Billy Jack

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Billy Jack
Billy Jack poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster.
Directed byTom Laughlin
as T.C. Frank
Produced byTom Laughlin
as Mary Rose Solti
Written byTom Laughlin
(as Frank Christina)
Delores Taylor
(as Theresa Christina)
StarringTom Laughlin
Delores Taylor
Music byMundell Lowe, Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter
CinematographyFred Koenekamp
John M. Stephens
Edited byLarry Heath
Marion Rothman
Production
company
National Student Film Corporation
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • May 1, 1971 (1971-05-01)
Running time114 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$800,000
Box office$32.5 million[1]
 
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This article is about the 1971 film. For the wrestler of a similar name, see Billy Jack Haynes.
Billy Jack
Billy Jack poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster.
Directed byTom Laughlin
as T.C. Frank
Produced byTom Laughlin
as Mary Rose Solti
Written byTom Laughlin
(as Frank Christina)
Delores Taylor
(as Theresa Christina)
StarringTom Laughlin
Delores Taylor
Music byMundell Lowe, Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter
CinematographyFred Koenekamp
John M. Stephens
Edited byLarry Heath
Marion Rothman
Production
company
National Student Film Corporation
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • May 1, 1971 (1971-05-01)
Running time114 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$800,000
Box office$32.5 million[1]

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.

Still, the film lacked distribution, so Laughlin booked it in to theaters himself in 1971.[1] The film died at the box office in its initial run, but eventually took in more than $40 million in its 1973 re-release, with distribution supervised by Laughlin.

Plot[edit]

Billy Jack is a "half-breed" American Navajo Indian[citation needed], a Green Beret Vietnam War veteran, and a hapkido master. The character made his début in The Born Losers (1967), a "biker film" about a motorcycle gang terrorizing a California town. Billy Jack rises to the occasion to defeat the gang when defending a college student with evidence against them for gang rape.

In the second film, Billy Jack, the hero defends the hippie-themed Freedom School and students from townspeople who do not understand or like the counterculture students. The school is organized by Jean Roberts (Delores Taylor).

In one scene, a group of Indian children from the school go to town for ice cream and are refused service and then abused and humiliated by Bernard Posner and his gang. This prompts a violent outburst by Billy. Later, Billy's girlfriend Jean is raped and an Indian student is murdered by Bernard (David Roya), the son of the county's corrupt political boss (Bert Freed). Billy confronts Bernard and sustains a gunshot wound before killing him with a hand strike to the throat, after Bernard was having sex with a 13-year-old girl. After a climactic shootout with the police, and pleading from Jean, Billy Jack surrenders to the authorities and is arrested. As he is driven away, a large crowd of supporters raise their fists as a show of defiance and support. The plot continues in the sequel, The Trial of Billy Jack.

Box-office and critical reception[edit]

The film was re-released in 1973 and earned an estimated $8,275,000 in North American rentals.[2]

Billy Jack holds a "Fresh" rating of 62% at Rotten Tomatoes.[3] As of February 2014 it has a score of 6.1 on IMDB.

In his Movie and Video Guide, film critic Leonard Maltin writes: "Seen today, its politics are highly questionable, and its 'message' of peace looks ridiculous, considering the amount of violence in the film."

Roger Ebert 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."[4]

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.

Soundtrack[edit]

Billy Jack
Soundtrack album by Mundell Lowe
Released1972
Recorded1971
GenreFilm score
LabelWarner Bros.
WS 1926
ProducerMundell Lowe
Mundell Lowe chronology
Satan in High Heels
(1961)
Billy Jack
(1971)
California Guitar
(1974)

The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Mundell Lowe and the soundtrack album was originally released on the Warner Bros. label.[5]

Reception[edit]

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".[6] The film's theme song, "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)" by the band Coven, became a Top 40 hit in 1971, and featured the chorus:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor; go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of heaven; you can justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowin' come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after, one tin soldier rides away

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic3.5/5 stars[6]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Mundell Lowe, except as indicated.

  1. "One Tin Soldier" (Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter) – 3:18
  2. "Hello Billy Jack" – 0:45
  3. "Old and the New" – 1:00
  4. "Johnnie" (Teresa Kelly) – 2:35
  5. "Look, Look to the Mountain" (Kelly) – 1:40
  6. "When Will Billy Love Me" (Lynn Baker) – 3:24
  7. "Freedom Over Me" (Gwen Smith) – 0:35
  8. "All Forked Tongue Talk Alike" – 2:54
  9. "Challenge" – 2:20
  10. "Rainbow Made of Children" (Baker) – 3:50
  11. "Most Beautiful Day" – 0:30
  12. "An Indian Dance" – 1:15
  13. "Ceremonial Dance" – 1:59
  14. "Flick of the Wrist" – 2:15
  15. "It's All She Left Me" – 1:56
  16. "You Shouldn't Do That" – 3:21
  17. "Ring Song" (Katy Moffatt) – 4:25
  18. "Thy Loving Hand" – 1:35
  19. "Say Goodbye 'Cause You're Leavin'" – 2:36
  20. "The Theme from Billy Jack" – 2:21
  21. "One Tin Soldier (End Title)" (Lambert, Potter) – 1:06

Personnel[edit]

Influence[edit]

Marketed as an action film, the story focuses on the plight of Native Americans during the civil rights movement. 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.[7] The centerpiece of the film features Billy Jack, enraged over the mistreatment of his Indian friends, fighting racist thugs using hapkido techniques.

Billy Jack's wardrobe (black T-shirt, blue denim jacket, blue jeans, and a black hat with a beadwork band) would become nearly as iconic as the character[citation needed].

The second major movie to make use of the word "fuck" (MASH being the first). A black student says the words "fucked up" during the scene where the Freedom school students are talking about the "Second Coming".

Billy Jack in popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Waxman, Sharon (June 20, 2005). "Billy Jack Is Ready to Fight the Good Fight Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  2. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  3. ^ Billy Jack - Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ Billy Jack - Roger Ebert
  5. ^ Mundell Lowe discography accessed August 23, 2012
  6. ^ a b Viglione, J. Allmusic Review accessed August 23, 2012
  7. ^ Stewart, Jocelyn Y. (January 14, 2007). "Bong Soo Han, 73; grand master of hapkido won film fans for martial arts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  8. ^ "The Story of Billy Paul". November 20, 1976. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  9. ^ Finz, Stacy (December 15, 2002). "The Case of a Lifetime, Part One (2002, December 15)". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  10. ^ "The Case of a Lifetime, Part Two (2002, December 15)". SFGate.com. December 14, 2002. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 

External links[edit]