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Billy Jack Goes To Washington

Tagline: The Most Dangerous Billy Jack of Them All!

The website calls it "A movie with so much incredible stuff even Suzanne Sommers got left on the cutting room floor."
movie posterIn an excerpt from the Amazing Story Behind the Legend of Billy Jack, Tom and Delores recall one Senator's vendetta against Billy Jack Goes to Washington:

The personal theater in the Laughlins' Brentwood home was filled with celebrities and powerful politicians. Indiana Senator Vance Hartke was there with his wife, Diana. So was Lucy Arnaz, and her legendary mother, Lucille Ball, and all the contacts the powerful usually bring along. They had gathered in the Laughlins' Rockingham home that night for a special screening of "Billy Jack Goes to Washington."

The screening seemed to go well. Generous comments were exchanged, and the small, but influential, crowd appeared to be gripped by the action on the screen. But when the final credits rolled through the projector and the lights came back up, Laughlin was greeted by an unexpected scene.

The Senator from Indiana got up and started screaming at him -- “You communist son of a bitch! I absolutely guarantee you, you will never get this picture released. Everything you have, this house, everything, in one year -- gone! You're dead.”

Then, kicking over chairs he charged at Laughlin, but those around him were able to restrain the enraged Senator who was now storming out of the house and violently pushing the gate open with such furious force that he broke the electric motor. Hartke's wife was in tears, embarrassed, and Delores and Lucy were trying to comfort her, as she apologized for an outburst that had surprised and hurt her more than anyone in that room. It was an awkward moment, and it lingered until the celebrities and politicians said their goodnights and filed out of the house.
As it would turn out, the small group gathered at Rockingham that night had attended one of the only screenings "Billy Jack Goes to Washington" would ever have. The picture would never be released, just as Hartke promised.

* SCRIPT: Tom Laughlin, based on Screenplay by Sidney Buckman, Story by Lewis R. Foster
* PRODUCER: Frank Capra Jr., Delores Taylor, DIRECTOR: Tom Laughlin
* CAST: Tom Laughlin, Delores Taylor, E.G. Marshall, Sam Wannamaker, Pat O'Brien, Lucy Arnaz, Teresa Laughlin

Note from Bill Laidlaw of Frank Capra Jr. is mentioned in the credits. His father made the original "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" (1939, see below), and Laughlin bought the movie rights in order to do his remake. When I took Film 101 in college, one of the films we studied was the 1939 film. Frank Capra Sr., was so proud of his film about the little guy exposing corruption in Washington and the lap-dog Washington Press Corps that never asked hard questions about it, that he premiered the movie in Washington D.C., and invited all the movers and shakers of the day. Halfway thru the movie, the first two people got up and walked out (two Washington reporters). Throughout the rest of the showing, Senators, Congressmen and others got up and walked out. Capra, an immigrant proud of his adopted country, was perplexed that so many in the Washington audience identified with the corrupt insiders instead of the crusading Jimmy Stewart character. Tom Laughlin died December 12, 2013, the same day that North Korea's dictator executed his own uncle

This videotape/DVD is available from their website - Additional information on all the Billy Jack movies can be seen at the official website:

The Golden Turkey Awards by Harry & Michael Medved says:
In the aftermath of Watergate, a number of Hollywood figures developed an interest in filming a remake of Frank Capra’s classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The time seemed just right for another version of the beguiling fable of an innocent man-of-the-people who comes to Babylon-on-the-Potomac and cleans up the cynicism and corruption of the Senate. Singer John Denver, for one, wanted badly to do the movie, but saw his hopes blown Rocky Mountain high by a superior bid for the rights to the old film from producer-director-writer-star-messiah Tom Laughlin.

Laughlin, as you may recall, is the Hollywood maverick who confounded the critics and experts by grossing more than $100 million with his two previous films, Billy Jack (1972) and The Trial of Billy Jack (1974). These melodramas chronicle the adventures of a black-hatted, soft-spoken Indian hero and former green beret who uses barefoot karate kicks to preach his hip-cool gospel of peace and understanding. By beating the stuffing out of a number of overfed, middle-aged villains, Laughlin won a formidable cult following for his bizarre character. “It’s a shame,” he modestly confessed to Time magazine, “that the youth of this country have only two heroes—Ralph Nader and Billy Jack.” Given this high estimation of his own popularity, is it any wonder that Laughlin—Billy Jack finds himself at the beginning of this new movie, appointed by the governor of his state, to fill an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate? It hardly matters that in his previous appearances Billy has been severely wounded by the National Guard, after standing trial for murder. We believe in rehabilitation, don’t we?

From this auspicious opening premise, "Billy Jack Goes to Washington" staggers forward at the stately pace of a drugged brontosaurus. The film lasts for nearly three hours and in its numbskulled way tries to follow each of the twists and turns of the old Capra formula. Lucie Arnaz (daughter of famous parents and sister of that distinguished thespian, Desi Arnaz, Jr.) makes her movie debut in the Jean Arthur role as the new Senator’s seasoned but soft-hearted secretary. Mean while, E. G. Marshall steps into Claude Rains’ part as a corrupt older Senator. Unfortunately, Laughlin cannot resist the temptation of throwing his own paranoia and conspiracy theories into the stew, and so we enjoy plot “innovations” that bring the story up to date and take it “even beyond the Watergate experience.” The secretary’s husband, for instance, is murdered by government secret agents in the amphitheater behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is not precisely the light, gentle touch one would expect in romantic comedy, but then nobody has ever accused Tom Laughlin of possessing a sense of humor. Billy Jack does manage to deliver several long, preachy speeches on the Senate floor but disappoints his fans by gesturing only with his hands and not with his bare feet.

Laughlin ran out of money in the middle of production, after having squandered $750,000 to build a precise replica of the Senate chamber on a Hollywood soundstage. With his creditors closing in around him, he bid for sympathy from the public by announcing that his family’s personal living allowance had been “drastically cut” to a mere $50,000 a month. Finally, he secured the funds to finish his masterpiece, but when he tried to distribute the film, ran into an elaborate barrage of suits and countersuits involving his creditors, business associates, the owners of the two previous Bill Jack films, and most of the rest of the world. The movie ultimately played a few local theaters around the country, and turns up occasionally on TV. A generous production budget —- in this case more than $7 million dollars—has seldom been wasted so lavishly and completely.

"Billy Jack Goes to Washington" Tom Laughlin takes the Golden Turkey award as much for his off-screen bad sportsmanship as for his on-camera incompetence. In seeking to explain his monumental failure, he managed to blame everyone except himself—and in particular used the good old U.S. government as his scapegoat. Charging that he had been cruelly harassed, both during and after the shooting of his film, he hinted that the White House itself stood behind the entire plot. “It’s unreal and it’s frightening,” he declared. “The public doesn’t stand a chance. There is a concerted effort in Washington to keep information from flowing out.” In Laughlin’s fantasy world, our top leaders live in mortal fear that the crusading Billy Jack, during his four-week shooting schedule in the capital, might discover damning truths that had escaped all the investigative journalists who have worked there over the years. While nursing the wounds to his pride and pocketbook caused by his cinematic disaster, Laughlin could at least console himself with the idea that he had been martyred because of the uncompromising purity of his art. “Anybody who really is good at tapping into the deeper level of the collective psyche is almost never appreciated in his lifetime, or ever,” he observed.

More recent movie reviews can be seen at the official website:
"Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" (1939) is scheduled on Turner Classic Movies occasionally

On to Laughlin's western/samuri movie Master Gunfighter
Billy Jack movie review by MonsterVision's Joe Bob Briggs

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