Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Tom Laughlin, Delores Taylor, Clark Howat, Victor Izay, Bert Freed
Director: Tom Laughlin
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
He?s a warrior, a mystic, a martyr, capturing the heart and soul of a generation. Embodying all these and more, Billy Jack quickly became one of the most unorthodox and magnetic movie heroes of all time. Tom Laughlin chari... more »
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S.J. T. from FREDERICKSBRG, TX
Reviewed on 9/8/2015...
It's so interesting reading the many reviews on the Billy Jack movies. Obviously everyone has gotten something different from it, and some people like what they saw, and others thought it was poorly acted and confusing because they interpretted Billie Jack as pacifist who beat the daylights out of anyone who disagreed with him.
Folks, this is actually why it was a really intriguing movie!
It is a rare and classic example of what the early 1970's were like, to those of us who were coming of age during that time period.
And if you don't wish to read further, let me just say, it's a pretty realistic history lesson about a few (maybe 4?) years in the crux of a major change in American ideals and lifestyles.
The movie centers on many of the confusing changes the post war generation was trying to educate themselves about and deal with, problems we were working through in our own lives.
Education - Traditional education seemed to us to be geared toward turning out robots, so young and idealistic educators (and I was one) were starting schools that taught children to reason out problems and solutions, and gave them the freedom and space and encouragement to do that, and storywise, both "Billie Jack" and "The Trial of Billy Jack" are predominantly about the "free school."
Peace versus Force Through Violence - The character of Billie Jack supports the "free school" that is started for this purpose, for teaching responsibility and the power of peace and non-violence, but being ex-military, has a hard time believing they can work out their problems without his "kick-ass" forceful interference.
This was a BIG part of what the teens and young adults in the late sixties and early seventies were trying to learn and work through. A large number of men and boys in this generation was being forced by the draft into fighting a war they did not believe in, and where they would have to fight women and children for the first time, because anybody could be the "enemy." It was a nightmare situation for the young at that time.
Our previous heroes had been World War ll fighting heroes. And they WERE heroes, no doubt about it. They saved not only our country but the world from a terrible evil.
But now we were being taught by the personal examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other others who gave their freedom and their lives to teach us that peace is its own power.
We were really trying to understand that, and in the Billy Jack movies, Tom Laughlin's wife Delores Taylor played the character who believes so strongly in being a role model for peace, that she won't fight back in a physical attack. Their real daughter plays one of the teenage girls in the school who is trying to understand both sides.
The fact is - This struggle between peace and violence was REAL - It was what we who were trying to be open-minded and wise, were wrestling with during those confusing days of the late sixties and early seventies. Is there a point where even a pacifist fights back? Or is it better to strike first and forget pacifism?
We as Americans are STILL struggling with that question....It's in the news every day. Should we be violent and strike first, in order to prove that we are strong, even though it might start a world war and we get the reputation as being aggressors?
Tom Laughlin and his wife Delores Taylor wrote and produced the Billie Jack movies to show that there are two sides to the equation. And like the way they taught in their school in the movie, they leave it to us to make our own decision as to what the answer is.
The Acting - The weakness and strength of the movie is that Laughlin and Taylor wrote and acted this movie themselves. This was when "glamour" was "the thing" in movies, so women were dolled up in their long eyelashes and their big hairdo's in even Westerns of the day, so it was a surprise to see Delores as a "stringy-haired hippie" as one of the reviewers wrote. And she probably would be considered "under-acting."
I realized even back when I first saw it, that she's not what we would call "an actress." But what she was, is a real person with something important to teach us, in her subtle way. For sure, that was a different kind of movie...something that will make us think, instead of something that feeds us mental junk food, but whose purpose is to make lots of money.
But the point I got when I saw it for the first time, was that - They were IN this movie, and they did what it took to get this movie produced - because they believed in something, and they wanted to share that with us. How rare is that, in Hollywood.
The more it was naively acted and under-glamorized, the more I "got it" that they were in earnest about what the movie was teaching. They were putting out something that had a point to it, and was important to them. And I say, Good for them.
(And obviously, from today's news articles, this choice between pacifism and force through violence is something we're still trying to learn...so the movie can't be all that outdated for that reason...)
So...for the first time I'm reviewing a movie that I can't say "you'll love this."
I have no idea what you will get out of it.
