a strange and striking combination of styles that somehow is effective... a listenable disc whose flaws only add to the warmth".The film's theme song, a re-recording of "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)" by Jinx Dawson with session musicians providing the backing, and credited to the band Coven, became a Top 40 hit in 1971.
All compositions by Mundell Lowe, except as indicated.
Marketed as an action film, the story focuses on the plight of Native Americans during the civil rights era. It attained a cult following among younger audiences due to its youth-oriented, anti-authority message and the then-novel martial arts fight scenes which predate the Bruce Lee/kung fu movie trend that followed.The centerpiece of the film features Billy Jack, enraged over the mistreatment of his Native American friends, fighting racist thugs using hapkido techniques.
Executive Decision is a 1996 American action thriller film directed by Stuart Baird in his directorial debut, and stars Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, David Suchet and John Leguizamo. It was released in the United States on March 15, 1996.
Leonard Michael Maltin is an American film critic and film historian, as well as an author of several mainstream books on cinema, focusing on nostalgic, celebratory narratives. Maltin created the Walt Disney Treasures, a series of compilations of Disney cartoons and episodes released to mark the centenary of the birth of Walt Disney.
Wings of Courage is a 1995 American-French drama film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The 40-minute film was written by Annaud with Alain Godard. It was the first dramatic film shot in the IMAX format.
Ben is a 1972 American horror film about a young boy and his pet rat, Ben. The film is a sequel to the film Willard (1971). The theme song, "Ben", is performed by singer Michael Jackson. It was also included on his 1972 album of the same title.
Han Bong-Soo, also known as Bong Soo Han, was a Korean martial artist, author, and the founder of the International Hapkido Federation. He was one of the foremost and recognized practitioners of hapkido through his participation in books, magazine articles, and popular films featuring the martial art. He is often referred to as the "Father of Hapkido" in America.
The Master Gunfighter is a film released in 1975 in Panavision, written and produced by Tom Laughlin, who also played the lead as Finley. The Master Gunfighter is mainly a remake of the 1969 Japanese film Goyokin, although the story revolves around a true incident in the early 1800s involving massacred Indians that occurred in the vicinity of Goleta, California.
The Believers is a 1987 American neo-noir horror film film directed by John Schlesinger, released in 1987 and starring Martin Sheen, Robert Loggia and Helen Shaver. It is based on the 1982 novel The Religion by Nicholas Conde.
The Fire Within is a 1963 French drama film directed by Louis Malle. It is based on the novel Will O' the Wisp by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle which itself was inspired by the life of Jacques Rigaut. The film stars Maurice Ronet, Jeanne Moreau—who had previously worked with Ronet and Malle in Elevator to the Gallows—as well as Alexandra Stewart, Bernard Noel, Lena Skerla, Hubert Deschamps and Yvonne Clech. The score features the music of Erik Satie.
Billy Jack Goes to Washington is a 1977 American political drama film starring Tom Laughlin, the fourth film in the Billy Jack series, and although the earlier films saw enormous success, this film did not. The film only had limited screenings upon its release and never saw a general theatrical release, but has since become widely available on DVD. The film is a loose remake of the 1939 Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and is directed by Laughlin under the on-screen pseudonym "T.C. Frank".
The Trial of Billy Jack is a 1974 action film starring Delores Taylor and Tom Laughlin. It is the sequel to the 1971 film, Billy Jack, and the third film overall in the series.
Cujo is a 1983 American horror film directed by Lewis Teague based on Stephen King's 1981 novel of the same name. It was written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Barbara Turner, and starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro.
Drive, He Said is a 1971 American motion picture released by Columbia Pictures. It is one of the lesser-known works in the influential group of "New Hollywood" films of the late 1960s and early 1970s made by independent production house Raybert Productions and its successor, BBS Productions. Based upon the 1964 novel of the same title by Jeremy Larner, the film, which stars William Tepper, is notable as the directorial debut of Jack Nicholson following his breakthrough as an actor in Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970).
Night Caller from Outer Space, also known as simply The Night Caller or Blood Beast from Outer Space, is a British 1965 science fiction film directed by John Gilling. It is based on Frank Crisp's novel The Night Callers. A colourised version of the film was released in 2011.
Shiver My Timbers is a 1931 Our Gang short comedy film directed by Robert F. McGowan. It was the 109th Our Gang short that was released.
The Mutations is a low budget 1974 British-American science fiction/horror film directed by Jack Cardiff. The film was also released under the title The Freakmaker.
The Return of Billy Jack is the unfinished fifth and final film in the Billy Jack movie series. The film starred Tom Laughlin, reprising his role as Billy Jack, and co-starred Rodney Harvey and Delores Taylor. The film was produced from December 1985 to early 1986 in New York City, with additional scenes filmed in Toronto.
Apprentice to Murder is a 1988 Canadian-American-Norwegian thriller-horror film directed by Ralph L. Thomas and starring Donald Sutherland, Chad Lowe and Mia Sara.