Written by: John White on April 29th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: United States, 1974
Director: Robert Clouse
Cast: Jim Kelly,Gloria Hendry, Scatman Crothers, Eric Laneuville, Alan Weeks, Andre Philippe ,Vincent Barbi, Mel Novak, Malik Carter
DVD released: Spring 2006
Approximate running time: 85 mins
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame
Rating: Not Rated
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Blax
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $13.99
In order to make a bundle in property deals the mafia want to have Pop’s Karate studio and they call Pinky and his gang to get them to make Pop give it up. First efforts from Pinky prove fruitless as his gang has it’s ass kicked but when Pinky corners Pop at a shady card game, Pop is killed. Determined to track down his killers, Black Belt Jones starts to fight Pinky and put his gang in the frame for a raid on the Mafia. With the help of Pop’s highkicking daughter, Sydney, Jones has to face off against Pinky and the Mafia in a car wash butt whupping finale.
Jim Kelly stars as Black Belt Jones, a kinda Kung Fu secret agent for hire. Following on the success of Clouse’s Enter the Dragon, this film has a similar plot vehicle, Kung Fu spy, and has Kelly again but is tremendously more fun mixing a winning kitsch and brilliant blaxploitation cast. Kelly is not a great actor but the action sequences more than make up for his limited ability with lines. Scatman Crothers swaggers through his role as the whoring, gambling lovable Pops, but my favourite character was Sydney. Gloria Hendry is sassy, sexy and she dispatches a poolroom full of heavies without a second’s doubt and stops Kelly’s sexism in it’s tracks.
Black Belt Jones mixes racial cliché and stereotype in it’s engaging thrall so that you don’t have time to think about how politically correct it may be. The fight sequences are plentiful and delivered excellently from the opening titles with Kelly defending an Ambassador from assassins, to the car wash foam fight at the end which is brilliantly inventive. Clouse often gets a bum rap for Enter The Dragon but here the pace and choreography are superb and the endless wit of the script is brilliant – at one point Pops kicks the butt of Pinky and asks “Does anyone else wanna sing Soprano”! The car chase which leads to the final showdown is great fun too with Kelly and Hendry interrupted directly post coital and Hendry’s pant ending up on Pinky’s windscreen – “They’re throwing their panties at us. Why are they throwing their panties at us?”.
Black Belt Jones is immense. An all out assault on your action taste buds with tremendous charm and butt kicking for all the family. It’s not meant to be anything other than fun where the Man and the Mafia get trashed. That this film does supremely well. A great exploitation movie.
There is no proper release of this movie on DVD. This presentation comes from a decidedly grey market source in Blax films. The film has been ported from video but not wholly badly despite some tracking lines on screen occasionally. The colour balance is a bit yellowish throughout and the transfer is dark. The film has also been given the full frame treatment which is a pity. The sound is not excellent but distortion is rare and there is an inevitable dullness given the video source. The soundtrack does sound great though and few films have such an infectious score as this one.
The film is presented with a set of trailers for Samurai movies which you can find on Animeigo discs.
This is a movie that you would hope Warner’s Soul Cinema arm would release in the future but this grey copy is alright. I can’t imagine not having this film in my collection and if you like 70’s movies, butt kicking women and martial arts film i can’t imagine you not wanting to watch this. Terrific stuff on a dodgy disc.