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3.2 out of 5 stars
Trial of Billy Jack
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2005
Format: DVD
There are those reviewing here that say this movie was a total flop and a box office bomb? Better get your facts straight, The Trial Of Billy Jack was made for 8 million dollars, grossed 89 Million and was so popular, it was one of the first movies to ever play at 2 theatres at the same time (along with the Godfather 2). In 2005 dollars, this would be 300 million (equal). Flop indeed. This movie was one of the most successful independent films of all time (along with Billy Jack). Some may not like the politics in the movie, but this is a beautiful movie (daring, outspoken), Billy Jack was an outsider, a martial arts hero fighting the system. This is an ambitious movie about one finding their inner self, conquering demons, finding your own center, about war, peace, freedom and speaking your own mind. A classic!!!
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36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2005
Format: DVD
I saw this movie in late 1974 when it first came out. I noted the references to historical incidents such as the Kent State shooting, My Lai Massacre and Watergate among others. I did a lot of research on the claims made by Laughlin's movie and was appalled at the inaccuracies and down right lies.
I sent a long letter to Tom Laughlin's business Billy Jack Enterprises. He never answered me. That was 30 years ago. Now he has a website. I sent him an email version and he didn't answer that either.

In the beginning Jean (Delores Taylor) is being interviewed. She refers to Kent State (the May 4, 1970 shooting of 13 students at that university) and claims Attorney John Mitchell said there was no need to investigate the incident because he knew in advance the Guardsmen couldn't be responsible for the shooting. This is absolutely wrong. Mitchell never made that statement and the FBI was out at the campus the next day investigating.
Jean also said that even after fault was found on the part of he Guard "as usual Washington did nothing about it." Unbelievable, considering that when this movie was being made (in 1974) federal prosecutors indicted four guardsman!

In another part of the film, Billy Jack is referring to My Lai and all the "colonels and generals and White House aides who ordered the whole affair." White House aides? This is preposterous. (But it sounded sexy and intriguing during the Watergate era.) For the record, one lieutenant colonel ordered the offensive into the area and Lt. Calley himself ordered the massacre.

Moving on, Jean says about another situation, "I remember because [President] Ford had just shocked the nation by pardoning Nixon and agreeing to let him destroy the tapes." The second part is another untruth. Ford actually just gave Nixon partial control over access to the tapes, which were put in the custody of the General Services Administration in San Clemente. Nixon was given no authorization to destroy the tapes.
And then there is the issue of the "International Seminar on Child Abuse" which contains more nonsense. The movie makes Jean and the Freedom School look like they are the great enlightened champions of humane treatment of abusers and portrays the world of professional therapists as being in the Dark Ages.
A doctor says: "So in summary, you're saying that to love these people that we find dispicable, that we hate. And I can really hate these people that cut off the fingers of their children and beat their children. And that somehow in the experience of loving them, they're going to change before our eyes and stop beating their children?"
She isn't even sounding like a doctor, she's sounding like a cynical police officer. This is one of the more egregious misrepresentations in the film. In reality, the Freedom School's methods of treatment were the contemporary standards among mental health professionals at that time! (and still are)

In another part, an Indian spiritual guide told Billy that Kit Carson had 400 Navajo men, women and children rounded up and massacred in a cave. This is another fabrication. There is no record of Carson doing such a thing. What the scriptwriters could have mentioned is that some Spaniards committed such an atrocity. They rounded up some Indians in a section of Canyon de Chelley in northwestern Arizona and killed them in a cave in 1804. The cave is called "Massacre Cave" not "Cave of the Dead" (the movie phrase).
Also, the writers could have mentioned a factual outrage by Kit Carson, his "Trail of Tears" death marches of Indians in 1864 to Bosque Redondo in New Mexico.

