I've seen tons of Kung Fu films over the years.
Collecting a few on VHS has been a great pleasure too, although finding big box videos at car boot sales has become as difficult as learning the secrets of Dim Mak. I think they've all been found!
Like any mega-star Bruce Lee spawned loads of knockoffs, all with surnames like Li, Lei, Lea and well, Lee too. Video reflected this better than anything. His face and name popped up on completely unrelated films. Then there were the myriad bio's and documentaries about him, not to mention the brazen sequels of Game of Death, the film he never finished but was finished for him post-mortem.
But there are other famous Kumg Fu films and my daily gallery of Kung Fu celebrities names a few this week.
There is one film however that I have never seen, although I have been aware of it for over forty years, ever since my big brother told me about it in the early Seventies. I'm talking about Billy Jack.
It was released in the USA in 1971, flopped and was then released virtually cinema by cinema across America by its maker and star Tom Laughlin who played the lead.
Billy Jack is a Navajo American, an ex-Green Beret and a master of the Korean martial art of Hapkido, made famous worldwide a year later by Angela Mao Ying in 1972 in the film Hapkido or Lady Kung Fu.
Billy Jack is like an early Steven Seagal-type character, protecting the innocent from corrupt vicious thugs. It heralded the coming Seventies Kung Fu craze and like Bruce Lee in the Green Hornet, Marlow and Longstreet, brought the martial arts to a much wider and younger American audience.
Tom Laughlin made a handful of Billy Jack films throughout his long career and I've never seen any of them. To be honest I'm loathe to see Billy Jack in particular because its legend has grown in my mind so much over the last 45 years!
I've never seen it in the flesh as a big box video either, but this is what the Billy Jack box would look like in my collection:
The legend of Billy Jack lives on!