Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I begged and I begged and I begged some more for my parents, or anybody for that matter to take me to the theater to see Black Belt Jones back in 1974. You might think they refused to do this because my parents were the responsible types and didn’t want their children to see R-rated movies but no, this was the seventies. Parents back then really didn’t give a damn what they dragged their kids to see unlike parents today. Gee, that’s really worked out well for today’s kids hasn’t it? So me, my brother and my sister when she eventually came along were sitting right next to my folks while we watched ‘The Godfather’, ‘Box Car Bertha’, ‘Superfly’ and ‘Shaft in Africa’ just to name a few of the ‘child un-friendly’ masterpieces we were privy to see. But alas they didn’t want to see ‘Black Belt Jones’ so I didn’t get see ‘Black Belt Jones’. That was until yesterday. Thirty-five years after the fact. How I managed to miss seeing this movie for so long is beyond me but this injustice has finally been corrected! One of the problems with anybody who wants to see Black Belt Jones is that, amazingly, Warner Brothers hasn’t seen fit to officially release this movie on DVD. There are DVD copies floating around out there but they are basically just cats in their basements burning VHS copies on to DVD. What’s up with this WB? Fix this, give me some behind the scene extras, give me some Jim Kelly, Gloria Hendry, Mel Novak and Malik Carter commentary and correct this horrible, horrible wrong.

The man’s name is Black Belt Jones (Kelly). I don’t think his parents actually named him this but no one ever calls my man Rodney or Jake or Cornelius or anything… just Black Belt. Belt… if you’re his boy. What Belt does for a living is never made completely clear but let’s just call him a freelance Badass. Big Time Agency Boss Mr. Plummer (Alex Brown) wants to his freelance agent to infiltrate the organization of mobster Don Stefano (Andre Phillipe) but considering that the three dudes prior to Belt are dead, Black Belt respectfully declines.

This matters little because eventually the Don and Black Belt’s paths are going to cross anyway. The Don needs to possess the Dojo run by old man Pop Byrd (Scatman Crothers) because the building is sitting on some primo real estate. To do this he enlist the help of low level street thug Pinky (Malik Carter) who after a few mishaps, basically Belt repeatedly kicking his ass, Pinky finally gets Pops cornered to get him to sign over his building but accidentally beats him to death during negotiations. Sucks. Some kung fu master Pops turned out to be. Unfortunately for Pinky he’s still in the same situation because Pops didn’t even have the deed to the building because he put it in the name of his daughter Sydney (Hendry).

This Sydney is just a girl so it should be no problem bullying her into signing over the building, right? Think again my friend because she’s a kung fu master too. Now from this point a LOT of stuff happens with almost NONE of it making any kind of logical sense. The trampolining squad of white chicks, the kidnappings, the copious amounts of dudes flying through broken glass and more… but all you need to know is eventually Black Belt and his hot side kick, who is not wearing her panties… it’s complicated… are about to kick the ass of mobsters, some street thugs and some Bogarts. What’s a Bogart? Well, watch the movie and let Pinky break it down for you.

I imagine if I were watching Black Belt Jones back when it was released in 1974, especially after watching the Robert Crouse directed ‘Enter the Dragon’ I probably would’ve been HUGELY disappointed in this movie. I mean Jim Kelly is fit and fast and has a perfect afro but he’s not exactly Sidney Poitier when it comes to his abilities as a thespian. Then there’s Gloria Hendry who very well could’ve been the hottest woman on the planet earth in 1974, the woman was a Bond Girl for goodness sakes, but in this movie she’s wasn’t necessarily the second coming of Cicely Tyson either. Though Cicely was never packing heat like Gloria was. Rumor has it that Roger Moore during filming ‘Live and Let Die’ referred to Miss Hendry as ‘Glori-ass’. We can see why. The narrative supporting this thing was complete nonsense, the fight scenes were extremely suspect thus highlighting the importance of a fight choreographer… the legendary Sammo Hung designed the fights in Enter the Dragon and since I can’t find a fight choreographer for this movie I’m going to assume Robert Crouse handled those duties as well as directing this movie. And if you find worse dialog in a movie than this one… "I’m going to make you look like a sick faggot"… then I would love to see that movie.

But that stuff only applies if you watched the movie 1974. If you watch ‘Black Belt Jones’ today, it would be mighty difficult to not enjoy every single minute of this crazy wacky flick. Seriously, I had a smile on my face from the time it started until the elongated bubble bath fight scene came to close. Luichi De Jesus’ musical score is absolutely insane, the clothes are phenomenal… I mean the dudes wore pants so tight that you could tell what religion they were. That’s not an original line. Totally stolen. Bad 1974 dialog becomes inspired 2009 dialog, bad 1974 fight scenes becomes nostalgic parody like no other, and while it may be true that Jim Kelly might not have been the best actor he’s still a lot of fun to watch on screen, but Malik Carter most certainly was… and probably still is… a great actor. Pinky was straight killing it boss. We won’t even get into the Florence the Maid and Isaac the Bartender sightings. Outstanding!

Sure the story didn’t make a lick a sense but you try jamming tons of fight scenes, a robbery caper, a kidnapping, an extended love chase scene, an extended car chase scene, parking lot shoot outs, dojo battles, racist mobsters, white chicks who trampoline and about a hundred dudes being tossed through closed windows, then pack it all into 82 minutes. Something’s gotta give.

The word ‘classic’ was created just for this movie my friends. Flawed? Oh hell yes. Fantastic? Even more so. On a side note we must toss kudos to former playboy bunny Gloria Hendry who in 1974 was arguably was the hottest woman on the planet earth. We just saw a picture of Ms. Hendry and in 2009 she just might be the hottest sixty year old woman on the planet earth today.

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