In the 1970s, when those who would become the giants of American filmmaking were making their most important works, an Indian or half-Indian named Billy Jack—who did not look Indian, but was immediately ID'd as an Indian by every foe he encountered—became something of a cinematic sensation, especially in what we now call the Red States. He stood there and took it for every man (or hot teenage squaw) who'd been shitted on by bikers, bad cops, stodgy city fathers, congressmen—the system. Billy Jack fought back, and Billy Jack won.
But let's be honest here: no Billy Jack film is particularly good. You'll often find yourself waiting for the silhouettes of Crow, Tom Servo and Joel (or Mike) to appear in the lower right corner of the screen to sarcastically rip scenes in The Born Losers, Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jackand Billy Jack Goes to Washington.You'll roll your eyes as writer/director/star Tom Laughlin, narrating his own bonus-disc documentary, drones on about his expertise in judo, Jungian philosophy, film writing, film directing, film distribution, film marketing and sympathy for the American Indian.But be careful, my smirking friend, for it doesn't take long for it all to work its magic, reel you in and—perhaps—cut through 35 years of heaped-on disillusionment to take you back to those crazy, mixed-up, but now comparatively simpler days. The first few flute notes of "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)" certainly get the nostalgia juices flowing, but even more effective are those old Billy Jack television commercials included in the bonus material. My fucking God: they did run all the time, didn't they? And they put our butts in the seats; Laughlin will gladly show you the box-office receipts to prove it.
BILLY JACK 35TH ANNIVERSARY ULTIMATE COLLECTION. $39.95 ($35.99 AT AMAZON.COM).