The Vintagent Classics: The films that inspired us.

BORN LOSERS (1967)

Run Time: 1:53:00
Director: Tom Laughlin
Writer: Elizabeth James
Key Cast: Tom Laughlin, Elizabeth James, Jeremy Slate

FILM MAKERS

Born Losers introduced Tom Laughlin as the half-Indian Green Beret Vietnam veteran Billy Jack. Since 1954, Laughlin had been trying to produce his Billy Jack script about discrimination toward American Indians. In the 1960s he decided to introduce the character of Billy Jack in a quickly written script designed to capitalize on the then-popular trend in motorcycle gang movies. The story was based on a real incident from 1964 where members of the Hell’s Angels were arrested for raping two teenage girls in Monterey, California.

SUMMARY

Billy Jack is introduced as an enigmatic, half-Indian Vietnam veteran who shuns society, taking refuge in the peaceful solitude of the California Central Coast mountains. His troubles begin when he descends from this unspoiled setting and drives into a small beach town named Big Rock (Morro Bay). A minor traffic accident in which a motorist hits a motorcyclist results in a savage beating by members of the Born Losers Motorcycle Club. The horrified bystanders (including Laughlin’s wife, Delores Taylor, and their two children in cameo roles) are too afraid to help or be involved in any way. Billy Jack jumps into the fray and rescues the man by himself. At this point the police arrive and arrest Billy for using a rifle to stop the fight.

The police throw Billy in jail and the judge fines him heavily for discharging a rifle in public. He is treated with suspicion and hostility by the police. Meanwhile, the marauding bikers terrorize the town, rape four teenage girls (Jane Russell plays the mother of one of the girls), and threaten anyone slated to testify against them. One of the girls, played by Susan Foster, later recants, saying she willingly gave herself to the biker gang. (Foster would go on to play a larger supporting role in Billy Jack.)

Co-scriptwriter Elizabeth James plays Vicky Barrington, a bikini-clad damsel-in-distress who is twice abducted and abused by the gang. The second time, she and Billy are kidnapped together. After Billy is brutally beaten, Vicky agrees to become the gang’s sexually compliant “biker mama” if they release Billy. At the police station, Billy is unable to get help from the police or the local residents and must return to the gang’s lair to rescue Vicky by himself.

Billy, armed with a bolt-action rifle, captures the gang, shoots the leader (Jeremy Slate) between the eyes in cold blood, and forces some of the others to take Vicky, who’s been badly beaten, to the hospital. As the police finally arrive, Billy abruptly rides away on one of the gang’s motorcycles.

The anti-authority sentiment continues up to the end when a police deputy accidentally shoots Billy in the back, mistaking him for a fleeing gang member. He is later found, nearly dead, lying by the shore of a lake. He is placed on a stretcher and is flown to the hospital in a helicopter as Vicky and the sheriff give him a salute.

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