Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Born Losers

I missed this on first run because I was 8 years old in 1967 and knew nothing of and cared nothing for drive-in biker flicks. This one proved to be more than just a biker flick, however, when its egotistical "auteur" Tom Laughlin revived his character in a series of uniquely seventies follow-ups starting with BILLY JACK.

Elizabeth James, who made little impact on films, is actually the star here as a young woman whose life gets caught up with a vicious motorcycle gang. The actress also co-wrote the script. She later wrote novels.

The evil gang leader is played by Jeremy Slate who is so good in the role that when I first saw the film on its re-release in 1974, I actually thought he was a real criminal drafted to appear in the film. In reality, he was a very good actor with a surprising range and a great flare for comedy.

For no apparent reason, legendary actress Jane Russell has a small role in the film as a rape victim's mother.

Laughlin's Billy Jack was a complex character who appeared overall in 4 and a half films, all the rest of which were long, preachy, self-indulgent, anti-authority, pro-Native American, ant-violence films that had a lead character who schizophrenically used violence to solve everything. The BORN LOSERS Billy Jack wasn't yet fully formed but the later Billy Jack became and remains iconic to anyone who enjoyed seventies movies. 

With the unprecedented four wall success of BILLY JACK a few years later, American International reissued BORN LOSERS and that's when I saw it. It struck me as too violent for my tastes even as a teen. If I recall correctly, even Laughlin complained that he hadn't wanted it brought back out at the time but the studio clearly was highlighting the Billy Jack character who wasn't even mentioned on the original poster. And it made a mint.