There is more I could mention. Laughlin, as the main producer, was incredibly irresponsible with the script. No one should take the claims made in this movie seriously.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
You of course have to watch the first Billy Jack movie to really understand this one. In the first movie, Billy Jack stands up for the downtrodden free-spirited kids in a quiet western town - and gets into a fight that results in a few deaths. He wants to just make a stand and die, but Miss Jean Roberts, his girlfriend convinces him to turn himself in. That's where the story ends.

These movies were made during the times of rioting and political unrest, and it's important to keep that context in mind. Kent State is explicitly mentioned several times in the opening scenes, with Jean lamenting, "students are slaughtered by trigger-happy police types and nothing is ever done about it."

The movie is in essence a long flashback sequence. It starts where movie #1 ended, with Billy Jack being tried. Roberts is accused of lying about her rape. Billy explains how the US government killed innocent women and children in Vietnam - soldiers were told to "waste them". Billy refused to participate in that dastardly killing. My Lai is of course brought up here. At the end of the trial, Billy was tossed into jail, while the students work on growing the school.

We head into the school's world of biofeedback, meditation, yoga football, belly dancing and singing. The self-governing students work on child abuse and orphanages, and move on to exposing government corruption and consumer issues. They laugh about how corrupted Nixon was. Soon they have a TV station and broadcast news about abuses in the area. In retaliation, the students' phones are bugged and the FBI begins investigating the school.

Jean talks about loving child abusers instead of punishing them - that if child abuse organizations "love" bad parents, they will all start being nice to their kids.

Skip to scenes of blatant police brutality and also police feeling up women during searches. Typical quote - "Police - they're so damned corrupt." Oddly, for a movie which claims to champion the rights of women, there is a *lot* of gratuitous breast jiggling shots in this film.

I won't give away the ending, but I think you see the pattern here. This movie is *very* black and white. The kids are always good, noble, kind, and super-wise, super-intelligent (and sexy). The police, government and businessmen are always evil, corrupted and power-hungry (and ugly). Many of the statistics they quote to back their statements up are completely wrong. It's one thing to make a point, but it's quite another to lie in order to make your points. My boyfriend and I laughed out loud several times because the movie tipped so heavily into its over-the-top dialogue.

That being said, I can certainly understand how parts of this movie might appeal to viewers who had never heard of some of these concepts before. It's like people watching the Matrix and being wowed at the philosophies explained there, because they'd never learned them in high school. The Trial of Billy Jack covers many important basic ideas. The idea that people of honor should stand up for what's right even if it's difficult. The idea that you should focus, every day, on what is really important - not on blown-up but fleeting emergencies. The idea that even if people are violent or angry with you, that you should have the self-possession and maturity to stay calm and peaceful yourself in response. The idea that you should seek to find balance in your life.

