This time-capsule film from 1971 is a perfect example of having one's cake and eating it, too. Written and directed by filmmaker Tom Laughlin--and starring him in the title role--Billy Jack concerns a half-white, half-Indi... more »an karate expert who protects a free school built on principles of pacifism by kicking hell out of pesky rednecks. The story actually embraces that tension between Billy Jack's way of doing things and that of the school's founder (Delores Taylor), but their tension doesn't so much lead to an examination of principles as it leads to an excuse for Laughlin to incorporate fight scenes between hippie politics. Crude and brutal, the film is pretty exploitative of a viewer's torn sympathies, and in that way Billy Jack actually anticipates much of the simple-minded, violent fare that followed in the movies of the '70s and '80s. --Tom Keogh« less
"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."
Tom Laughlin is Billy Jack
Vincent Tesi | Brick, New Jersey | 04/10/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some people just don't get it. Tom Laughlin wrote the script, directed, starred, and controlled distribution for Billy Jack because no major studio wanted to support a film that exposed bigotry and prejudice in Amercian society. Laughlin staged a one man stand against the commercial capitalists who controlled the movie industry and won. Laughlin's unprecendented move to control the film's distribution rights opened the door for future independent film making to reach mass audiences. Laughlin's struggle against studio powers mirrored Billy Jack's inner angst towards violence, peace, and civil libertites. Sure the film's message of a counterculture existing in a deeply rooted, cynical, white Southern/Western community seems overbearingly blatant, but the film still stands firm as a testimony of one man challenging the morals and values that define his world. Who cares if the Indian attire used in the spirtual dance did not comform to the actual Indian dress used in such a ceremony? There have been many big budget Hollywood extravaganzas that neglected to follow proper uniform codes. Check out Tora Tora Tora and many of the medals, stripes, and,insignias used on the military uniforms are incorrect. The fight scenecs in Billy Jack, which Laughlin also coreographed, are exceptional. No film has been able to capture the realistic grace, power, and balance of martial arts evident in Billy Jack. Until Billy Jack no Hollywood film dealt with the inconsistences and racism towards Native Amercian Indians that exists in our country. If Billy Jack's message was too strong and straightforward for the Amercian public to swallow, then these critics should stay home and watch the old cowboy and Indian movies that feature the All-American hero John Wayne. I'll take Billy Jack, I mean Tom Laughlin anyday."
Lessons on Peace & Love
J. Willibey | Michigan | 03/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD set and can't say enough great things about these movies AND their creators, Tom Laughlin & Delores Taylor. What wonderful people they were then and are now! They took the chances most people are afraid to take and stood up for what they believed in and I am so greatful to them for that. And greatful for the lessons they have taught me which are as valuable as any I've ever learned in my life. When the singer sings "you are my teacher" at the end of 'Trial of B.J.' I surely can relate!
Back in the 70's these movies literally enlightened and changed my life! And after watching them all over again (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.
I get upset with all the negative comments I read regarding the karate scenes(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. I'd recomend this set to anyone today and feel it's as current now (yes, just listen to the current daily news!) as it was in the 70's. I think all kids in high school should see this also as a lesson. Just look at what the government was up to then as it is now and you may agree."