Saturday, January 25, 2014

Movie Talk - Jim Kelly

Look! Up in the sky! It's... Jim Kelly?!?! I didn't know he could fly!

Welcome back to Martial Arts Month. Today, I’ll be looking at a few movies that starred the man known as Jim Kelly… and no, I’m not talking about the football player! For those who don’t know about the man, here’s a quick bio on his career. Kelly got his big break when he starred in the 1973 movie, Enter the Dragon. Because of the success of that movie, Kelly went on to star in a lot of movies during the 1970’s. He mostly starred in Blaxploitation movies which were flourishing during the 70’s. After the 70’s, he wasn’t in much if anything at all. I remember reading that he took up a career in tennis during and after his stint in the movies.

The last thing I remember seeing him in was a deleted scene from the movie, Undercover Brother. I’m just wondering what idiot had that scene deleted because I loved it. He recently died last year due to cancer at the age of 67. My liking of the guy stems from Enter the Dragon and my dad who also likes martial arts movies and grew up in that era. I actually found a DVD set with some of Kelly’s movies at Wal-Mart and and I got it for my dad’s birthday. I also found another movie (The Tattoo Connection) at this used book store in Murfreesboro. Kelly had recently passed away at that time and I got into a little conversation with the owner of the store about it.

Most of the movies I’ll be talking about come from the set from Wal-Mart. They are Black Belt Jones and Three the Hard Way. I was going to look at Hot Potato, but there’s only so much I can put myself through. In other words, that movie was bad. The last movie I’ll talk about is called The Tattoo Connection, but it is also known by the names of Black Belt Jones 2 and The Black Six Million Dollar Man.

Black Belt Jones
Black Belt Jones was released in 1974. In the movie, Kelly plays Black Belt Jones, a martial artist on the side of the law In Los Angeles. When his old friend’s school is being threatened by the local Mafia, Jones comes over to help out. He gets assisted by Sydney, his old friend’s butt-kicking daughter. The movie’s not great by any means, but it is a nice ride.

The movie is a bit of an upbeat romp. If you’re expecting something dark (tone-wise, that is), you’re looking at the wrong movie. It’s a mix of the comedy, gangster, and martial arts genres. Kelly plays it smooth as the butt-kicking, jive-talking Jones. I also liked Sydney (Gloria Hendry) since she wasn’t your ordinary female protagonist of the 70’s. She took no crap off of nobody and had the moves to prove it. The music is pretty cool and the main theme to the movie is pretty awesome.
You know you can't take this movie too seriously when the final fight is at a car wash.

The fight scenes weren’t epic but they weren’t bad either. They were just your run-of-the-mill fight scenes. The one thing I found weird about Kelly’s fight scenes were his yells. They were weird, laughable, and kind of annoying at times. I know that they get dubbed in, so I wonder how that session went. I also felt that the movie was dragging a bit towards the end when a lot of the final fights happen. Other than some silly slapsticky comedy, I don’t have too many issues with the movie. Overall, it’s a nice film.

Three the Hard Way
Three the Hard Way was also released in 1974. The movie is your standard action film and not a straight-up martial arts film. It brings the most popular black stars of the 70’s together in one movie: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly. The plot revolves around a white supremacist group that has a pretty crazy plan. The “A-Hole Group” (they get no name in the movie) wants to unleash a toxin in three major cities’ water supply that will kill only black people. When Jimmy Lait’s (Brown) girlfriend is kidnapped by the group, he enlists the help of Mister Keyes (Kelly) and Jagger Daniels (Williamson) in order to save her and the black community!
All this scene is missing is Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Richard Pryor, and Redd Foxx.

You know you’re getting something special when there are racists trying to commit genocide in the most ridiculous way possible. I really enjoyed the movie. While the plot is pretty out there and there is some weird stuff, I liked it. While the movie revolves around Brown’s character, the other two stars get a lot to do. The three leads are pretty cool and are the real deal. The action scenes are well done. Kelly’s fight scenes are decent enough. They’re not epic, but they do the job. I also liked the music.

The villains are just your one-dimensional, standard racist villains. There’s really not much to say about them except that they’re just so dastardly. The story is also not that great. We don’t know why the three leads are so close. We actually don’t get to know a lot about them. All we know is that they’re black and that they’re bad mofos. I guess that can work with some folk. There are also a couple of weird scenes like the torture scene (gratuitous nudity?) and Kelly’s first fight scene that make me want to scratch my head. Overall, if you want to see a bunch of brothers take it to “The Man,” then this is the movie for you.

The Tattoo Connection
The final movie for this post was released in 1978. Like I said before, this one has a lot of different name like Black Belt Jones 2. It probably could tie in with that series, but Kelly’s playing a different character here (Lucas). Maybe he changed his name to get away from Sydney or something. Anyway, the movie also stars other martial artists like Dorian Tan, Sing Chen, and everyone’s favorite henchmen, Bolo Yueng! The plot of the movie is simple. Lucas is sent over to China in order to find a diamond that was stolen by criminals. Meanwhile, Tan’s character and his girlfriend are trying to get out of the criminal empire that stole the diamond. Tan and Lucas eventually butt heads and many fights ensue.

I was pretty much entertained by the movie. I will start out by saying that it's not a good movie. It's really one of the "So Bad, It's Good" ones. A lot of the movie just doesn't work. The dubbing is the most notorious thing. A lot of it is isn't good and is of low quality. There are points where you can't even tell what's being said. You'll also notice that Jim Kelly doesn't even dub his own voice in the movie! Some other guy does it and you can really tell it's not Kelly. Still, the guy does an okay job at times. The story is not that well-developed and it kind of drags at points.

There's also some weird editing going on with some scenes. Some scenes would get looped over and over. I eventually found out the reason for that. Apparently, the original cut had a lot of nudity in it. The version I own on DVD has all of the nudity cut out. Even though the movie is so bad, the combination of it all makes it somewhat watchable and pretty hilarious. The person who dubbed Bolo made me laugh. To be honest, Bolo was pretty funny himself in the movie.

The only good things I will give the movie credit for are the fight scenes and music. None of the movies I've looked at tonight had Kelly going up against good martial artists. Here, he does go up against ones like Tan, Chen, and Bolo. The fights aren't epic, but they are pretty decent. The music is also pretty decent. If you want to dance to it, you can. Other than the fighting and the music, everything else is not good. If you and some friends are looking for a laugh and want to have an MST3K experience, check it out.


Well, this is all I got for today. I do wish we got to see more of Kelly in movies. He was a cool guy. Even if these movies weren't that good, he made these movies watchable for me. Well, I have three more posts to go and I'll be done with this month. Peace, God Bless, and "Let's go to McDonald's!"

1 comment:

  1. Jim Kelly should have been a bigger star in the 80's but as he's said numerous times, the scripts were becoming very bad, very stereotypical, not a positive image. The tattoo connection is his best movie(no connection to BB Jones) but he had problems on the set with Dorian Tan who felt Kelly's contact was too hard. It's rumored that he was blacklisted (no pun) from making more movies in Hong kong because of this incident. He was supposed to be in Rush Hour 3 but that dick head Chris Tucker had him blocked from the movie. 2 good interviews to check out on youtube is "Jim kelly ACE 2012" & Jim kelly interview part 1 & 2 by badazzmofo.