Wednesday, November 6, 2013

TNT Jackson (1974)

Written by: Dick Miller (yes, that Dick Miller), Ken Metcalfe
Directed by: Cirio Santiago
Starring: Jeannie Bell, Stan Shaw, Pat Anderson

Yeah, I know. It's the first review back after being gone for most of October and it's not even a horror movie! I'm like the wind, baby, nobody gets me...

Anyway, Jim Kelly was an all-around badass. An extremely handsome and charismatic screen presence, and a huge martial arts talent. He made a lot of otherwise nearly unwatchable movies captivating. Not too long ago, I watched a movie called One Down, Two to Go solely because he was in the cast. Imagine my disappointment, then, when he was the one down! He gets beaten into a coma very early in the movie and the rest of the flick is pretty dull.

Cirio Santiago and Roger Corman really want you to think this movie stars the female equivalent of Jim Kelly. And if that's not enough, the villain is also a tall, muscular black guy with an afro even more enormous than Jim's. Unfortunately, the martial artists in this movie are little more than enthusiastic amateurs. Charlie, the villain, especially. He at least does more than the generic kung fu pose that everyone does to make you think they know kung fu, but his weird, completely uncoordinated impression of what I think is supposed to be drunken monkey style is so unconvincing, they dubbed in a bunch of Bruce Lee hoots and screams over his big fight scene to distract you from the complete lack of fight choreography.

Outside a club in Manilla...uh...I mean Hong Kong...yeah, it's totally Hong Kong, because there's some Chinese writing on some stuff...a man named Stack is cornered and killed by a gang of thugs. A short time later, TNT Jackson arrives in town to search for her missing brother. She is directed to a club run by a Filipino...erm...Chinese man named Joe, where a kung fu battle immediately breaks out. She is noticed by Charlie, who is so impressed with her fighting prowess that he hires her as protection for the drug running operation of which he is second in command.

Of course, TNT realizes this is the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the crime ring that killed her brother and eliminate them from the lowliest courier all the way to the big boss. It doesn't take her long to get on the bad side of kingpin Sid, his bitchy girlfriend Elaine (Pat Anderson, whose acting is so bad it makes itself glaringly apparent as a completely separate quantity from the monotonous mumbling of whoever dubbed her dialog), and his heroin wholesaler Ming (the one character who got a voice over actor who apparently had the motivation and talent to do a good job), but Charlie likes her spunky attitude (and by spunky attitude I mean perky tits), so he helps her go into hiding until things cool down. Of course, it helps that not only is he convinced TNT loves him, but he knows Sid and Ming won't be around for long. There's a big meeting coming up with the triad Ming gets his heroin from, and Charlie is planning to use that meeting as the stage for his coup to overthrow Sid and Ming and take over the Hong Kong heroin business for himself.

Of course, things would have gone more smoothly for him if he hadn't made the mistake of lighting a post-coital smoke with the lighter TNT gave her brother as a gift. Nor will she have to fight the entire group of crime lords herself, because Elaine and Joe are actually undercover government agents, and their sting is going to coincide with Charlie's coup. Looks like TNT's kung fu vengeance is going to come with a lot of heavily armed backup.

The first half of this movie is boring as hell. I mean, I almost shut it off boring, and once I've started something I feel compelled to suffer through it no matter what. Unless it says “The Asylum” in the credits, then I usually don't even make it to the first line of dialog. Seriously, I blame irony for their success. Even the movies they put out that are supposed to be nominally legitimately entertaining are an utter chore to sit through. Although I do admit I enjoyed watching a giant albino sperm whale sneak up behind Barry Bostwick and do a belly flop on him.

And much like that one moment of hilarity saving what was otherwise a pretty dire movie watching experience, there comes a moment in TNT Jackson where you suddenly don't feel like you wasted your hour and ten minutes. TNT's loyalty has been called into question, and someone has been leaking information about heroin shipments (incidentally, it was Charlie, trying to undermine Sid's authority and make the triad doubt him), so Ming has her tied up and is going to try to get a confession out of her by burning her breasts with his cigar. Before the glowing tip makes contact with her skin, he gets the idea that he'd rather use another tip on her instead. She seems compliant (“I never made it with a chink before!”), so he instructs his goon to release her hands. Of course, she immediately punches him in the face, strips down to her black panties, and yells, “You wanted it black, you got it black!” She then proceeds to kick the lamp off the desk, pull the cord on the ceiling light, and the rest of the scene turns into an action version of the old eyes & teeth joke, with a running battle to pull that cord and turn the lights on and off. Jeannie Bell gamely plays the entire scene bouncing around topless to boot. It's scenes like this that remind you why we watch these movies.

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