Tom Laughlin as Billy Jack
Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack is a deeply satisfying viewing experience for those of us who have grown heartily sick of the antics of the violent and extreme right-wing in the UK. Yes, it is of course a fantasy, (and the radical left are not completely without form in this area), but no reasonable person could deny that, in the picture, Billy has right on his side.
Briefly, former Vietnam War Green Beret veteran (‘loser’?) and part-Navajo hapkido master Billy Jack defends the local counterculture Freedom School (inspired by Arizona’s Prescott College) and students from ignorant townsfolk who are both terrified of change and under the heel of a corrupt fatso political boss Posner (Bert Freed, incidentally the first actor to play Columbo onscreen).
Presumably Bible study and basic studios were that was offered before the Freedom School was founded. And who can’t be reminded of a certain someone’s smug bloated mush when Posner turns up for a well-deserved whopping?
Not a classic motion picture, but the fight scenes (admittedly some sped up a wee bit), laconic dialogue and the sheer charisma of star/director/producer/co-writer (with his actress wife Delores Taylor) Tom Laughlin all make Billy Jack a pretty decent popcorn movie.
If you enjoyed Billy Jack, you may also wish to catch Laughlin’s The Born Losers (1968), where the character first makes his debut, as well as the similarly-themed Walking Tall (1973, poorly remade in 2004).
But, unless you’re an obsessive BJ fan (hur) avoid the two sequels, as they represent a steep decline in quality from the first two pictures.