These are certainly all very important philosophies, but there are many other movies which make these points without having to resort to exaggeration, untruths and stereotypes. I really like the message - but I don't like being led by the nose with wild inaccuracies to try to drive the message home. In many ways it makes the message far less palatable. In one scene you watch an entire roomful of "regular people" stand around while they torture a fellow human being. This isn't storytelling ... it's preaching, and I would hope that most audiences were able to handle issues in a more mature, realistic manner.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2008
Format: DVD
I remember seeing this film eagerly after having seen the movie "Billy Jack" a year before....at that time I was thirteen and found the movie
entertaining at times, but disappointing, just too "heavy" on politics and paranoia. At that time, all I wanted was more action, more of "Billy", and the martial arts...If I didn't like the character, "Billy Jack" so much...I'd have probably not given the film much thought.
Over 30 years later I still like the character, and now have a more sentimental attachment to the films.
I don't think I ever considered the "historic accuracy"...I never took the movies as seriously as people seem to do today. To me, I was watching another Billy Jack movie. I liked the series of Billy Jack films in all their schlockiness and don't care much about "historic accuracy" or
over analyzing....There are just some films out there you can't take seriously, I know Tom Laughlin did then and does, but I don't care.
If you saw the films as a youth as I did, and liked them, this film is for you, otherwise leave it alone.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2001
Format: DVD
One of my all-time favorite bad films! I first learned about it through Harry Medved's "50 worst movies of all time" book, and man, I was not dissapointed. You simply must see this incredible, camp classic. Who could possibly resist dialogue like: "You mean like when a kid's tripping out..or on a real bummer?" It's all here: the sobbing,earnest hippies babbling bromides--Delores welling up with tears--bad,bad,baaaaad "establishment" people kicking puppies--Delores welling up with tears--A Native-American named "Blue Elk"- Delores welling up with tears--and lots and lots of badly staged violence to insure a decent box-office return from the peace-loving teens. I say teens because no grown adult could possibly take this seriously...er..well...God, I hope not. Anyone who's ever read any of the humorous,egomaniacal ramblings of Tom Laughlin in interviews will have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this film, sanctimony on steroids. So, pull up a chair, kick off your Bierkenstocks, dig into that wheat germ and have a ball.
*A word of caution: If you know anyone whose brain cells were permanently damaged by that really,potent windowpane acid in 69', and thinks Neil Young lyrics are deep, they may be in danger of taking this movie seriously. Be a friend and take their keys before they drive to the video store. The life you save may live to cure cancer some day.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2004
Format: DVD
If you are a Billy Jack fan, buy this film!!!!! Takes off right where Billy Jack left off. The people writing negative reviews just don't get this film. This film does have a deeper philosphy and if you are uncomfortable with that don't buy this film. It is an amazing work, and a strange piece of history that this "indie film" ever reached mass market appeal. It is probably the first film that ever introduced the Native American Vision Quest and, in general, is sympathetic to traditional Native American beliefs. Is it dated? Yes! Stand up to Year 2000 movie production techniques? No! But it does offer challenges for those questioning what it means to live as a human being and for that I give it 5 stars. The film has a strong philosophy that veiwers will either tune into or reject.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2007
Format: DVD
BILLY JACK closed with Billy being arrested for manslaughter. This film opens with an extremely long sequence featuring the director of the school Billy was protecting in the last installment, recounting a long list of grievances to a reporter. In this sequence, virtually every hippie stereotype and left wing cause is aired. Intermingled with this retrospective diatribe are flashbacks of Billy Jack's legal trial and prison sentence.

The "trial" referred to in the title does not seem to be the legal one mentioned above. After being released from prison, Billy undergoes a personal trial, replete with Indian mysticism. He is seeking to become a less violent person. This is the backdrop for the real point of the film.

All events lead up to staging a massacre at the school similar in nature to the historic one at Kent State University. The movie is virtually a tribute to those who lost their lives. Little else is accomplished in terms of story or drama.

The movie makes some valid and even good points about the politics of the day and indicts justs about everything associated with "The Establishment". It also back a few losing points of view. Whether these points of view are agreed with or not, however, the film could have been much stronger and made its point better.

