Tom Laughlin, Star of “Billy Jack” Has Died

December 16, 2013

Billy-Jack-Tom-Laughlin

Tom Laughlin, the stoic and flawed hero of the Billy Jack movies has died at age 82. It was Laughlin’s “Billy Jack” that inspired me to invest a lifetime studying martial arts. Laughlin’s character was more tangible than the more distant battles of Bruce Lee, and “Billy Jack” was played out in a contemporary “cowboy vs. Indian” scenario. Here’s one of the classic fight scenes:

Back in 2007 I wrote this piece about Laughlin and “Billy Jack”, and I think it holds true today:

The Significance Of Billy Jack

…I cannot overstate how much this movie influenced me, sitting in the theater when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. It had everything; cute young hippie chicks, evil rednecks, horses, Jeeps, Corvettes, motorcycles and some of the best fight choreography ever.
While actor-director Tom Laughlin was the hero Billy Jack, Hapkido Master Bong Soo Han did all the most complex fight stunts. I read a review of this in a magazine years ago, and a few of the stunt rednecks got hurt pretty bad in this scene.
The movie was a spin-off of Laughlin and wife Delores Taylor’s original flick “Born Losers”. That scenario was Billy Jack vs. evil bikers. The big follow-up was of course, Billy Jack, which is still a cult classic.
Billy Jack treaded on many social taboos of the time: exploring murderous prejudice, alternative education and communal living, rape and revenge, and the most controversial aspect– using violence to stop violence.
The movie is steeped in the paranoid culture of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, touching on the assassination of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, racism and the unknown territory of alternative lifestyles. This film is so much more than a Karate flick, it’s loaded with questions about ethics and honor and pride.
I know friends who go nuts over Jet Li movies and the like, but have never seen the pure simplicity of the fight scenes or social commentary of Billy Jack. There are also some famous supporting actors, like Howard Hessman from WKRP in Cincinatti.
Tom Laughlin has remained politically active, even running for Congress several years ago. He and wife Delores Taylor have been working on a sequel that is filled with events of our time, such as the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
For those who have never seen the movie, or need a good recharge of 1960’s-’70’s energy, watch it again — I highly recommend it…

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Rest peacefully Tom Laughlin, you inspired a generation…

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One Response to Tom Laughlin, Star of “Billy Jack” Has Died

  1. Bob Patterson on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    That was a good old movie!

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