Written by / 7/01/2013 / No comments / , , , ,

JIM KELLY BLAXPLOITATION BAGFUL OF MOVIE REVIEWS

Bloody Bagful of Kickass Reviews of Jim Kelly Cinema from the 1970's
JIM KELLY was a cinematic giant... Anyone who's seen the classic Bruce Lee vehicle ENTER THE DRAGON knows that truth. He not only holds his own in the kick ass department but calls out the main villain, coolly uttering that famous line, "You come right out of a comic book." Yet Kelly himself, as the confident, womanizing, afro-wearing Williams, was the real deal: And by now everyone has (or should have) seen DRAGON so here are quick review/summaries of some other Jim Kelly Kung Fu flicks, some good, some great and some not so great... But all are unique and special thanks to the man himself, who passed away on June 29th/2013 and will be missed yet always remembered through that supercool religion known as CULT CINEMA. 
title: TATOO CONNECTION year: 1978 cast: Jim Kelly, Tio-liang Tan rating: ***1/2
This is really a Tao-liang Tan vehicle with ENTER THE DRAGON's Jim Kelly on the side (like John Saxon did with Bruce Lee), but with his usual confident bravado he steals, and eventually owns, this thoroughly entertaining Chinese-imported kung fu flick centering on the recovery of a stolen diamond while the "Master of Kicks" Tan kicks ass for fifteen minutes before Kelly, a CIA agent named "Lucas", is called in from America. Tan works for the villainous Sin Cheng along with Bolo Yeung and some other badly dubbed goons, but eventually our flash-legged hero, with the aid of beautiful wife Nami Misaki, joins Kelly in a glorious fight on a freighter ship.

Good stuff with lots of quick zooms and not too much exposition dialog since you always know where the character are going, and why.
title: BLACK SAMURAI year: 1977 cast: Jim Kelly, Aldo Ray, Biff Yeager rating: ***1/2
When you got Jim Kelly as secret ops agent Black Samurai who uses a rocket-powered jet pack and fights nonstop under the quick-paced, extraordinary low budget yet creatively bizarre direction of b-movie icon Al Adamson, and a bad acting devil-worshiping villain with a pet vulture who employs killer midgets falling from trees, and a captured starlet on a James Bond villain-type island fortress that Kelly infiltrates: massacring scores of henchman while an ultra-funky soundtrack presides...

When you have all this (and more) in a single motion picture: do you even need a review?
title: BLACK BELT JONES year: Jim Kelly, Gloria Hendry, Marla Gibbs rating: ***
Slow going for the first half-hour, setting up the good guys and bad guys with a too much dialog and melodrama, it's after a tragic mob-slaying that we center on what's important: title character Jim Kelly going from one location to the next and kicking ass. 

Three scenes: A raid on the head mobster's fortress; an energetic beach courtship between Kelly and gal Gloria Hendry; and the final battle in a sudsy car wash are standouts to an entertainingly corny flick with an awesome funky soundtrack.
title: HOT POTATO year: 1976 cast: Jim Kelly,, Irene Tsu, Judy Brown rating: **1/2
Sequel in character's name only has BLACK BELT JONES, played by Jim Kelly, sent to an unknown Asian country to recover a diplomat's kidnapped daughter (exploitation staple Judy Brown, who plays two characters: one classy, one intrepid). More of an old fashion pulp adventure yarn than blaxploitation, with nonstop challenges for Kelly and cohorts Geoffrey Binney as a suave Australian journeyman, Irene Tsu as their tough yet gorgeous native guide, and George Memolli (Joey in "Mean Streets") as the chubby comic relief.

Despite the utter corniness and goofy soundtrack, taking away from solidly choreographed karate scenes, likable characters, and the overall journey, this is a thoroughly watchable romp with a few aspects (other than the hero's name) later borrowed in the "Indiana Jones" franchise: for example, Memmoli's character having an eating competition (like Karen Allen's drinking one in Cairo). Not a great movie. Hell, it might not even be a good one. But as silly entertainment goes, you can do much worse.
title: THREE THE HARD WAY year: 1974 cast: Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly rating: ****
A mad scientist and a white supremacist millionaire will poison the water supplies of three American cities, killing only the black population in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, unless Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly stop them: This action packed blaxploitation never lets up as the dynamic trio, sometimes together, sometimes alone, fight cops and goons alike, surviving car chases, foot chases, gun fights, explosions, and everything else thrown their way. A scene where three motorcycle riding vixens cruise the streets, and then torture a crooked cop, will confirm the heavy influence this had on Quentin Tarantino's work. And most importantly, all three black icons have their own separate identities to make them really count...

Fred Williams is a suave and funny businessman, Jim Kelly the mellow karate man, providing real chops for the audience to savor, and Jim Brown as the badass bottom line bringing the trio together in one of the best blaxploitations ever made.
title: ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO year: 1976 cast: Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Jim Brown rating: *
We begin with Jim Kelly about to do what he does best, fight, in this case an arena kickboxing competition. But, realizing his fellow boxers are going down too quickly, he ventures backstage and discovers the mob's placing metal within their own fighter's gloves. Kelly, seen eavesdropping, is chased outside and shot in the arm. And never fights again except for a quick uni-dexterous brawl. And after a long forty minutes: enter Jim Brown and director Fred Williamson as Kelly and promoter Richard Roundtree's buddies, who spend the rest of this slug-paced turkey seeking dull revenge.

Made in the latter seventies, this, an obvious attempt to revitalize the blaxploitation era, provides nothing but a cure for insomnia.
title: TAKE A HARD RIDE year: 1975 cast: Jim Kelly & Brown, Fred Williamson rating: ***
Expectations for a Blaxploitation-Western, being that Jim Brown and Fred Williamson play the heroes, or a Spagetti Western, since Lee Van Cleef is the bad guy, will be disappointed. While it does have some of the Spaghetti elements in style and music, and slick action sequences for Blaxploitation fans, this is a mainstream old-fashioned cowboy flick involving honest man Jim Brown teamed with dishonest gambler Fred Williamson, both on a quest to deliver money to a small town: with bountry hunter Van Cleef on their tail. 

Jim Kelly is a mute Indian scout, jaunting on foot behind the horse-riding black cowboys and sporadically wielding his signature karate moves. And what makes this really work is Williamson's ambiguous nature, adding suspenseful distrust for Brown and creating an edgy team-up in the process. More of a fun ride than a hard one, but a cool flick nonethless.
Needs only one more autograph...
Signed by Jim Kelly
Personally Signed with John Saxon
HOW THE MAN WAS FIRST INTRODUCED IN ENTER THE DRAGON
Rest in Peace JIM KELLY Born: May 5, 1946 Died: June 29, 2013
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