This is a very long film. That made it proportionally more difficult to sit through. It is propaganda of its time. It has germs of truth within but those germs are lost with the sledgehammer method of delivering the message.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2013
Format: DVD
Nobody.
We all have the same brain with the same goods and bads, the same responses...
All the reviews point out inaccuracies and lies.
They think the scenery is pretty and how fun it is to poke fun of somebody who was trying to make sense of a ridiculous time in American history. Maybe it wasn't right, maybe it wasn't wrong...
But now we never talk about it. We forget any atrocity that occurs and think that anybody that talks about anything is too political and wasting your time. Or we get all flag happy and stomp out dialog.
How weak.
Finding movies that are accurate is not the point...talking about what's going on and listening to different voices to make sense of it is important. Is vital in democracy.
Don't pan something bc you don't have to be bothered by the atrocities others have dealt with.
It takes more than three hrs to try to make sense of these things. I'm pretty sure it ears later nobody has fully examined it. We've all been shushed into fear. We've all been lulled by our better crafted entertainment. Kind of sad.
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on January 30, 2006
Format: DVD
Tom Laughlin returns as "Billy Jack" for the third time (Born Losers [1967], Billy Jack [1971]). Also returning is Laughlin's real-life wife, Delores Taylor as "Jean", Victor Izay as "Doc", Lynn Baker as "Lynn" and Susan Sosa as "Sunshine", Teresa Kelly, William Wellman Jr.
We are first reminded of the shooting at Kent State in 1970 and other school massacres. We then see Jean talking to reporters from the hospital bed. Billy Jack has been shot too. They don't know if he will make it. Jean proceeds to tell about the horrible massacre that occurred on the reservation.
On trial, Billy Jack could be arrested. He just wanted to protect the Indians and thus he filed charges against the officers. Jean's rape in 1971 is also discussed, but the lawyer does not believe she was actually raped.
I was really disappointed in this third "Billy Jack" film. The second film, BILLY JACK (1971), actually made you feel sorry for the Indians. This third film is poorly-acted and over-acted. It tries to be over-emotional. It tries to stir up alot of issues. They start with making statements about child abuse and later instead of making you feel something for the Indians, they actually are the trouble-makers in this film. It is the Indians verses the police.
The only scenes I found of interest were the Indian ceremony scenes when Billy Jack was hallucinating and being visited by spirits.
John Navlin was the consultant for the filming of the Indian ceremonies.
Note: Sacheen Littlefeather plays an attorney. You may recall Miss Littlefeather on the 45th Academy Awards, March 27, 1973, when she walked onstage for Marlon Brando who just won the Best Actor Academy Award for The Godfather (1972). He was "refusing" the award. Littlefeather spoke on his behalf and said in part, "Marlon Brando very regretfully cannot accept this very generous Award".

Filmed in Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, Santa Clara Pueblo, Santa Clara, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Old Tucson, Tucson, Arizona. Monument Valley, Utah.

DVD includes audio commentary with Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor. Film Production Information and Billy Jack website.

Followed by Billy Jack Goes To Washington (1977).

The Born Losers (1967).
Billy Jack (1971).
The Trial of Billy Jack (1974).
Billy Jack Goes To Washington (1977).

Tom Laughlin died December 12, 2013 of complications from pneumonia. He was 82. He had been in remission of cancer of the tongue. Was suffering from Celiac disease and had a series of strokes.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2006
Format: DVD
I get upset with all the negative comments I read regarding the violence/karate scenes 'Billy Jack'(there are only 2 karate scenes in each, 'Billy Jack' & 'Trial of B.J.') probably less than 5-6 minutes of the total movie, yet people seem to ONLY remember those scenes and not all the PEACE & LOVE demonstrated throughout the movies. Ignorant people and ignorant federal, state and local government caused any other violence portrayed in these films!

Tom Laughlin's caring, self sacrifice and contributions to the enlightenment of this country's people through his 'Billy Jack' series of movies is just staggering in my humble opinion. As relevant today in 2006, as it was back in the seventies.

I personally felt as if a bolt of lightening had just hit me in the head (and heart) as I walked out of that theatre after my first 'Billy Jack' experience so long ago. This young sophmore kid in high school determined to go out into the world and be an example myself, to try to make a personal and positive difference henceforth, no matter how large or small.

And, all those ticket sales verifying the 'Billy Jack' movie(s) popularity....just can't be wrong! 'Billy Jack' is the biggest selling independent film and on the list of the biggest selling top 20 films ever! Back in the 70's these movies literally enlightened and changed my life! And after watching them all over again in 2006 (including the 'Billy Jack Goes to Washington' which never got released) I have to say I think they are changing things yet again in my life, in ways I never imagined.

While I'm no expert on the workings and goings on of Hollywood, CA nor Washington D.C., I have no doubt that Tom Laughlin (and his wife Delores Taylor) 'hit the nail on the head' when they created these films. Writing, producing, directing and staring in them too, no small feat!

Yes......you should view (all) the 'Billy Jack' movies!!!! (Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack and Billy Jack Goes to Washington).
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