by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
According to an article in the NY Times, Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning on traveling the world to promote clean energy after his tenure as governor of California. The Republican has dutifully endorsed presidential candidate, John McCain, but when asked whether he would answer a call from Democratic candidate, Senator, Barack Obama, the well-known “Terminator” responded, “I’d take his call now and I’d take his call when he’s president – anytime.”
I can’t help it. I like Arnold, despite his fleet of Hummers (now all hydrogen-powered). I’m drawn to the superhero in him. Perhaps I’m especially moved because I recently watched another former film hero kicking butt for justice when I rented the re-release of the independent movies, Billy Jack and its two sequels, The Trial of Billy Jack and Billy Jack goes to Washington. The movies, originally released in 1971 – 1977, address many social issues of our time – then and now – including prejudice, education, child abuse, violence vs. pacifism and political corruption.
The title character is Billy Jack, a half-breed American Indian who, after dissenting from the Vietnam war, goes back to the reservation where he quietly but forcefully protects the wild Mustangs and the Freedom School, a creatively alternative school for troubled youth of all ages and races. Billy Jack is the imperfect hero, with a deep commitment to ethics and honor who struggles with the shadow of anger he feels towards injustice.
Tom Laughlin, raised the funds, wrote, directed, produced and starred in all three movies. His wife, Delores Taylor, co-produced and played the supporting role of Jean, who runs the Freedom School.
Known then and now as one of the most successful independent filmmakers ever, Laughlin is also an author, psychologist, social/political activist who ran for president as a Democrat in 1992 on a platform which included tax cuts, Universal Healthcare and alternative education. Despite his reputation as a political radical, he received 2% of the vote in the New Hampshire Primary. He ran again as a Republican in 2004 as an opponent of the Iraq was with a “realistic” exit strategy, one of the many topics you can read about on his website at BillyJack.com.
From epinions.com movie review by top reviewer, Jan Peregrine, “My appreciation for a husband/wife team that goes to such lengths for us, the public, knows no bounds. Tom Laughlin was a pioneer in Independent filmmaking and a creative dynamo with the guts to say what he saw happening in the United States…we desperately need more people like the Laughlins in the world.”
This excellent review reveals more about the movie series plots, which actually began with the lesser known film, Born Losers, of 1967. Here, we are first introduced to the character of Billy Jack who confronts the abuses of a motorcycle gang.
I’ll be renting that this weekend.