Black Belt tells Sydney to “do the dishes or something,” and she whips out a gun, blasts the plates into bits and says “They’re done!” Touche!
Black Belt Jones, or “Enter the Garter Snake”
STARRING Jim Kelly, Gloria Hendry and Scatman Crothers
Part of what makes B-movies so painful is that they take themselves so seriously. Chubby guys in gorilla costumes who are powerful enough to conquer the world; muscled, oiled-up dudes saving half-naked medieval babes from Rip Torn, the incomprehensible fever dreams of Ed Wood- all of these are supposed to be dead serious to the audience. But as an audience member, reconciling such an idea (a gigantic pickle attacks Earth) with the reality (you can see the zipper on the pickle costume) hurts like hell. It has messed us up badly, at least.
Luckily, Black Belt Jones is the rare B-movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, which is probably why I like it so much. My guess is that director Robert Clouse took a look at the script and decided that the audience would be rolling on the floor laughing at this goofy movie, and he didn’t want to miss out. (A shame he didn’t apply this logic to Gymkata, which he would go on to direct in the 80’s). Either that or his brain broke after directing Enter the Dragon- feel free to make your own judgments.
Jim Kelly, also a Dragon alum, stars as Black Belt (as far as I can tell, that’s his first name), a martial arts expert who joins forces with a vague law enforcement agency run by white guys to investigate an even vaguer crime syndicate run by some other white guys. As luck would have it, these crooks are actually plotting an evil scheme- and against Black Belt’s old mentor, Pop Boyd (Scatman Crothers). The bad white guys want to buy the land under Pop’s dojo so they can build a new civic center and annoy everybody with Yanni concerts. Being white in a blaxploitation movie means not only do you want to keep black guys down, you have to hire other black guys to do the work for you, and so these bad white guys hire a small-time operator named Pinky to run Pop out of town.
Pinky is known for three things. He owns a pool hall that serves milk and herbal tea (check the menu, if you don’t believe me), he calls everybody “Black Butt,” and he’s as physically menacing as Martin Short. Pinky tries using muscle on Pop, but he and his remarkably chubby entourage have their heads handed to them by Pop, Black Belt and the dojo students. Finally the white guys hire some tougher black guys, and they kill Pop in exactly two punches, even though we saw Pop kicking some serious tail only moments before.
Enter Pop’s daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry, Mrs. James Bond in Live and Let Die), who inherits the dojo and vows revenge on Pinky and the white guys. She’s got the skills to back up her vow, too- Black Belt, who wants to attack Pinky himself, tells Syd to “do the dishes or something,” and she whips out a gun, blasts the plates into bits and says “They’re done!” Touche! They get some help from a team of voluptuous white acrobats that Black Belt trains (one of them is named “Pickles”!?!).
Goofiness is everywhere in this movie- those acrobats, for example, train by jumping on trampolines in leotards (no doubt the lunkheads at The Man Show saw this movie). There’s an odd scene where some Weathermen-ish college militants try to shake Pinky down, and one of them is Ted Lange, the guy who played Isaac on the Love Boat. Even Black Belt gets a few laughs. After tricking the gangsters on the phone, Black Belt steps out of the phone booth and tells the dojo students, “Hey, hey! Let’s go to McDonalds!” Naturally the movie ends with a ridiculous fight scene- at a car wash for garbage trucks, to be specific. Black Belt smacks the bad guys around in the suds, and Sydney tosses them into the garbage truck. They’re laughing through the whole scene, and we’re laughing through the whole movie. Track Black Belt Jones down if you can- try your local McDonald’s first!
“Pinky wants $41,000!” – kid
“He probably wants money.” – BBJ
“Hey, hey! Let’s go to McDonald’s!” -BBJ
“She was good, man, she was bad!” -Quincy
“What the hell is that?” – Pinky
“Panties!” – Tuna