Maybe it's funny or intriguing just to know what it was like those few years when there really were "hippies" living very innocent alternative lifestyles, and there was often violence against them, especially in the Southwest, and there were "free schools", during that short time of earnest experimentation and before drugs became invasive. This communal-type school in the southwest is pretty accurate, historically, as is the backlash from the town.
This is what it was like in "the summer of love" and right after, when a few wise and caring "adults" listened to and made room in their lives, maybe for the first time, for young people who were looking for inspiration. It was happening all over the country. And it lasted only a few short years.
So I treasure the "Billy Jack" and "The Trial of Billie Jack" movies for their uniqueness and have always admired Laughlin and Taylor's striving to be accurate to what was happening to the youth in America and to those adults who aspired to be their mentors.
And yet - It's a "thinker's" movie - If you're just looking for a fight movie, or compare it to today's movie overload of special effects, you'll be bored....and perhaps, like the movie "To Kill a Mockingbird," it's a classic that can only be truly and fully appreciated by persons who lived in those times.
But for an interesting view into the sixties, including music, the "Billy Jack" movies are a great little time machine.
Yep, They're Widescreen!
TVDVDFan | So. California | 09/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A nice upgrade from the 4-disc Billy Jack Collection. The major improvement here is that all 4 films have been digitally remastered in their original widescreen aspect ratio from the original film negatives. The color and the clarity look superb with very little artifacts. Though I just got this set and haven't watched each film in their entirety, I did sample the beginning of each disc and was amazed at how breathtaking and clear the opening scenes were for both "Billy Jack" and "Trial." The transfers for "Born Losers" and "Washington" look just as fantastic. These really make the transfers on the last set look inferior, especially since I played them back to back and did a comparison.
The sound has also been digitally remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. and each film includes both a newly recorded 2005 commentary track from the Laughlin family as well as the original 2000 filmmaker commetary from the last set. The discs come in a slipcase with digipak and each disc has it's own tray with the original poster art for each film beneath the tray and printed on the actual disc. The running times for each are "Born Losers" (113 minutes); "Billy Jack" (118 minutes); "Trial..." (171 minutes); "Washington" (114 minutes).
The set also includes a 5th disc of bonus features. Unfortunately it's not as good as I would've hoped, but I'm not complaining since I'm so impressed with the transfers of the actual films themselves. The bonus features included a very short documentary about the making of the films; Trivia Quiz; several original TV ad for 'Billy Jack" only; Billy Jack Book Excerpt; Cut-Your-Own Fight contest info; Website info; and a photo gallery. Nothing too impressive.
Overall the transfers themselves are widescreens and look and sound amazing, enough for me to say that alone is worth the upgrade.
Admirably Violent Non-Violence
Daniel H. Yeary | Versailles, KY USA | 05/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Any film whose main thread is that it takes an extremely violent advocate of non-violence to truly protect the non-violent, immediately has my full attention and respect. If I could have only been around in the early seventies to watch hordes of stringy-haired American middle to upper class youth cheer, in all seriousness, a denim-clad white guy kicking the living hell out of (and in some cases even kill) anyone who doesn't practice the appropriate level of peace and understanding, I would have truly been in heaven. This movie and it's enduring popularity have confirmed what I have always suspected: disagree with a pacifist and they would like nothing more than to place your head on a pike. If a person could have jammed anymore sixties clichés into an hour and a half, I'd like to watch their movie, too. Leading the pack would be the connection to "Indians", followed by ear-ringing singalongs at the school.....being bitten by rattlesnakes in a "purification process"....guerilla theater.......expressing yourself......"squares"......and on and on. Jean is the lady that runs the school and, despite a notable lack of physical contact, is Billy Jack's lady. She is the good cop to his bad and spends a great deal of time doing one of two things: trying to talk Billy Jack out of collapsing your windpipe OR sneering with satisfaction once he actually does it. Jean's philosophy is plain and straightforward: there isn't a problem in the world that couldn't be solved in a peaceful manner if people would just love one another....and if that doesn't work, I'll un-cage Billy Jack and set him out to snapping your limbs like twigs. She also has the most unusual set of sideburns I've ever seen in my life.There's not been a movie made that I'd rather watch than this one. Buy it. Quickly."
