Monday, November 16, 2015
Black Belt Jones!
Got a chance to watch the wild fracas of a movie titled Black Belt Jones. This 1974 martial arts blaxpoitation effort stars one of the most memorable faces (and haircuts) in film history - Jim Kelly and his awesome afro.
Like nearly all the world I first became aware of the magnetic Jim Kelly in Enter the Dragon, a 1973 movie co-starring him and the durable John Saxon alongside the electric Bruce Lee. This movie was Lee's vehicle, but darned if Kelly doesn't come close to stealing it from him in the few blistering scenes he gets early in the flick. It's a good thing they killed off Kelly's "Williams", a hard-nosed ghetto kid with a distinctive attitude, or Lee might've had a hard time dominating as he does so brilliantly the climax of the film.
Sadly Black Belt Jones is nowhere near as good a movie as Enter the Dragon. It's set in an American city plagued by the Mafia, who are putting the pressure on the owner of the local karate school (Scatman Crothers) to sell so that a civic center can be built. Coming to his defense are his students, among them Black Belt Jones, a government agent. Also on hand after the untimely demise of Crother's character is his daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry) who proves to also be adept at martial arts of course. She and Black Belt then team up to kick the crap out of various hoodlums and mafia types for the balance of the movie.
The fighting is not especially convincing in many instances as Jones so very often overmatches his opponents to the point it requires little effort. You never really get the sense Jones is in any true peril so the battles are merely displays of physical skill and not truly fights for life itself as had been so crucial to Enter the Dragon.
Kelly though looks magnificent throughout, as does Hendry. Sadly they do little else. There's a sequel to this titled oddly Hot Potato. I wouldn't mind getting a peak at it just to see if some of the value in this character is realized.
Jim Kelly is a local Kentucky product, born only a few miles from where I now live. It's good to see someone from Kentucky make a success without the usual cliches, though in Kelly's case it was in order to use a complete other set of cliches, but ones he helped shaped.