Monday, January 4, 2010

Film Review--The Born Losers

The late '60s were known for a number of things--long wars in jungles, bathing suits that weren't flattering by today's standards, and low budget biker movies. Whenever you see that you're about to watch something made by "American International Pictures" you know you're in for a pure biker schlockfest.

Last night I saw one of the greats, a film called "The Born Losers". It started out inauspiciously enough--Danny, the head of the biker gang, is in traffic with some of his fellow ruffians, and a car--a VW Beetle, for that matter!--bumps into his bike. Uh oh, you're thinking, as you see Danny get off his ride and inspect the scene! He's going to turn the preppy who bumped him into his own personal sock puppet.

However, Danny calmly tells the preppy "well, you're lucky, there was no damage--be careful!" as he gets back on his bike. This seems more like the actions of a hall monitor than the leader of a motorcycle gang. Just as we're about to see the gang ride off--probably on their way to a charity fundraiser for orphaned kittens--the preppy from the "safety" of his VW curses out the biker and mocks him. This is odd, of course, because the biker is bigger than the car itself, to say nothing of the nerdy guy driving it, and the biker has about five thugs there to back him up. The preppy rolls up his window, because of course no one has ever figured out a way to smash open a car window. Except Danny! Danny soon yanks the preppy out of his car and starts going all Ike Turner on him.

Enter Billy Jack. You may remember him from the sequel to this film, which was called "Billy Jack" and involved more hippies and bare feet than would be appropriate in respectable movie theaters. Billy Jack is apparently a Vietnam Vet (keep in mind that this movie came out in 1967, so Billy Jack hadn't seen action at the Tet Offensive yet--so he probably wasn't TOTALLY nuts yet), and American Indian though you wouldn't know it because he's played by Tom Laughlin who is whiter than Pat Boone. Billy Jack is also a woodsman and an expert in Kung Fu because why not.

(I should note that while it is stated in the narration that Billy Jack is "part Indian" and the actor portraying him looks at best "part Polish" it seems that all the other characters in the film keep calling him "Indian" and refer to his "beads" and "wampum" and "heap big trouble". It is not clear how just by looking at him they can tell that this man is part Indian. It would make more sense for them to comment about pierogies and "go back to Warsaw" and "shouldn't you be at a bowling alley?" or something like that.)

Billy Jack saves the preppy with the help of his Eastern Martial Arts and force of his personality. Just kidding, he uses his M-1 rifle and blasts the kneecaps off of one of the bikers. This of course gets him more jail time than the bikers got for assaulting the preppy (which makes sense, since Billy Jack used a deadly weapon, but the movie wants us pissed at the law for being ineffective!). Billy Jack's lawyer trades the jail time for a fine (again , not a bad move for the lawyer who was most likely court appointed), and Billy Jack needs to sell his jeep to get the money to pay it. This is because the local banker won't be able to give him a loan, even though Billy Jack "knows" that he will win money at a rodeo in a month. Lousy banker! Don't you know that credit checks and collateral and proof of income are nothing compared to Billy Jack's confidence in his rodeo abilities? The man wears a cowboy hat, for crying out loud!

Meanwhile, a college girl goes driving by on her motorcycle wearing a bikini and go-go boots (seriously, to explain that would take several paragraphs and frankly still make no sense) and this of course leads the biker gang to chase and capture her. Faced with the prospect of gang rape, she uses a clever ruse by asking one of the gang members to bend down while she clobbers him with a wrench and drives off. However, she is later captured and raped (off camera, but still a dark turn for a movie that was pretty laughable otherwise), and next thing we know the bikers want to intimidate her from testifying.

But hark! Billy Jack happens upon these bikers, and saves the college girl, and in some rather labored "romance" scenes he wins her over. That is, if by "romance" you mean playing a game called "grab my hand" (I'm not making that up either). The bikers retaliate by stealing Billy Jack's cash (the cash he got for his jeep!) and then pouring gasoline in his cowboy hat. Big mistake, bikers! You should know Billy Jack only takes unleaded!

Billy Jack beats up the toughest of the bikers, a guy named "Gangrene" which is proof that mothers shouldn't be allowed to name their sons when they're still high on the anasthesia. The bikers, led by the wily Danny, use another girl as a hostage and manage to force Billy Jack and college girl to come to their lair. Once there, they knock out Billy Jack because despite his kung fu he can't see a 400 pound guy coming behind him with a crowbar. The local law proves useless, refusing to go to the bikers' lair without "riot gear" which is strange because there's maybe a dozen bikers, unarmed, and I'd figure even four or five cops with guns could make the arrest. Plus, don't they deputize citizens in cases like this?

In the end, it turns out how you'd expect, Billy Jack saves the day, one of the cops shoots him in the back by accident, and the college girl gets him airlifted to the hospital. The biker gang, I can only imagine, are no longer roaming the highways and so obnoxious preppies who start trouble after ramming bikes can roam free without fear of reprisal.

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