A misunderstood classic
P. I. Johnson | Cape Town, South Africa | 07/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always been puzzled by the hostile reaction of critics to Billy Jack. The puzzling aspect is not the negativity itself, but rather the almost blanket misrepresentation or - to be charitable - misunderstanding, of what the movie is about. Thus potential buyers are disserviced by the prevailing conventional wisdom i.e. "Billy Jack preaches peace while practising violence"; "Billy Jack wants to have its cake and eat it with regard to pacifism"; "the film is hypocritical" etc. In reality, the character of Billy Jack NEVER preaches peace. The only hint of this being true comes when he REJECTS Delores Taylor's view that violence in the face of violent bigotry won't solve anything. Given his instincts as a Shoshone warrior and a Green Beret trained (ironically by the US government) for war - against the extent of brutality of the bigots he faces, there is clearly no room for touchy-feely encounter sessions. These morons are not merely exercising speech, thought or association, but systematic physical violence on the defenceless. So Billy Jack's struggle to reconcile his violent rage with the principles of the Freedom School is a lost cause from the outset(which Billy himself admits when - referring to his efforts to embrace the pacifist influence of the Freedom School - he says to a racist bully, "I try, I really try ... but when I see this girl of such a beautiful spirit suffer this indignity ... I just go BERSERK! ") To critics safely weaned on the quiet, unthreatening dignity of Sidney Poitier, the Billy Jack character threatened equivalent response to oppression that cared neither for the approval, feelings or physical well-being of knowing oppressors. Revolutionary indeed! And while Virgil Tibbs would soak it up, confident his own intellectual superiority will bring justice in the end, Billy Jack will not give an inch of ground to people who had already stolen enough. Result: the bigots NEVER mess with HIM in the first instance - always someone weaker. Yet, it is precisely here that the movie parts company with the character in terms of point-of-view. For while Billy is clear in cause and action, the movie is purposefully less so. In the end, Billy's actions result in his arrest. Whether the actual benefits of his actions (guarantee of the Freedom School's existence; annual gubernatorial progress review of Indian affairs etc.) have been worth the cost or have, in reality, made any real difference to the overall mileu of oppression is left debatable. NOT because the movie "has its cake and eats it", but because there are no glib, easy answers by which to provide neat resolutions. Should Billy be praised, condemned or something in-between? The movie honestly doesn't know and sensibly leaves this to the viewer to decide. Coming from a society where the issue of defensive violence in the face of apartheid brutality was always an ongoing anxiety, the movie's delineation of contradictory but related progressive tendencies did not ring false at all. In fact, its pioneering depiction (try and dispute that!) of race conflict from the point of view of the oppressed was deemed so incendiary by the apartheid government that it was banned (along with Soldier Blue and Jesus Christ Superstar). Yet, even here South of the equator, Billy Jack was a movie phenomenon in the 1970s, as we attended secret underground viewings with our parents - one eye on the lookout for security police raids. Check out the initial, aloof response of US critics at the time and you'll also see life imitating art in ironic ways as critics retreated into their smug class and race cocoons in an effort to bury Billy Jack. Yet today, given its box office numbers and its massive international impact, Billy Jack ranks as the best example of the intermittent disjuncture between film critics and the movie-going public. Billy Jack may seem naive now - and the experimental theatre scenes now suggest Zanuck may have been right (for the wrong reasons) to want them excluded - but its nobility is untainted. Forget the sour mumblings of mainstream critics (the same people who proclaimed True Lies "a quality movie")and make this great movie a part of your collection. As a straight action movie, you'd be hard-pressed to find better contemporaries (yes, Billy Jack may have dated somewhat but has anyone checked out Bullitt or The French Connection recently?). As an action movie with some things on its mind other than fast cars, big explosions and blonde babes, I defy anyone to find me an equal. In any case, the title song ("One Tin Soldier") by Coven is in and of itself worth the unbelievable DVD purchase price. From its spectacular Mustang-rustling opening sequence to Billy's final surrender, Billy Jack remains one of the best examples of independent movie-making at its most threatening to the Establishment. Today, only John Sayles and Ken Loach can still lay claim to that honor. I had been looking for copies of Billy Jack and Born Losers (the orginal Billy Jack movie) for almost 15 years before discovering it for sale on this site. Since receiving my shipment, I have watched them repeatedly and not been disappointed. Neither will you."