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TOM LAUGHLIN'S FIRST & BEST BILLY JACK 'THE BORN LOSERS'

Elizabeth James and Tom Laughlin on equal ground YEAR: 1967
THE BORN LOSERS wasn't supposed to happen but thank God it did since BILLY JACK is one of the most embarrassing counter-culture action flicks ever made...

Tom Laughlin in the title role as a part Indian do-gooder who defends a ridiculously "progressive" high school full of teens and preteens, singing corny protest songs off-key with beyond-novice acting disabilities, and a dated, obvious push for an older guy trying way too hard to relate to that era's flaky and spacey youth: So it's much better, more universal and exploitation-entertaining that he defend three older, legally sexy college coeds who get raped by a gang of scruffy bikers while Billy Jack is, for most of THE BORN LOSERS, a quiet, ambiguous sort of Lonely Man character, taking his time to defend not only the girls, but himself...

Elizabeth James describes her date with..,
The plot's straight out of just about any cliché mafia movie where the feds need to hide/protect their witness...

Liz James as Nancy
Locals are caught up in a vain attempt to keep the girls safe from the gang, who appear like wraiths around every corner in the typically semi-rural small town prone for this kind of violent takeover. And in 1967, Biker was not just a person, but a Genre....

A lot of rustic time's spent in a (seemingly non-public) pool hall where the brutes hang around like semi-retired, well-fed barbarians, featuring cult actors William Wellman Jr. as an apprehensive second-in-command beatnik type; Jeremy Slate as the bold chief spokesman; future Burt Reynolds stock villain Bob Tessier as one of several henchman; and smiling scene-stealer Jeff Cooper as a cocky good looking "kid," wielding somewhat clunky white man karate he'd later develop in Bruce Lee's posthumous pet-project CIRCLE OF IRON. But he's no match for director Tom Laughlin's Billy, or, in another sense, the film's co-writer and resilient ingenue, Elizabeth James...

Jeff Cooper as Gangrene about to get Billy jacked
As pretty Vicky Barrington, she's pretty much the buried-lead here, and Billy doesn't have to do much to keep her safe: Intrepid and smooth, with an almost too natural/comfortable non-acting acting style, she's a modern woman without being pushy or preachy...

Losers Rates: ***1/2
And is effective in scenes playing mind games within the gang's grungy liar — in one scene, remaining composed while stripped to her bra and panties...

By the time Billy Jack's got her back, after the gang raids his rogue's-own Vietnam vets' trailer Mel Gibson would later famously reside in in LETHAL WEAPON, it's now two against this fiendish band of marauders, who actually stand out from other sixties-cinema bikers: a little more human than banal-cliché, even while being extremely inhumane.

Famous movie critics ranging from Leonard Maltin to Roger Ebert bashed the ironic (if intentional and in many ways, logical) choice of an anti-hero striving for love and peace while kicking ass and/or killing people (i.e. "peace through strength"). Yet there could have been a lot more fighting and less of the gang's gabbing, partying, trashing, thrashing... and yet it remains equally brutal and wonderfully outlandish. After all, by name and otherwise, THE BORN LOSERS is their motion picture.
The gang's henchmen are mostly all here including Bob Tessier and Edwin Cook in/as THE BORN LOSERS
Jeremy Slate and future FIRST BLOOD actor Jack Starrett who's in a very similar tough cop role
Julie Cahn as the quietest, meekest of the three sexually-abused, stalked coeds in THE BORN LOSERS
Elizabeth James sharing a picnic in Billy Jack's neck of the oceanfront woods
Janice Miller (mom played by Jane Russell) strips alone (she thinks) viewed by THE BORN LOSERS
Ironically, not-yet-bald Bob Tessier is Cueball: with Jeff Crawford w/ Julie Cahn and James Dean
Co-writers and actors Tom Laughlin and Elizabeth James in THE BORN LOSERS
Exactly one decade earlier, a defeated, uncredited Tom Laughlin with James Cagney in THESE WILDER YEARS
Tom Laughlin and Elizabeth James in THE BORN LOSERS reviewed by James M. Tate
Actually this is from the sequel BILLY JACK and while the hippie school's lame this band is cool, and cute
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