Billy Jack is one of the weirdest franchises, but I love it. It’s a classic for a reason, and a true independent. Tom Laughlin spun his own character out of a biker movie, then made him an action hero but with lots of hippie improv scenes. It ended with a Frank Capra remake that has to be weirder than even the fake Mel Gibson one on The Simpsons. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have the entire Billy Jack collection on Blu-ray.
The proper Billy Jack trilogy looks phenomenal. It sets an epic scene as horses run through the desert while “One Tin Soldier” is sung. The town square overrun with free love hippies brings out all the detail and color. The Trial of Billy Jack has the cave vision quest but it’s mostly the same desert vistas. The sequel is little more beat up than the original but still looks good.
Billy Jack Goes To Washington is the anomaly that becomes a remake of Mr. Smith, down to the filibuster scene. It is nice to see DC in the ’70s. The Jefferson Memorial at night looks particularly beautiful on film stock. It’s a clean print and the only widescreen entry in the collection. Its pristine shots of senate rooms look like C-SPAN before there was a C-SPAN.
The film that started it all, The Born Losers, is a tad worse for wear. The best print they could find is still dinged up with scratches and dirt, but the transfer remains sharp and bright. Smoke billows from off-road motorcycles and the Blu-ray brings out the ‘60s colors in biker bars, brown booths and red walls, and beachside landscapes. I kind of like the scratches because it feels like I’m watching it at a drive-in.