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BORN LOSERS (director: Tom Laughlin; cinematographer: Gregory Sandor; editor: John Winfield; music: Mike Curb; cast: Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack), Elizabeth James (Vicky Barrington), Jeremy Slate (Danny Carmody), Jane Russell (Mrs. Shorn), William Wellman, Jr. (Child), Jack Starrett (Deputy Fred), Stuart Lancaster (Sheriff), Paul Bruce (District Attorney), Robert Cleaves (Mr. Crawford), Robert Tessier (Cueball), Jeff Cooper (Gangrene), Paul Prokop (Speechless), Gordon Hoban (Jerry Carmody), Janice Miller (Jodell Shorn), Julie Cahn (LuAnn Crawford), Susan Foster (Linda Prang), Anne Bellamy (Mrs. Prang), Edwin Cook (Crabs); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Tom Laughlin/Delores Taylor; Vestron Video; 1967)
“A crass, simple-minded and dumb film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first Billy Jack movie was this exploitation biker film, that shows you can only fight violence with violence. It launched the money-making Billy Jack franchise, with some even thinking it’s the best Billy Jack flick (I’d hate to see the worst). It tells about Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin), a half white/half Indian, who almost single-handedly takes on local outlaw bikers. He’s an ex-green beret and Vietnam veteran, who is a kick-ass dude with a cool attitude and has a thing about fighting against injustice. Laughlin also directed and wrote it under an alias, and coproduced it with his wife Delores Taylor under his real name. It plays out as a cult movie fave for the aficionados of bad biker films.

It takes place in a quiet coastal community in California set upon by a vicious gang of local Hell’s Angel type of bikers. The good citizens cower and the police, led by a jellyfish sheriff, can’t arrest them due to the technicalities of the law. The bad boy bikers hangout at a deserted church and terrorize the whole town and rape four scantily-clad teeny-bopper girls, intimidating them not to testify. The big problem the film poses is whether the girls will testify and finally get these ruffians off the street.

Jeremy Slate (the gang leader), William Wellman Jr., Jeff Cooper (with the colorful nickname of Gangrene) and Paul Prokop are the repulsive multiple-rapist biker gang members who live it up in crime and decadence before Billy Jack, showing mucho personal courage, takes them on and rescues Vicky Barrington (Elizabeth James) only to be harassed by the racist cops. Soon Billy Jack is taking on both the bikers and the police, and doing a whole lot of preaching.

Jane Russell has a cameo as an over-the-top angry parent of one of the vics.

Besides being such a crass, simple-minded and dumb film, the acting is the pits and the production values are shoddy. The whole bogus venture turns on being so obvious, as it simply blames the violence on twisted family values: the victimized (but unsympathetic) teens are alienated from their comfortable and distant middle-class folks and the scummy bikers find a family only in their gang and not from their own dysfunctional families.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”